women

Feel no pain!

Lower-back pain … Try yoga

Activities such as running, cycling and golf put pressure on the spine, which can exacerbate backaches. For relief, hit the mat. In one study published in Archives of Internal Medicine, 60 percent of people who practised yoga for 75 minutes weekly reported less lower back pain after three months. Get the benefits at home by downloading a workout from liveyogalife.com (about $10 per workout).

Description: Lower-back pain … Try yoga

Muscle cramps … try a new breakfast

Dehydration often causes leg cramps and side stitches, but poor circulation and a slow digestive system are culprits too. To prevent spasms, top cereal with a teaspoon of cinnamon, a tablespoon of ground flaxseed and half a cup of skim milk, advises Susan Kleiner, a nutrition expert and SHAPE advisory board member. "Cinnamon opens blood vessels, flaxseed moves food through the intestines and milk replenishes electrolytes," Kleiner says.

Blisters … try herbs

Applying petroleum jelly limits friction, but it won't repair the tissue. "Instead, rub calendula (a medicinal flower) ointment on the area, then cover with a clean, dry bandage," says herbalist Amanda McQuade Crawford. "The salve's antimicrobial properties reduce inflammation and speed healing."

Swimmer’s ear … Try white vinegar

This poolside infection occurs when excess moisture and too little wax throw off the ear's pH balance, allowing bacteria to colonise. To kill the germs use a dropper to place 0.25 millilitres of body temperature white vinegar (rubbing alcohol works, too) in your ear. Repeat twice a day for 48 hours.

Runner's knee … Try acupuncture

Swap the ibuprofen for needles. "Acupuncture increases levels of hormones such as serotonin, cortisol and endorphins in the blood, which reduces inflammation and lessens pain," says acupuncturist Ausra Kaminskas. Expect results in one to four sessions. Visit acupuncture.org.au to find a local practitioner.

Description: Acupuncture

Feed for speed

To pick up your pace, pump up the iron. In a recent Cornell University study, women who had low levels of iron in their blood (but weren't technically anaemia) rowed more slowly than athletes with healthy amounts of it.

"Aim to get 18 milligrams of iron daily," says lead researcher Diane DellaValle. "Any less can decrease your endurance and affect how efficiently your body uses energy." To perform at your peak, incorporate iron-rich foods such as lentils (7mg per cup), spinach (6.5mg per cup, cooked) and lean beef (6mg for 170g) into your diet.

When foot cramps attack

A foot cramp that strikes suddenly during a workout isn't just painful - it can impede performance.

Description: When foot cramps attack

The calf and foot are most vulnerable to activity-induced spasms, but researchers aren't clear on what triggers these twinges. One theory points to electrolyte imbalance (sodium and potassium) from sweating and dehydration, while others suggest that muscle fatigue, overexertion, lack of fitness and even genetics are to blame. Whatever the cause, your best bets for prevention: guzzle plenty of liquids; eat well to get the right balance of electrolytes; progress gradually when increasing the duration or intensity of your workouts and stretch susceptible areas frequently during your workout.

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