Straight Up, No Cheating

May 2, 2004
Outside Magazine

Outside magazine, September 1999

Straight Up, No Cheating
Professional advice for topping 14,000 feet? Don't sprint.


Talk of personal-best bench presses may be the stuff of locker-room preening rituals, but it's actually quite useful. "Knowing your one-rep maximum isn't about ego; it's about efficiency," says Jerry Mayhew, a professor of exercise science at Missouri's Truman State University who has spent a decade refining a formula that pinpoints ideal strength training weight for any exercise. Just as your maximum heart rate dictates the intensity at which you should train aerobically, says Mayhew, your maximum lift in any given exercise determines how much you should be lifting to make progress in the weight room. The problem is that simply hefting the heaviest load possible can cause tendinitis, muscle pulls, or a slipped disc. It might even shred your connective tissue.But Mayhew has devised a better way.

1. After warming up for ten minutes, load the bar with the weight you figure you can hoist five times. (Do this for each station.)

2. Under the eyes of a spotter, complete each repetition slowly (two seconds up, four seconds down). Ideally, you want to fail midway through the sixth rep. If your back arches or your knees buckle, end the set. Couldn't finish five? Rest three minutes, peel off five pounds, and try again. Pumped out ten with ease? Rest and add some weight.

3. Once you've found the right poundage, multiply it by 1.18 to get your one-rep max.

4. Now, multiply your max by 0.85 to figure how much to lift on heavy training days (six to eight reps), and by 0.65 on light days (ten to 12 reps). Redetermine your max when you can finish 12 reps on the heavy training days. Oh, and keep your max to yourself. ùKEVIN FOLEY

Now that most of the high-country snows have melted, you might want to take advantage of the endurance you've gained this summer by clambering up one of the nation's 97 14,000-foot peaks. No supplemental oxygen is needed, but you should note the following pointers, which can boost your climb's fun-to-slog ratio to way past acceptable levels.

"The most important thing is to pace yourself intelligently," says Peter Whittaker, whose guide service, Summits Adventure Travel, leads hundreds of people a year up mountains around the world. That means settling on a clip you can maintain for an hour at a time, which hopefully will add up to about 1,000 feet of elevation gain. You'll want to rest and drink a quart of water each hourùbut be aware that sitting longer than 15 minutes will drop your core temperature and cause your muscles to tighten. This forces you to resume at a slower pace. Recall the wisdom of your high school physics teacherùa body in motion will stay in motion.

The key to maintaining this pace? The mountain step: With each stride, deliberately lock your back leg straight for half a second, suggests Everest summiter Neal Beidelman. "You're using your skeletal structure to hold your weight," he says. "Essentially, you're giving your muscles a chance to relax with each step."

Of course, you'll be trying to recall this advice with 45 percent less oxygen reaching your brain. According to altitude physiologist Benjamin D. Levine, director of the Institute of Exercise and Environmental Medicine in Dallas, to get the most from such skinny air, inhale normally and purse your lips tightly while exhaling. "If you increase the pressure in your lungs by using this technique," explains Levine, "it's like descending a few hundred feet." He says that serious altitude problems are rare at this elevation, but don't ignore intractable symptoms such as severe breathing difficulty, loss of coordination, pounding headaches, utter confusion, or extreme nauseaùthey may indicate cerebral or pulmonary edema. What to do? Go down. It's the only cure. ùLISA MORGAN

The Low-Voltage Cure
Electrifying news about a quick and easy rehabilitative therapy

"I lasted 17 shocks on my own elbow without anesthetic," says Atlanta Medical Center orthopedist John Ogden, head of the FDA clinical trials for a revolutionary, if painful, nonsurgical therapy for two very common athletic overuse injuries. "We give patients 1,500 shocks at two per secondùunder anesthetic." Extracorporeal shock wave therapy treats tendinitis and heel spurùa calcium buildup that long-distance runners can developùand it may soon replace surgery and six weeks' recovery with an outpatient visit and two weeks' rest.

Imagine ultrasound that you can feel. It's administered by a device called an OssaTron, originally developed to pulverize problematic kidney stones. But it may also help problems caused by small tears that form scar tissue around a joint, hampering blood flow and in turn causing pain and calcium buildup on the bone. The OssaTron sends rapid vibrations through the tissue to the joint, like a coin-operated motel bed on amphetamines. It actually creates another injury, spurring new capillaries to form, thereby creating better blood flow. Eventually, the scar tissue dissolves and calcium buildup is absorbed back into the bone.

Researchers at Doctor's Hospital in Coral Gables, Florida, tried the technique on 20 athletes afflicted with tennis elbow; 17 reported better mobility and less pain after two treatments. FDA approval is still a year away, but considering that 60,000 successful procedures have been performed in Europe, it's likely. Moreover, the treatment should cost about half as much as the $10,000 surgeryùan appealing argument for a cutting-edge treatment that requires no cutting at all.

ILLUSTRATION: Christian Northeast

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