BLOG: Before you run, talk to your doc

WTOP\'s Paula Wolfson competing in the Pittsburgh Half Marathon. (Courtesy Jim Stevenson)

Editor’s Note: To mark a milestone birthday, WTOP’s Paula Wolfson has signed up to run the Marine Corps Marathon. She will be sharing her journey along the way in a series of blog posts.

Paula Wolfson,

WASHINGTON – We’ve all seen the warnings in magazines and on TV shows (“Biggest Loser,” I am talking about you): Before you start any rigorous exercise program, check in with your doctor.

You might think it’s counterintuitive, after all, exercise is supposed to make you healthier. But it is actually a great idea. You want to make sure your body is up to the task.

You wouldn’t send your kid to camp without a check-up, right? Same goes for adults either starting a workout program or ramping up an existing one.

And so, before I signed up for my first marathon, I made a visit to the doc.

Because I have a family history of heart disease, my cardiologist — Dr. Susan Bennett — did the honors. She says a routine physical is a great start.

“It is the basic stuff,” Dr. Bennett explained after checking my pulse. “… The basic building blocks of good health.”

Certain tests are key, says Dr. Bennett.

“We check the blood pressure and make sure it is normal. We look at the electrocardiagram and listen to the patient.”

So it’s important to talk. Don’t hold anything back. Let the doctor know about any medical conditions you have that the doctor is not aware of and any medications that might have been prescribed by another physician.

And don’t forget to go over your family tree.

“If you have a family history of someone who has died during exercise, or someone who has had an early heart attack, angioplasty, stenting, bypass surgery, you should get checked out,” Bennett told me.

And so I did. I walked away with a clean bill of health, “fit for duty” as they say in the military.

I gave up my blood. I was poked, prodded and all that. But it was worth it.

I keep thinking about Micah True, the ultra-marathoner who died this spring during a routine run in the wilderness of New Mexico… and, of course, Glenn Brenner, the local sportscaster who passed away from a brain tumor 10 weeks after he collapsed at the finish of the 1991 Marine Corps Marathon.

Could either death have been prevented? Maybe not. But there is something to be said for a little peace of mind, and there is nothing like a cardiologist who sends you off with these words: “You’re good to go, have a great race!”

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(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)

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