Sunday, January 06, 2013

How Much is Too Much?

As part of my as a sports physical therapist, I like to stay on top of reading evidence based research. While most of my readings are orthopedic and PT centered, I often share articles with other wellness disciplines. One of my colleagues and New Orleans-celebrity-fitness-trainer, Mackie Shilstone recently brought a disturbing article to my attention.

The article was titled" Potential Adverse Cardiovascular Effects From Excessive Endurance Exercise". While I had heard rumors in the past that too much exercise was a bad thing, I had never read any of the evidence for myself. It was quite a disturbing read.
While most of us know that regular exercise is beneficial for the heart, the opposite is true once one surpasses an upper dosage barrier. I won't bore you with too much science or anatomy. However, I will tell you that research is showing that veteran ultra athletes have 5x increase in atrial fibrillation. Doctors are also commonly finding coronary artery calcification, diastolic dysfunction, and large artery wall stiffening. In fact, researchers have also found elevated markers in the blood that are indicative of cardiac damage in athletes post ultra racing/training. Just think- these are some of the same chemical released when one has a heart attach. Scary stuff!

Although I thoroughly enjoyed the ups and downs of 140.6 racing, I must ask myself, "Is this really worth it"?

I'm not trying to discourage you ultra-marathoners, 140.6-ers, or your IM-ers out there from accomplishing your dreams or your goals. I do however think it's important that you know the facts, especially if you plan on sticking around the long stuff for a lifetime. ( especially if you fall into the older age group categories)

 In addition to the damage on the inside, it's easy to see what years of free-radical damage can do to the outside. Not attractive in my opinion. Although this guy is pretty cute...

As for me, I think 3-140.6's is enough heart damage for a lifetime. As for now, I'm hoping to crush some dreams in the 70.3's and below. And while there are a million other reasons for me no longer to do the long stuff, this just helps make the decision that much easier.

You can read the article for yourself here:

James H. O'Keefe,Harshal R, et al. "Potential Adverse Cardiovascular Effects From Excessive Endurance Exercise". Mayo Clinic Proceedings. June 2012; 87:6, 587-595.


  1. I didn't read the article, so don't know if this was touched on. Genetics, and Stress also play a part in heart things.

    "Ultra" people who do it to run away from stress probably are doing it for unhealthy reasons.

    It doesn't matter how many Ultra things people do, still have to deal with life.

  2. Hm interesting article. Scary... but insightful! Is that part of the reason you decided to cut back on the 140.6s?

  3. I have heard about this as well, but reserved judgement till something came out that was backed by scienctific foundings. It is scary to think about, although I am not a lover of long course

  4. pretty interesting article, thanks for sharing, I had heard that but never the evidence. 70.3s are so much fun anyway!!

  5. Maggie-Yes reading this definitely confirmed my decision. Although I don't think my best event is the long course stuff anyway...


  6. don't recommend a DOUBLE Irondistance race?? lol

    Go crush 'em hot stuff!! You'll totally rip it up at the half distance for sure

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