DEAR DR. DONOHUE: I live in the South, but I have become a big hockey fan and a dedicated hockey player. There’s a league here, but none of us is very good, except for one kid who used to live up North. I want to get good, so I’ve been running five miles a day. Do you think running will help me in hockey? – K.D.

Distance running will help you in all sports. It builds endurance. However, other skills are important for hockey.

Hockey is a demanding sport requiring speed, agility, strength and flexibility. It’s not easy to maintain balance on thin steel blades while moving fast and trying to maneuver a puck at the same time.

Most hockey action demands bursts of speed. Long-distance running won’t train you for that. You have to practice speed skating. If you have no place to skate, then practice speed running – sprints. You should sprint not just forward, but backward and sideways too.

You also have to train yourself to change directions quickly.

Furthermore, a hockey player wears close to 25 pounds of equipment when playing a game. If you are practicing off ice without wearing any equipment, wear a backpack with weights in it. You don’t have to start with 25 pounds, but work up to that amount and even exceed it in time.

Weightlifting is important for you. You must work both the upper and lower body. In hockey, leg muscles that move the legs toward the center of the body and away from the body are important. People neglect exercises for those muscles. You have to devise exercises that stress the muscles that are involved in such movements. The involved muscles are called the leg adductors and abductors, respectively.

The best exercises for any sport are the kinds that imitate the actions involved in playing that sport. The more you can adopt such sport-specific exercises, the faster you will see improvement in your hockey skills.

DEAR DR. DONOHUE: The big toe on my right foot is giving me trouble. I can hardly bend it, and it hurts at the base of the toe. What is this, and how do I fix it? – R.R.

It could be a condition called hallux rigidus – in English, “rigid big toe.”

The big toe is essential in walking and running. It initiates the forward propulsion of the body. Every step taken puts great stress on the big toe. In time, the joint that joins the big toe to the foot can develop arthritis. An arthritic joint stiffens the toe and makes it hurt.

Anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen relieve pain and inflammation in the joint. When pain lessens, contrast baths can be useful. You need two buckets. One has hot water; the other, cold water. Put the affected foot in the bucket with cold water for 25 seconds and then into the bucket with hot water for the same length of time. Keep doing this for three to five minutes a couple of times a day.

Shoes with thick soles take some of the shock off the big toe when walking or running. Cushion inserts do the same.

If the toe makes walking pure torture, see an orthopedic surgeon. You might need surgical correction.

DEAR DR. DONOHUE: I wrote to you with a question about fitness training for postmenopausal women. I left the country on a trip but told my sister-in-law to watch for the answer. She didn’t see it. If you did answer, would you mind a repeat?

I work out vigorously at least four times a week. I do something different each time to keep interest and to work different muscles. When I really push, I seem to get an overall tired feeling and have to back off. If I push less hard, I do not make progress. Can a 55-year-old expect to make significant improvement or only offset deterioration? – G.G.

A 90-year-old can expect to make significant improvement by exercising. That’s been proven. You’re a kid, so to speak.

There is a line between overdoing and pushing yourself to do a bit more each exercise session. I believe your exhaustion comes from trying to do too much too fast, without giving your body a chance to adapt. Slow down.

DEAR DR. DONOHUE: Your opinion, please. Does a teaspoon of cider vinegar and a glass of warm water, taken before each meal, improve your memory? – A.F.

In a word, no.

If cider vinegar devotees wish to respond, I’ll accept any facts based on unbiased trials. I can’t accept personal testimonials.

Dr. Donohue regrets that he is unable to answer individual letters, but he will incorporate them in his column whenever possible. Readers may write him or request an order form of available health newsletters at P.O. Box 536475, Orlando, FL 32853-6475. Readers may also order health newsletters from

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