How much damage will running a marathon do to your feet?Was it one of your new year's resolutions this year to finally complete a marathon? Are you hoping that doing so will take your health and fitness game to the next level? Or do you just think it's a fun and challenging way to get in shape?

When you look at a seasoned marathoner, he or she usually has the appearance of intense physical fitness. But according to a study published in a British medical journal, the amount of training required to run a marathon may actually be detrimental to your health.

Marathons Take a Toll On Your Body

The findings were interesting, if slightly worrisome: researchers discovered that high intensity exercise sessions lasting over an hour could overload the heart, ultimately causing scar tissue and long-term problems. 

Even if you don’t damage your heart, at a certain point in marathon training, you stop enjoying the health benefits associated with regular exercise, according to an article published in the Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise. Apparently, that point comes when you are either running over 20 miles each week, running 6 days a week and/or training at a pace exceeding eight miles per hour.


Balance Your Training to Protect Your Health

Of course, being sedentary is pretty bad for you too…so what is a prospective runner to do? How do you find the right balance of safety and cardiovascular health benefits while still getting yourself in top competitive shape?

The answer is fairly simple, and it is one that I’ve long shared with patients in my Houston podiatry practice. It’s all about moderation—mixing up your cardio so you aren’t just running all the time; building weight bearing exercise and days of rest into your training regimen; listening to your body and going to your podiatrist when you’re experiencing pain

Sample Marathon Training Program for Safety

Every runner will be different, but there are a few keys to any safe training program that will protect your feet (and your health!) Each week, you should only plan on taking one long run (I like to schedule these for weekends, when you have enough time to train with a proper warm up and cool down.) If you run long on Saturday, cross train on Sunday, and vice versa. 

Assuming you've scheduled your long run for the weekend, I suggest taking Monday and Friday as rest days, to build up strength before the big push and to let your body recover afterward. 

With those days reserved for rest, you can then plan to take short, fairly slow runs on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, but don't push yourself to speed up your pace. Just get your body used to the distance and check your form during these "easy" runs. 

With good planning and proper care, you can complete your first (or fiftieth) marathon injury free and cross the finish line in better shape than ever before! If you have questions about safe marathon-training programs, schedule an appointment with Dr. Andrew Schneider today!

Dr. Andrew Schneider
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A podiatrist and foot surgeon in Houston, TX.