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Diamonds Aren't This Girl's Best Friend

Q I have really big, muscular calves, which I've heard women can get from using the stair-stepper Is this true? Regardless, how can 1 slim them down?

P.C.

Canyon Country, California

A Tammie Leady, a personal trainer who placed seventh at the New York Pro Fitness contest in May 2002, responds: "Genetics play a major role in the size of calf muscles, so that's one contributing factor As for what's making them bigger than this genetic endowment, muscle growth generally results from resistance training, and you'd have to be using some pretty heavy weights to bulk up your calves to the point you describe. If you are, try going lighter, or take a hiatus from calf training altogether for a while.

As for stair-stepping and calves, women often make the mistake of stepping on the balls of their feet, which keep the calves in a state of constant contraction. Instead, try keeping your heels down so that you aren't always emphasizing your calves."

To Be or Not to [B.sub.12]

Q I recently became a vegetarian, and I've been told that if I don't take supplemental Vitamin [B.sub.12], it could have negative effects not only on my workouts but also on my health. Really?

H.T.

King of Prussia, Pennsylvania

A Suzanne Havala Hobbs, MS, RD, an adjunct assistant professor at the University of North Carolina's School of Health Policy, adviser for the Vegetarian Resource Group and author of Being Vegetarian for Dummies, responds: "B12 does come primarily from animal food sources, so it's not an issue unless you're vegan, meaning you abstain from all animal products. If you're the kind of vegetarian who eats some dairy products or eggs, or who indulges in seafood, don't worry about taking supplemental [B.sub.12]. And even if you are vegan, you have the option of consuming foods fortified with the vitamin. Check labels to make sure, but these [B.sub.12] foods can include certain breakfast cereals and particular brands of soy milk."

Muscle Soreness vs. Injury

Q How do I distinguish between muscle soreness and an injury?

K.T.

Beverly Hills, California

A Nicholas A. DiNubile, MD, clinical assistant professor in the department of orthopedic surgery at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, and orthopedic consultant for the Philadelphia 76ers, responds: "The muscle soreness that commonly results from a weight workout is usually symmetrical, involving the left and right sides of your body. It tends to be concentrated in the middle of the affected muscle bellies, tends to feel better if you rub it, shouldn't last more than a few days and won't keep you up at night. What's more, the discomfort will often lessen rather than increase if you warm up the muscle and stretch it a little bit to get blood flowing.

"If it's an injury, you'll tend to feel the pain more in the joint than in the muscle belly itself Also, you might feel it on, say, your right side but not your left. Or maybe you won't be able to lift your arms overhead for a while. It's a different kind of feeling, one you'll probably need some training experience to recognize. When you feel something like that, pay even closer attention to form, move the weight more slowly and reduce your poundage a little bit. If the pain continues, see your doctor."

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