QUESTION: Well, for me it's that time of year again - tennis elbow season. I play only in the summer, so here I go again. I already have it. Now please, can you come up with some good answers for me? - Mrs. R.T.

ANSWER: Yes, I already sensed the odor of rubbing compounds in my mailbox.Tennis elbow comes from microscopic tears in the ligaments and tendons of the forearm muscles. It comes from overuse, inadequate forearm strength and poor tennis strokes. Your broad preventive approach is to improve all three of those factors.

I probably don't have to tell you how important rest is in the scheme of things. Ice helps, especially at first. Then use heat. And aspirin and its cousin drugs will reduce inflammation. Once pain has subsided, you can start looking toward prevention.

Here are some hints. Play on a slower surface, like clay. Use a lightweight racquet, graphite for example, and one in the 12-ounce range. The handle should be on the large side, and the racquet at least mid-sized. Keep string tension in the 50-55-pound range. All these things will add up to lowering of vibrations sent up the arm on contact with the ball during a stroke.

You may need a professional coach. He can be worth his money if he can improve your stroke. Roger Thurman, one of the country's most respected tennis instructors, emphasizes that power hitting does not come from using the forearm muscles, but from the impact of body and shoulder rotation during the stroke. The correct rotational movement takes the strain off your elbow. Good luck.

QUESTION: I don't know if it's a matter of training too much, not getting enough rest, or not eating properly, but I'm regressing. I used to be able to run eight miles a day and feel great. Now I am frazzled after four miles. What has gone wrong? - S.S

ANSWER: Any one of those three factors you mentioned could be your undoing here - overtraining, under-resting and not getting enough complex carbohydrates to replenish muscle glycogen. But let's focus on overtraining, for now.

There is a way to find out if you are overtraining. Check your pulse when you're lying in bed before arising in the a.m. Then check it again as soon as you have been standing up for 20 seconds. A well-trained, well-rested runner should have an 8- to 15-beat-per-minute difference between the lying down and standing pulse rate. If the difference between the two rates is higher, then you know you have been overtraining.

Now the same rule applies, strangely, to the untrained person. If the difference between the two rates is higher than 15, you are out of condition.

QUESTION: Have you heard of cold-only for injured joints? I always learned to use ice first, then heat after 48 hours. - I.L.

ANSWER: It is a new idea. It doesn't work for all, but it has some basis in physiology. It's even been advocated for treating swollen, painful joints in arthritis. Ice packs reduce temperature inside a joint, slowing down the activity of white cells. That discourages release of enzymes that cause the pain. Cold packs are used for up to 30 minutes every 5-6 hours. Use such packs carefully, so as not to cause skin injury.

C) 1989 North America Syndicate Inc.