7 Tips For Running Safely With A Heart Defect

One runner gets advice from her driven mother-runner, who also happens to have congenital heart disease.

Photo courtesy of
Photo courtesy of

Running with a heart defect is difficult, especially since you already have so little energy in the first place. My mom was born with congenital heart disease, and she wasn’t supposed to live past her infant years. Despite her difficulty getting out of bed each morning, she’s maintained a steady commitment to fitness and health, going so far as to ask her cardiologist for new exercise suggestions each time she visits him. Through the years, she’s given me advice on almost everything, especially running. Here are seven tips I’ve learned that can help to help make running a better experience each and every time.

Related: 5 Tips For Proper Heart-Rate Tracking

  1. Start out slow. There’s nothing worse than expending what little energy you might have in the first few minutes. Don’t hesitate to walk first, then gradually pick up speed as you go. Doing this will not only warm up your body, but it will also give your heart defibrillator or pacemaker a chance to adapt to the increase in activity.
  2. Take breaks when you need them, not when others do. This is a two-fold suggestion. You can’t compare yourself to others, especially those who might have a totally healthy pumper. Friends are great to run with, but remember not to push yourself too hard if he or she is faster than you. When you finish your run, walk around slowly until your heart rate returns to normal before sitting or laying down.
  3. Run with a buddy. Not only will the company make your run more enjoyable, but he or she is also there if you experience dizzy spells. Many roads don’t always have a stationary object that you can lean on when the world decides to go topsy-turvy, so having a second person there is definitely a good idea. You should also drink a large glass of water before going out for your run, as this will help reduce the intensity and frequency of dizzy spells.
  4. Drink cranberry juice. Bladder infections are painful, and heart medications increase your likelihood of contracting them. If you make sure to drink juice every morning and evening, as well as after a run, your body will have more energy for exercising and fighting off infection.
  5. Eat healthy. Taking care of your body is important, but even more so when you have a heart condition. If you don’t eat healthy foods and proper portions, then you aren’t going to have the energy to fuel your heart and body, let alone exercise.
  6. Run on a flat surface rather than a hill. When you have a heart condition, running on inclines tends to burn more energy than fat. With a flat surface, you can burn more fat with less energy.
  7. Talk with your doctor before starting any exercise regimen, as some medications may have adverse effects during or after extreme exercise. Your doctor knows your heart and can advise you on the best form of exercise for you and your body.

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