The coveted 26.2: Many people, whether seasoned runners or racing newbies, are allured by the marathon. Some hope to cross it off their bucket list, others do it to come home with a shiny new PR (personal record), while some people simply want to claim bragging rights.
But hold up! While many people get hooked once they first experience a runner’s high – those feel-good chemicals released in the brain while pushing your body to its limits – that elation can lead to too much of a good thing.1 In fact, marathon runners are especially vulnerable to exercise addiction.2 Think of running like medication: People use it to stay healthy and prevent a handful to chronic illnesses. But like with a drug, there is a chance of overdosing. Even without the risk of addiction, marathon training puts a ton of stress on the body, especially since most running plans are in the 16– to 20–week range. Research suggests the benefit of physical exercise has its limits, and overdoing it can lead to weakened heart health and even tamper with longevity.3 If marathon training is approached the wrong way, it can lead to some serious health hazards, not to mention the risk of not making it to the starting line.
Of course, runners can still enjoy that high (and a shiny new medal). It’s all about understanding the warning signs of overuse or overtraining. In 2013, there were 541,000 marathon finishers in the U.S. – an all-time high.4 If done with the right attitude and precautions, a finish line can definitely be in your future.
So how do runners train hard but not too hard? How do you know when you’re pushing your body past its limits? We break down the dangers of overdoing it, plus offer smart training tips. Continue reading