From the mailbox

by Karl Lenser

Q: I am interested in lifting weights and would like to know which is better — free weights or machine weights?

A: Both methods will help you build strength and help you firm up your body. Machine weights are safer and easier to master than dumbbells or barbells. Free weights usually require a spotter (assistant) to help you perform some of the exercises and can be a bit intimidating for a beginner. If you are new to weight lifting, I would stick with machine weights or hire a personal trainer to get you acquainted with free weights.

To gain overall health and fitness, you should try to lift three days/week. As far as how much time is necessary, most experts suggest a minimum of 30 minutes. It is amazing how much work you can get done in the weight room when you have a plan and stay focused.

One strategy that will save you time is to perform an upper-body exercise and then, without resting, continue with a lower-body exercise and then toss in a core exercise and then repeat that series. Working on a “triangle system” of exercises can help you save time and increase your efficiency. Focus on the workout and keep moving and improving!

Q: What brand of running shoes would you suggest? I am determined to do a 5K in February and want to invest in a good pair of shoes.

A: My simple answer is “Whatever shoe fits your foot and is comfortable to jog in.” The best shoe is the shoe that matches your type of foot. Generally speaking, people have a flat foot, a high arched foot or a normal foot, which is something between the flat foot and high arched foot.

If you have a flat foot, you will need a motion-control shoe with firm midsoles and anti-pronation features. A regular foot usually requires a stability shoe with moderate control features such as a two-density midsole. A high arched foot will require a cushioned shoe.

Your best advice: Go to a specialty running store and have the staff analyze your foot and perform a gait analysis to check out your foot strike. Then try on several pairs of shoes that match your foot characteristics and then decide which running shoe feels the best.