How Endurance Sports Medicine Can Help You Reach the Finish Line

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Marathon runners know it takes a lot more than slipping on a pair of running shoes and logging training miles to go the distance.

Successful endurance athletes pay attention to nutrition, biomechanics, mental preparation and injury prevention. As endurance sports become more popular, athletes increasingly are turning to medical specialists to stay healthy and perform their best.

Nutrition for Endurance Athletes

Nutrition is an area that often gets overlooked. Whether you run marathons, are into CrossFit or adventure racing, using energy efficiently is key to performance.

“What you eat and how you train affects how your body stores and uses fuel,” says Laura Goldberg, MD, an endurance medicine specialist at University Hospitals.

“An important part of training is knowing how and when your body uses energy,” Dr. Goldberg says. “Sports nutritionists who understand endurance sports can provide effective guidance to enhance training adaptations and performance through understanding of the influence of diet and training variation on energy metabolism.”

Enhancing Energy Efficiency and Overcoming Fatigue

Proper endurance training improves the muscles’ ability to store glycogen and fat, which enhances energy efficiency.

Fatigue is the enemy of endurance athletes. There are mental and physiological reasons an endurance athlete may succumb to fatigue. Besides energy efficiency, your aerobic capacity (with oxygen), anaerobic capacity (without oxygen), as well as power, strength, and muscle endurance play a role.

A quality endurance sports medicine program coordinates evaluation and treatment by sports medicine specialists, sports nutritionists, physical therapists and exercise physiologists. Mental training can help athletes tolerate the rigors of endurance sports and overcome fatigue.

“An endurance sports medicine team can enhance your performance and reduce injury risk through evaluation of mechanics, strength, and nutrition,” Dr. Goldberg says. “Test your current exercise capacity with an exercise physiologist and build your mental toughness with a sports psychologist. Together, they can elevate you to reach your goals.”

Injury Prevention for Endurance Athletes

Injury prevention includes analyzing the athlete’s strength, joint mobility and gait mechanics, Dr. Goldberg says.

Video analysis of running form or other activity-related mechanics may pinpoint problems that can be corrected. Often, treatment requires targeted strength conditioning, gait training biofeedback, cadence adjustment, proper shoe fit or foot/ankle orthoses, which are specially designed and fitted devices to protect and support an injury or control biomechanical alignment.

A good number of Dr. Goldberg’s patients are dealing with overuse injuries. Often, injuries occur when one makes a jump in training intensity, such as moving to high school or college-level sports. Other reasons include failure to vary training patterns, inadequate cross-training and recovery and inadequate sleep. As athletes pursue new challenges, their bodies may need more recovery time or more focused nutrition to prevent injury or burnout.

Overuse may result in poor performance, fatigue and injuries to bones, muscles, ligaments or tendons. The injuries require proper diagnosis and intervention, Dr. Goldberg says. A sports medicine program can assist with ongoing cross-training while you’re rehabbing an injury.

While most patients of endurance sports medicine program are runners, Dr. Goldberg says, swimmers, cyclists and other athletes also can use these services to identify strategies and techniques that can prevent injuries and enhance performance.

Related links

University Hospitals' endurance sports medicine program coordinates evaluation and treatment of all types of endurance athletes – from runners to swimmers to cyclists by specialized sports medicine physicians, physical therapists, exercise physiologists and sports nutritionists. Learn more about endurance sports medicine at UH.

 

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