February 22, 2024
10 MIN

From BS&W: Prepare For Your Marathon Journey From a Heart Perspective

Dr. Anas Hamadeh MD, FACC, FSCAI
Baylor Scott & White All Saints Medical Center

Hello Cowtown Marathon runners! My name is Dr. Anas Hamadeh and I am a dedicated Cardiologist here in Fort Worth, located at Baylor Scott & White All Saints Medical Center. As a former Olympic swimmer and fellow athlete, I’m excited to share some tips and tricks with you all on how to prepare for your Marathon journey from a heart perspective. 

Tip #1 – Understand your heart rate zones

Understanding your heart rate zones and incorporating that knowledge into your training can significantly enhance the efficiency of your marathon preparation. Basically, a heart rate zone is an indication of how your heart is keeping up with the demands of your body and working to pump the blood. A brief overview of heart rate zones is as follows:

  • Zone 1 – recover/easy
  • Zone 2 – aerobic/base
  • Zone 3 – tempo
  • Zone 4 – lactate threshold
  • Zone 5 – anaerobic 

These heart rate zones can be estimated based on your maximum predicted heart rate. Your maximum predicted heart rate is roughly your age minus 220.

Maximum predicted heart rate = 220 -- age

A heart rate monitor will indicate which heart rate zone you are exercising in. Ideally, you want to aim for zone 2 for the majority of your workouts. As you increase your endurance and stamina, you can begin to incorporate for training sessions in both zone 3 and 4. By being mindful of your heart rate zones, you will significantly enhance your training efficiency and reduce the risk of injury and/or overtraining. 

Tip #2 – Implement a nutrition plan

My second tip is to be mindful of your nutrition before training, after training and on marathon day. A key component of nutrition is hydration, so make sure to stay hydrated during all points of your training and marathon day.

  • Before training, consume a carbohydrate rich meal. Focus on making this meal rich in complex carbohydrates like whole grains and sweet potatoes. Consume this meal between one to two hours before your training. Try to avoid fatty meals or high protein meals in order to reduce gastrointestinal discomfort.
  • After exercise, consume a meal high in both carbohydrates and protein in order to replenish your glycogen stores and aid in muscle repair. 
  • On marathon day, consume a well-tested breakfast that is also rich in complex carbohydrates, similar to meals you are consuming before training sessions. Also consume a carbohydrate rich energy gel/chew during your running – especially after the first hour.

Tip #3 – Monitor your heart health

During marathon training, you want to make sure to maintain and monitor your heart health, especially for runners identified in a high-risk group. People in higher-risk groups include, but are not limited to, those who are 40 years of age or older with a family history of heart disease or a history of high cholesterol, diabetes and hypertension.

Before embarking on your running journey, it could be wise to consider a cardiac screen. A cardiac screen could consist of an EKG, an echocardiogram, a stress test and a calcium score.


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