Running a marathon for the first time? Make sure you stop at the first sign of chest pain or breathlessness. Visit your doctor and undergo an echocardiography test to help determine whether any chest pain or associated symptoms are related to heart disease and also do a treadmill test to access your fitness levels before taking up such sporting activity, say health experts.
Any history of recent breathlessness, chest pain, palpitation or excessive fatigue during routine activities or minimal exertion should alert a person regarding the possibility of heart disease, especially if he/she has underlying risk factors like diabetes, hypertension, smoking, high cholesterol, obesity, high levels of stress or a family history. “Such persons should undergo an evaluation for heart disease by a cardiologist before trying to indulge in intense sports like long-distance running and competitive outdoor sports like football, hockey, tennis, etc,” says Raghunandan Belur, Consultant Interventional Cardiologist, Jayanagar Sagar Hospital.
A blood pressure check-up, ECG, chest X-Ray, ECHO, treadmill stress ECG, tests to check bloodsugar, cholesterol, urea, creatinine, electrolytes, Na+, K+, haemoglobin, blood count, liver function, thyroid function and pulmonary function may all be needed to certify a person to be fit enough to undertake such activities.
“However, normal reports do not always guarantee any safety for runners and one is advised to take up rigorous training sessions only under the observation of experts. And for those with known cardiac problem, it is better to stay away from such strenuous exercise,” said Dr C N Manjunath, professor and HOD of Cardiology and Director, Sri Jayadeva Institute of Cardiovascular Sciences and Research. These tests are required since undiagnosed and concealed heart diseases can exist without any symptoms during routine physical activities. They will manifest themselves only during strenuous physical activity. In such a situation, the person should stop running and take medical help. Agreeing with Dr Manjunath, Dr Raghunandan Belur said, “Persons who have been diagnosed with heart disease and have a reduced pumping function of the heart are advised not to undertake such strenuous sporting activities.”
If people with CVD, diabetes and hypertension want to take up marathon running , they should be first subjected to tests to assess their heart function and if these are found to be normal, they can undergo training under supervision.
The check list
- Dr Manjunath suggests that all runners, including first timers, should stop running if they have the following symptoms.
- Giddiness, blurred vision, near-syncope (fainting)
- Disproportionate palpitation (breathlessness and dizziness)
- Chest Pain
- Throbbing sensation in head
- Due to excessive sweating, there can be dehydration, loss of sodium, potassium and magnesium which can trigger collapse.
A runner’s Tips
Manish Satyanarayana, a 32-year-old chartered accountant and a new marathon runner, suggests some important tips and precautions for injury-free and safe running for beginners like him.
He says that first timers should always consult a running community or join a running group before commencing training.
A basic medical check-up of vital parameters like BP and checking results with experienced runners is always a good way to start training. Anyone with a known medical condition like hypertension, heart problem etc. should consult doctors/runners before starting the program.
The progression in distances should always be a gradual one starting with 5 km, graduating to 10 km, 21 km and finally reaching42 km, over a period of 2 or 3 years depending on fitness.
Each distance has its own training schedule including diet and exercises that must be followed.
Diet and exercises are as important as running itself, if not more important. As experts say, about 70 per cent of the body is made in the kitchen rather than in the gym and through running. Efforts should be made to discipline one’s diet and include nutritious and balanced meals.
It is very important to maintain one’s weight since a fit runner always finds it easier to run efficiently. Runners also must follow proper diet and exercises, and their regimen also should depend on their height and body structure.
Rest and recovery after a hard training run or an event is crucial. Regular rest i.e. sleep of at least 7 hours is a must, since the body and muscles need time to repair after a hard run.
We should learn to recognise signs communicated by our body to ensure that we do not overtrain and thus prevent injuries. In case of any pain in any part of the body, one should consult doctors.