News Letter December 2012
Hello and welcome to my Newsletter for December 2012 :-)
Recently I've seen and heard much about the cardiac-risk associated with excessive or high amounts of exercise.
Most recently a podcast by the British Journal Sports Medicine ( this to sport in general but also touched on ultra-distance events, such as 50 mile marathon running, and high-repeat long distance racers.... one guy who had completed over 40 IM events, another who had done nearly 650 marathons and another veteran runner who had clocked 150,000 miles to date!
There was a time when these guys were in a minority group but changes in attitude and accessibility to sport is making them more common than you think. Being passionate is one thing but, for some athletes, it appears to be a slippery slope toward obsession.
It's not just the extreme duration/distance of the actual event but the repeated high training demand in preparation for it. There was specific mention of Iron Man training which by necessity requires a long slow progression (typically up to 15-18 hours per week for 10-12 months) in order to condition muscles and induce physiological changes.
So, what are the cardiac-risks to extreme activity?
The heart is an organ composed mostly of muscle, which means it is susceptible to training-induced changes in a similar way as other muscles of the body, This is not necessarily a problem but in extreme cases can lead to several issues. Firstly any hypertrophy or thickening of the ventricular walls can cause tightening and stiffening of cardiac structures. There may also be risk of excessive stretching of the atrial walls.
In some cases, such changes to the physical structure of the heart can also upset the distribution of electrical signals through the heart causing cardiac flutter, arrhythmia and even cardiac arrest (eg, the footballer, Fabrice Muamba).
Having said all this, the heart is very robust and for most of us, physical training (even those Thursday night turbo sessions!) does not cause any problems, but for a small minority who are maybe "excessive" or susceptible (due to medical condition, congenital weakness or whatever) there may be an increased risk of dysfunction.
What does all this mean?
Triathlon is a great sport, with multiple levels of engagement ranging from Super-Sprint up to Iron Man (and even DecaMan!) which is great for building fitness, well-being, confidence and experience. The downside is that as we climb the ladder, pushing the body harder, faster and further, we feel indestructible and forget that there is a line beyond which there is a sizeable increase in health-risk. This line will be located differently for all individuals and is probably not an issue for most of us but it does become more relevant for those athletes training for the longer distance events.
If you are planning to do Iron Man next year one way to reduce any risk of problems is to identify your susceptibility to cardiac problems by having an ECG as part of your regular health checks. It is certainly sensible to consult your GP if you experience any health issues out of the ordinary (cardiac or other) but its worth considering an ECG-screening before embarking on any big training programmes.
I hope this has been helpful and if you have any queries or would like specific guidance please get in contact - call/text 07545 115562 or reply to this email.
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Happy racing!


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