Get Ready for Summertime Exercise!


Summertime – the snow is gone, the birds are singing, and it’s finally safe to come out of our winter caves. Remembering how good it feels to run and play in the great outdoors, we look forward to returning to our favorite activities, such as gardening, bicycling, walking, running, and outdoor sports. It seems like such a great way to start the season until we’re taken by surprise by muscle cramps – or have a hard time getting out of bed the next morning!

After feeling the aches and pains of using muscles that were previously dormant, our new physical activities are often abandoned. The benefits of physical exercise may never be realized because pain is now associated with these activities. Even exercise buffs that don’t hibernate through the winter may experience cramps, muscle spasms, or soreness. The good news is that by understanding and taking care of our body, many of these problems can be reduced or even eliminated.

Have you ever noticed that when we appreciate something, we take better care of it? Let’s look at the physiology of the way our muscles work to help us start appreciating them. Then we’ll talk about how to take care of them. The middle of the muscle is made of fibers or chains, called actin and myosin. These incredible structures are like gears that ratchet back and forth as they contract and relax the muscle tissue. Contracting is the power side of the muscle that takes place when you push or pull something. Relaxing is when the body part rests or goes back to a neutral position. Even in the process of going back to neutral, opposing muscle contractions are used. Muscles are quite amazing!

Contracting and relaxing muscles requires support in the form of energy or fuel. The fuel is derived from glucose taken in by our cells. Within each of our cells are organelles which are like miniature organs, each with specific functions. Mitochondria are organelles that transform the glucose into energy packets, called ATP. Adenosine tri-phosphate (ATP) is a readily useable form of fuel for the body.

A good diet provides the cells in our muscles with the needed elements to work and reproduce. Healthy cells give us lots of good energy. But when our cells don’t get what they need, we don’t get the energy we need. It’s that simple, which is why what we eat is so important!

In addition to getting proper nourishment through healthy foods, such as organic unprocessed foods, cells need protection from damage. This means that it’s equally important to avoid harmful substances. Consuming artificial or processed foods, trans fats, indigestible proteins, GMO’s, preservatives, fluoride and other chemicals interferes with getting the nourishment we need and also damages cells, such as our mitochondrial DNA. Now you know why so many people complain that they don’t have enough energy?

Sometimes substances that cause damage are ingested unknowingly or unintentionally, such as fluoride. Ever notice the warning on a tube of conventional toothpaste? Most parents wouldn’t let their children swallow fluorinated toothpaste, but they may not be aware that it’s added to most municipal water supplies as well as many other products. To see how ingesting toxic levels of fluoride may be harmful, take a look at some of the studies on fluoride and mitochondrial DNA. An interesting and informative website with links to studies on fluoride and other toxins developed by the father of a child suffering from multiple toxicities is:

Besides needing fuel, muscles needs oxygen to burn the fuel which is carried to the muscle by the blood. The blood also carries off the waste products of the muscle’s metabolism, known as lactic and pyruvic acid. Not enough oxygen results in incomplete burning of fuel which results in more waste being produced and more cramping. As fitness increases, more oxygen is taken in, and both muscles and blood vessels increase in size, becoming more efficient in order to keep up with the demands of the increased activity. Additional blood vessels carry more raw fuel and oxygen to the muscle cells and carry off the extra waste produced by the increased activity. This is why starting off slowly and increasing activity gradually is one of the best ways to reduce the likelihood of experiencing muscle cramps.

The body is an extremely energy efficient system. When activity decreases, the infrastructure likewise adapts. To conserve energy, the structures that have increased to accommodate the extra demand begin to recede. This is the reason it’s harder to go back to where we left off with exercise, even if it’s only been a week.

Stretching prior to working out is necessary because it activates the special cells called tendon stretch receptors that protect us from overstretching and damaging muscle or bone. These cells monitor the pull on the structures and cut the nerve signals to protect us –but only if we have stretched to activate them.

Exercise increases oxygen in the system but also increases the oxidation which creates free radicals – a paradox that may be partially offset with proper knowledge and diet. Since free radicals contribute to aging and cause damage to the body, it’s very important to consume enough of the proper anti-oxidants when exercising. Antioxidants, such as Vitamin A, C, and E help neutralize free radicals, and alpha lipoic acid may be used to help recharge the anti-oxidants.

When increasing activity levels, it’s sometimes difficult to consume enough whole foods in order to supply the body with the extra nutrition that’s needed. If you decide that supplements would be beneficial, look for high quality whole food supplements. Take time to research supplement manufacturers and consult a trusted and qualified health care professional to help you find supplements specifically for you. It’s possible that taking the wrong supplements may cause more harm than good. There are many ways of testing the body to see what you need. Since imbalances in vitamins and minerals (including salt) often contribute to muscle cramps, as well as many other health problems, you’ll be happy you paid attention to your body’s nutritional needs when planning your summertime exercise. Good luck and have fun!

DR. William Karl D. C.

Dr.Karl is a Brimhall Certified Wellness Doctor with over 30 years experience helping people to achieve optimal health and wellness. On behalf of the Foundation for Wellness Professionals, he will speak at the Livonia Civic Center Library on Tuesday, June 28th at 7pm on “Everything you need to know about Cramps, Muscle Spasms & Exercise!” For more info visit: or call 734-425-8220.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here