Marathon Training With Health Issues: Questions to Ask Your Doctor

Marathon Training With Health Issues: Questions to Ask Your Doctor

If you’re about to start training for your first marathon and you’re facing the process with any form of compromised health, there are a few things you’ll need to know. Most important, congratulations! The fact that you aren’t letting your health issues stand between you and your goals is a sign of resilience that shows you’re getting the most out of life. No matter what the outcome, your determination is certainly going to be an inspiration to those around you.

With the support of your family, your friends, and your healthcare team, you can overcome any obstacle you encounter during your beginner marathon training process. But it’s also important to tackle these obstacles with a realistic mindset and an accurate assessment of the risks and challenges that lie ahead. Of course you can accomplish whatever you set your mind to, but you’ll make the process much easier if you listen carefully to the guidelines and instructions provided by your doctor and stay tuned in to your body’s unique needs.

Beginner marathon training presents challenges even to those in flawless health, and most people benefit from a brief consultation with a doctor before they begin a marathon training plan regardless of their age and condition. But those with health challenges should keep a few aspects of the marathon training process in mind when they attend this initial consultation, and should check in with their healthcare provider multiple times during the weeks leading up to the event. Here are a few questions that may be useful during these check-ins.

1. How will this health condition impact my marathon training plan in terms of nutrition? Can I follow a standard high carb marathon diet or will I need to make special adjustments?

This question is especially common for those who are about to run their first marathon while dealing with metabolic issues or blood-sugar concerns. Runners with type 2 diabetes, for example, often have concerns about the level of carbohydrate consumption that typically plays a role in a marathon training plan.

Most of the time, the high carb diets required by a marathon training plan won’t have a negative impact on type 2 diabetes, and doctors typically point out that an effective and reasonable training plan will actually improve the body’s ability to process and utilize carbohydrates. But runners with this condition should remember to eat multiple small meals throughout the day and load these meals with high quality carbohydrates like oatmeal, whole grains, leafy green vegetables, and colorful fruits. These meals should also involve an element of lean protein, like poultry, fish, or egg whites. On more intense training days with runs longer than 90 minutes, those with diabetes will need to consume carbohydrates at a rate of 200-240 calories per hour both during and after the running process. These calories can be consumed in the form of sports gels, sports drinks, or dried fruit.

2. Should I alter my training activities or intensity if I have pain in my joints?

This question is frequently asked by first-time marathon runners who have been diagnosed with arthritis in the knees or hips, or those who have conditions that impact the strength and integrity of their bones and joints.

Most often, health care providers will recommend a slightly altered training plan that emphasizes low-to-zero impact strength and endurance training activities. These may include activities like cycling and swimming that can evenly alternate with running during the training process. For example, some doctors recommend three core-running days every week alternating with two cross-training days.

Experts also recommend a low inflammatory diet for marathon runners with joint issues. Choosing foods that minimize the body’s inflammatory response can ease the pain and other symptoms associated with arthritis during the training process. Most important, runners with joint issues should tune into the signals the body sends and be ready to alter the intensity of any training plan. This may mean running on softer surfaces, rather than concrete. It may also mean alternating a run-walk pattern, and it may mean having a professional trainer or coach provide pointers that improve technique and stride efficiency. A short, fast stride rate and proper alignment in the toes and ankles can vastly reduce joint pain for marathon runners with arthritis.

3. Will my marathon training plan have an impact on my medication rate/dose/combinations?

First time marathon runners who are taking any form of regular medication should ask a healthcare professional about the impact of each one of these medications on a high-intensity marathon training plan. It’s very important to be clear about both the name of the drug and the current dosage, and it’s also important to emphasize drug combinations and ask if potential interactions will have an impact on health issues and training results.

Far too often, those suffering from chronic or painful health conditions turn to Tylenol or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs to deal with the aches and pains of the marathon training process, which can place them in the path of danger. In small, doctor-recommended doses, these anti-inflammatory medications can reduce the mild pain of a strained muscle or sprained ligament. But even healthy runners have been known to place themselves in harm’s way by relying too heavily on over-the-counter pain killers or taking too many of them before a long run or race. These drugs can dramatically elevate blood pressure, and they can also interfere with prostaglandins, which regulate blood flow to the kidneys. Too many pain medications combined with dehydration and exertion can actually lead to serious kidney damage, even in perfectly healthy athletes.

4. How should I manage supplemental and strength training issues?

Intense cardio training should almost always be balanced by strength training focused on the upper body, hips, and core. But for those with compromised health, a doctor may offer specific recommendations and targeted exercises for this aspect of a marathon training plan. It may be necessary to add low impact forms of tension to a regular routine, which may involve suspension or resistance training with systems like the Kbands and KB Duo. If low-impact, high-intensity weight training equipment will play a role in your training plan, visit Kbands for more information.


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