What to Ask Your Doctor Before You Begin Marathon Training

Just a few days ago, a report came out that MasterChef contestant Matt Campbell collapsed after completing the London Marathon. Shortly after, he was pronounced dead. While the entire running community is saddened by Campbell’s death—there’s a thought I think it brings up for all of us. Matt was no stranger to marathons. He was a runner.

So we can't help but wonder: could it happen to us?

While the circumstances of the London Marathon were unusual and the cause of Matt’s death is still unknown, it’s a sobering reminder for each and every one of us. Life is short, and no matter how fit and experienced we look and feel, we just never know.

Whether you’ve been running for a long time or you have been wanting to start a new exercise routine, safety comes first, always. That safety starts with talking to a physician, especially when you are about to embark on a new fitness journey, like marathon training. Here are a few key points you may want to discuss with your doctor.


5 Discussion Points to Cover with Your Doctor Before Marathon Training

1) Your and your family’s heart health history.

Your heart health is the single most important factor in determining whether or not you're able to run for exercise in the first place. For those who have heart disease or high blood pressure, running may not be an advisable form of exercise. Cardiovascular problems can show up in running conditions and for a person unaware of them, this can be fatal. If your doctor is made aware, however, they can help you onboard onto a slower, more healthy path. Perhaps they will help you begin with walking or another form of exercise that will not be so strenuous on the heart but will still get you up and active.

2) What injuries or issues you have that running may aggravate.

Discuss with your doctor any and all previous injuries or surgeries you’ve had that running might aggravate. Your doctor can help you keep an eye on those old wounds and help you know what to do to ensure that you don’t strain yourself. They’ll equip you with strategies you can use to best care for your body pre- and post-run so that you can minimize recovery time.

3) What issues runners commonly face.

Whether it’s shin splints, stress fractures, or runner’s knees, runners put their bodies through a lot of strain and stress. Your doctor can help you know not only what some of these common running issues are, but the best ways to prevent them and care for yourself should you fall victim. With this medical knowledge, you’ll be best equipped to ensure speedy recovery and a more efficient training season.

4) Your health and fitness goals.

What do you want out of your marathon training? Do you have a weight loss goal? A weightlifting goal? Mile goal? Whatever it is, share these with your physician. They may be able to help you develop a plan so that you can achieve them in a way that is not only beneficial, but healthy for you where you are at your weight, age, and health condition. They can take into account factors that you may not have considered.

Critical health tests to clear you to run/exercise.

While discussing your health history and potential pitfalls is a crucial part of the conversion with your doctor, it is not the only piece of the puzzle. Before they clear you for endurance running and other exercise routines, they will likely require you to take a number of health exams to determine whether or not you are fit for the type of exercise you are pursuing, including:

   -  Complete blood count (CBC)

   -  Diabetes test

   -  Cardiac health tests: Lipid Profile & Creatine PhosphoKinase test & Stress test     

   -  Calcium and Vitamin D tests

   -  Liver function test

   -  Kidney function test

5) Why Talking to Your Doctor is Top Priority

Some would-be runners make the mistake of believing that picking out running shoes is more important than meeting with their doctor. They don’t take the warning seriously that they should consult a physician before beginning a new exercise routine.

In reality, there’s nothing more important to your long-term health than having this relationship with your doctor and an informed perspective on the physical condition of your body.

If you are a runner or have considered running and you haven’t had a physical or consulted a doctor, go back and see one, particularly if you have a history of high blood pressure, heart disease, or other medical conditions. If you have a history of smoking, have lived an inactive lifestyle, or are currently overweight, it’s also crucial to talk to your doctor before exercising.

You want to ensure that you’re starting your health journey on the right foot.