I have never run a marathon, nor taken part in a triathlon. I never will. This tends to surprise people who view taking part in these events as something honorable, or necessary to do to ‘prove’ how fit they really are, almost like it represents the pinnacle of fitness. Of course, this is quite absurd. It conjures up an image of some celebrity running The London Marathon in flimsy plimsolls. I just don’t get it. The reason I have this complete lack of interest in extreme training is the negative impact it can have on the body. Unfortunately, the TV presenter Andrew Marr suffered a stroke after an extra intense bout of exercise, intense enough to tear an artery. Even more worryingly, it turns out he had already had two undiagnosed strokes. Of course exercise is very good for you, but at the right intensity for your fitness ability. Then your health should improve, not be damaged.
Damage to the Heart
There is some research that suggests that heart muscle is damaged by extreme endurance exercise. The research suggests that this type of exercise causes a rise in blood levels of cardiac troponins, chemicals which only show up when the heart muscle is damaged. A chemical called brain natriueretic peptide (BNP), a red flag for cardiac dysfunction, also goes up after long distance endurance events. Fluctuations in these chemical levels might be short lived, but their effects can last a lot longer.
Other research suggests that platelets (cells that are involved in blood clotting) are more likely to form the clots that trigger heart attacks after vigorous or lengthy exercise. This video clip highlights the drawbacks to intense endurance exercise really well.
Adopt Sensible Exercise Habits
- Give your body the rest it needs to fully recover in-between workouts
- Don’t train until you are wiped out, stop training when you feel slightly fatigued
- Don’t increase the volume of your training by more than 10% each time
- Learn to listen to your body, if it feels wrong, it probably is
- Adopt a healthy attitude towards your training, not one which is all-or-nothing
- Focus on promoting your health rather than fitness, the two are not necessarily synonymous
- Employ a personal trainer if you are not sure if your exercise is too extreme or unhealthy