Want to run a marathon? Visit your doctor first
Updated: September 10, 2012 6:01AM
Half- and full-marathon running is a motivating way to get in shape and be active during the summer months. Over the last decade participation in marathons across the nation has been on the rise. In 2011, an estimated 518,000 runners finished a U.S. marathon, according to Running USA’s Annual Running Report. Marathon racing can have several health benefits but the intense and rigorous event can also be potentially dangerous.
Even for a well trained athlete, a full 26.2 mile marathon can be challenging. To complete the entire distance, athletes often follow training programs prior to the race that are designed to build their endurance and stamina. During training and the race, runners face potential minor to severe injuries. Being educated about potential dangers and aware of your own health is important to avoid injury.
Scheduling a pre-marathon doctor visit is a great way for runners to ensure they are ready to begin training. Ashish Rawal, M.D., an orthopedic surgeon on staff at Elmhurst Memorial Hospital, suggests that anyone who is starting a running program should first meet with their primary care physician for a general check-up.
During this check-up, Rawal suggests discussing the following three topics with your physician.
Before going to your pre-marathon doctor visit you should be prepared to discuss your training regiment and goals with your physician. Describe to your physician your intended level of activity and intensity so they can help you achieve your target goal.
Thoroughly discuss your medical history with your physician. Providing your physician with a complete history allows them to determine which medical evaluations are necessary. Rawal also advises anyone who has a “medical condition that requires regular care, any cardiac history, history of chest pain, palpitations, or shortness of breath at rest or light activity,” to ensure they discuss this with their physician prior to beginning training.
Do not be afraid to ask your physician if they think marathon running is right for you. A marathon is a very demanding event and is not always appropriate for everyone.
“If you’re just beginning to exercise, you may want to set your sites on something smaller like a 5k, and work your way up from there,” Rawal recommends.
A visit with your primary physician prior to beginning training for a marathon can help prevent common injuries acquired from long-distance running. As a sport medicine orthopedic surgeon, Rawal said, “most commonly, I see runners in my office with overuse injuries due to people ramping up their training too fast.”
He recommends joining a group program that provides a training outline, which will ease you through different levels of intensity, and encourages runners to cross train to avoid overuse injuries.
As a general rule, Rawal suggests, “before training for a marathon, you should have the ability to jog for 30 minutes comfortably, for at least six months.”
Samantha Arnold wrote this column for Elmhurst Memorial Healthcare