Running is a great way to get in shape and boost your heart health, but it’s important to take a few extra precautions to stay safe during endurance exercises, including marathons.
Over the years, incidents of cardiac arrest among marathon runners have sparked questions over a potential link between intense exercise and sudden cardiac arrest. Though these claims are still being investigated, research has suggested that vigorous exercise is associated with a transient increase in risk of sudden cardiac death (SCD).
That said, endurance activities have their perks. With a little bit of planning, preparation, and marathon safety know-how, you can safely enjoy the benefits of long-distance running for your heart health.
How To Prepare For a Marathon
Marathon training can be grueling, so it’s important to properly prepare your body for the long-distance race. Here are a few tips on how to get ready for a marathon:
Gradually Increase Your Mileage
Don’t try to tackle too much too soon, or you’ll risk injury and put unnecessary strain on your heart. Instead, slowly build up your mileage over time.
In addition to running, add in other activities like biking or swimming to help increase your endurance.
Don’t Forget To Stretch
Stretching helps improve flexibility, increases blood flow, and prevents injury. Be sure to do a variety of stretches, including dynamic stretches (like leg swings) and static stretches (like holding a lunge).
It’s important to drink plenty of fluids, especially in the days leading up to the marathon. Aim for eight to ten cups of water per day.
Check With Your Doctor
If you have any medical conditions, make sure to get clearance from your doctor before starting a marathon training plan.
If you don’t have any medical conditions, it’s still a good idea to get a physical and discuss any family history of cardiovascular issues with your doctor beforehand.
With proper marathon safety preparation, you can safely complete a marathon and enjoy all the heart-healthy benefits that come with it!
Tips For Avoiding Injuries While Running A Marathon
Warm Up And Cool Down Properly
The goal of a warm-up is to get blood and oxygen flowing through your body. Give yourself enough time prior to the race to do a 10-minute light jog. Stopping to stretch during your warm-up jog is helpful as well.
Even though you’ll likely want to stop and rest once you cross the finish line, it’s important to keep moving for about 30 minutes to allow your body to naturally cool down. After 30 minutes, give your body a gentle stretch to relieve any tension.
Stay Hydrated During Your Run
The American College of Sports Medicine recommends drinking 5 to 12 ounces of fluids every 15 to 20 minutes during a marathon.
It’s important not to drink too much too fast, as this can upset your stomach and even cause a condition known as hyponatremia, where the concentration of sodium in the body is too diluted.
A good rule of thumb is to only sip when thirsty during your run.
Wear Appropriate Clothing
Wear breathable clothing that you’re used to wearing on long runs to ensure that you’ll be comfortable – including shoes! Having to break in a new pair of shoes on race day wouldn’t be ideal.
Though you’ll likely be on the warmer side during your run, it’s a good idea to bring layers just in case. The weather may take a turn, or you might have to wait longer than expected in the chilly morning hours for the race to start!
Listen To Your Body
Your body will tell you if you’re pushing yourself too hard – listen to it.
Start slow and stay tuned in to how you’re feeling. If you get a cramp or slight joint pain, take a break and evaluate. If you are experiencing more serious symptoms, such as shortness of breath or chest pain, stop completely and flag someone down for help, as this could be a sign of something more serious.
By following these simple tips, you can help ensure that marathon running is safe for your heart. Remember, always consult with your doctor before starting any new exercise routine.
What To Do After A Marathon
After a marathon, it’s important to take some time to rest and recover. Make sure to drink plenty of fluids, eat a balanced meal, and get some sleep. You may also want to ice any sore muscles or joints. If you’re feeling up for it, a light walk or jog can help keep your muscles from seizing up.
In the days following a marathon, be sure to monitor your heart rate and keep an eye on how you’re feeling overall, as sudden cardiac death in athletes occurs most commonly during or shortly after intense training or competition. If you experience any chest pain, shortness of breath, or irregular heartbeat, see a doctor right away.
Though potential heart-related issues have been identified in the marathon community, the rewards of exercise greatly outway the risks. Habitual exercise greatly reduces the risk of cardiac arrest and coronary heart disease, leaving physical inactivity as is the biggest risk to heart health overall.
Here are some of our favourite exercises to improve heart health!
Practicing marathon safety will ensure that you can safely enjoy all the health benefits that running has to offer. So, if you’re planning to run a marathon or participate in another form of vigorous exercise, just make sure you are taking extra precautions, and you will be just fine!
Organizing a marathon? Don’t forget to rent an AED!