Does Running a Marathon Damage your Body

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? But are you wondering, does running a marathon damage your body?

When you look at a seasoned marathoner, he or she is an intense physical fitness example. But that doesn't mean everything is ok in your body. In fact, a Mayo clinic study suggests that all the runs you take to train for a marathon can harm your health.

Marathons Take a Toll On Your Body

The findings were interesting, if slightly worrisome. Researchers learned that when you train at a high intensity for over an hour you could overload your heart. Ultimately, that could leave you with scar tissue and long-term problems.

Even if you don’t damage your heart? At some point in your marathon training, you stop enjoying the health benefits associated with regular exercise. At least that's what an article in the Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise says. But when do you hit that point? Apparently, it comes when you are either running over 20 miles each week, 6 days a week and/or training at a pace exceeding eight miles per hour. And it's even more likely to happen if the race you're training for is your first marathon.

Does Running a Marathon Damage Your Body the First Time?

If you're new to running, or trying a new training routine, you're more likely to get hurt. That's just a sad fact. But running your first marathon can be even trickier.

Want to stay safe? First, follow these tips for painleslly increasing your weekly run training distance. Next, find a shoe that feels comfortable the first time you wear it. Be sure to properly nourish and hydrate your body before and after you train. (Especially if you're running in summer or hot weather.) Always engage in active warm-ups and cooldowns on run days. And NEVER push through pain when you train. That's a recipe for disaster.

While these tips are important for first-time marathoners, they can apply to anyone. And so can these other tips that keep marathon training from damaging your body. Because, giving up on running isn't the only way to keep your body safe and healthy. In fact, that might even be worse for you!

Balance Your Training to Protect Your Health does running a marathon damage your body

Why? Being sedentary is pretty bad for you too…It leads to obesity, and can increase your risk for diabetes. So what is a prospective runner to do? How do you find the right balance of safety and cardiovascular health benefits? All while 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! But what does that mean? Consider cross-training your new best friend.

What does that look like? Cross training can take on many different forms. First, mix up your cardio so you aren’t just running all the time. That will keep boosting your heart health, without overworking those muscles. Next, try building weight bearing exercise into your training routine. This is a great way to strengthen the bones and muscles that support your runs. So you give your heart a break and reduce your running injury risk, all at once.

Also, knowing when not to run is just as important. That's why I need you to build days of rest into your training regimen. Even if you aren't completely at rest, try a gentle workout like yoga on these off-days. Your body and mind will thank you.

Oh, on that note. If you want to keep marathong training from damaging your body? Like I told you marathon newbies earlier, you have to listen to your body! That means being flexible and taking a break when you need one. And it really means coming to see me, your podiatrist in Houston, TX, as soon as you experience pain.

Sample Marathon Training Program for Safety

I know that it can feel overwhelming to try and craft a safe marathon training plan. That's why I'm here to help! Now, wvery runner will be different. But there are a few keys to any safe training program that will protect your feet (and your health!) And I've covered each one in this sample marathon training program for all my Houston runners.

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. But you do you, as the kids say.)

Following my advice? If you run long on Saturday, cross train on Sunday, and vice versa. Then keep following these tips for your weekday training sessions.

Assuming you've scheduled your long run for the weekend? (Because why wouldn't you listen to me?!) Now, I suggest taking Monday and Friday as rest days. That will help you build up strength before the big weekend push. And it will give you time 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 on those days. Just get your body used to the distance and check your form during these "easy" runs.

Does Running a Marathon Damage Your Body? Not if You're Careful!

With good planning and proper care, you can complete your first (or fiftieth) marathon injury free! In fact, you can cross the finish line in better shape than ever before! Do you have questions about safe marathon-training programs? Or need support for a nagging running injury? That's what I'm here for! Simply reach out and schedule an appointment with Dr. Andrew Schneider today!


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