In part 2 of our Endurance Journey, Mark Wolf tell’s us why it is so vital to go for a pre-journey check-up. Are you really as healthy as you think you are? How do you know that your engine is in fine working order? Especially when considering you may be looking to put it under massive stress in your endurance endeavours.
Thanks for joining Mark Wolff and myself, Mr Active, David Katz as we continue our endurance journey and looking at the importance of the foundation when it comes to that journey. Mark had a fantastic analogy, I’ll put the link up to it, in our previous podcast where he does compare your body to a motor vehicle. He posed a question to us right at the end of that podcast and it was in line with: Is your own engine in good working order? Mark, what did you mean by that?
How do you know you are healthy?
Mark Wolff: I think the most important thing is how do you know you are healthy inside? On the outside you might say, I feel great, I feel healthy. If somebody says to me, okay, I’m feeling great, I’m feeling healthy, I say to them, how do you know? How do you actually know?
There’s two ways to look at this. The first is yes, you could do your own self-examination. You can monitor your energy levels. How do you feel, are you energetic when you wake up in the morning? Do you explode out of bed in the mornings, or do you have to leopard crawl to the kitchen to go and make a cup of coffee before you can even function for the day?
Do you suffer ever with bouts of fatigue? Do you ever feel very tired where you can’t function? How are your sleeping patterns at night? Are you sleeping solidly? Do you fall asleep easily? Do you have very little wake up during the night, and then do you wake up refreshed the next day?
How your digestive function impacts your health
Digestive function, for example, is your digestive system functioning normally and then your mood as well. What about your emotional status; because that does also impact your health, and we’re talking about stress, depression, hyperactivity, disappointment, all these things.
Generally when I ask somebody about these types of things they will say to me, I’m 100% fine. I’ll say to them, okay, that’s very biased because you’re speaking about yourself. As far as I’m concerned, put the bias aside and rather get a proper medical examination. Make sure that if you’re going to put your own body or your own engine under stress. That’s what endurance sport is; it’s stress on the body, make sure that your own engine is in good working order.
What to expect from a medical examination
When it comes down to a medical examination, I think you need to first look at a person’s medical history, look at family medical history as well to see if there’s possibly any genetic predisposition to some sort of a disease. Then decide what kind of medical check-up you’re going to go for.
I know people that in their 40s were only diagnosed with asthma, as an example. That was a wake-up call, they had no idea that they had it. Only once they went for a lung function test did they actually pick it up. If there’s a history of any heart disease, I would say definitely not just an ECG stress test, but you probably want to go for heart ultrasound as well on top of that.
If you'd spend it on a car, spend it on you!
Yes, these are expensive but how much does a service cost for your own motor vehicle? Why don’t you do it for your own body, which is way more important? I would say that when you’re putting your body under stress, especially into sport and especially to endurance sports. I would say that things like ECG lung function and heart ultrasound are quite crucial because that’s sort of, excuse the pun, it’s the heart of our engine.
You need to make sure that it’s very healthy and depending on your age, that will probably depend on the frequency of the check-ups. I personally go to a cardiologist now only once every three years or so, just to make sure that everything is in good check.
When I was at the cardiologist previously he actually said to me that there’s a very big problem with endurance athletes, and he’s seeing more and more clientele and he’s seeing major issues because athletes are overdoing it. They’re not taking care of themselves and they’re not resting properly. They’re not sleeping properly and they’re actually over-stressing their bodies. They’re causing diseases, especially heart disease as well, whether it’s enlarged heart, right ventricular dilation as an example, all these kinds of things.
Blood tests don’t lie
Rather first check that that’s in good working order before you actually put it under stress, because if it’s not in good working order and you put it under stress, you risk something serious happening. I’m also a very big fan of, and I’ve written a blog, Bloods Do Not Lie.
As far as I’m concerned, blood testing shows a lot about a person’s health status. I’m a very big fan of that, I go for blood tests. Personally I go very regularly, every couple of months to make sure that my bloods are in good working order.
I predominantly also am vegetarian, so the thing is that I do need to make sure that my vitamin and mineral levels are at the right type of levels. That if I put my body under stress I know that there are no deficiencies. You need to look at things like a complete blood count, things like liver function.
You obviously want to check your serum iron levels, make sure that your iron stores are topped up. Make sure that you’re also absorbing that iron. You can also go for things like allergy testing, inflammatory markers, glucose tolerance testing. You can check protein, you can check hormones, testosterone levels, things like your Vitamin D levels, which I find that most athletes are actually quite deficient in.
Back to basics – why it’s important
There’s so many different bloods that you can go for, but start with the basics and make sure that all these things are in good working order. Because the minute you put yourself into exercise and you start to stress out the body, that’s when the problems actually start to occur. The last thing you want is a domino effect of ill health, just based on the fact that you started off on the wrong foot. That’s why I call this the pre-journey check.
DK: Mark, lots for people to think about there and I hear what you’re saying, that medical examination, to not go for it, it really is just only shooting yourself in the foot. You talked about the cardiologist, what they’re saying with endurance athletes. I’ve done a few interviews as well with cardiologists, and they’ve told me the same thing. People, it is worth checking that out.
What would be very interesting here Mark is to hear how you take all this, and maybe you can give us some case example. How you take all this information, and then you use that as your starting point. We’ll save that for next week. I think it’s going to be a really interesting conversation, so please do join Mark Wolff and myself, Mr Active, David Katz once again. I reiterate, this series is all about feedback and hearing what questions you have regarding health, the endurance journey and of course nutrition. Do email us, firstname.lastname@example.org.