Dr. Demetri Meimaris

Like traditional athletes, competitive drivers and their teams are engaged in a physically and mentally demanding sport, susceptible to such health issues as fatigue, muscle pain and heat exhaustion. If you’ve been sacrificing your personal preparation for the preparation of your vehicle, use these tips to keep your body from breaking down on the big day. HYDRATION Remaining properly hydrated is critical to your overall health. Every organ in the body and function of the body depends on water. Ensuring sufficient fluid intake on race day is crucial. We hear that all the time, but consider that studies have shown that even just a 2 percent loss in hydration may result in a 20 percent loss of function to all systems of the body. — Consult your physician to discuss any drugs you may be taking for a monitored condition, such as blood pressure medications, which may affect and influence your overall hydration. — Weigh yourself pre- and post-event to monitor the amount of fluid you’ve lost. — Optimally, consume one quart of water per 50 pounds of body weight over the course of the day. At the minimum, both drivers and pit crew members should drink about 1.5 quarts of water on race day, depending on the temperature. — The color of your urine determines your level of hydration. The darker the color, the more dehydrated you are. If you are properly hydrated, your urine should be a pale yellow to straw color. Urine test strips are available to show your hydration level. — Avoid the use of alcohol and excessive amounts of caffeine three days to a week prior to the event. Both are known to impair hydration. — A good “cocktail” to help replenish your fluids and electrolytes during the vital post-event recovery period — the first half-hour after a race — is a 50-50 mix of Pedialyte and water. FITNESS Keeping muscles toned and strong increases endurance, which might make the difference between winning and losing a race. Daily exercise also has a positive effect on brain function, and can lead to enhanced attention, concentration and decision-making abilities on the track. — Do range-of-motion exercises for your cervical (neck) spine, shoulders, hips and lower back. These areas impact the parts of the body used to keep in control of your car, that maintain stability of your muscles and joints during g force on the cervical spine and that support the combined weight of your head, helmet and other attached driver equipment. — Do isotonic and isometric exercises for the cervical spine and upper/lower extremities, along with strength training to reduce exhaustion. NASCAR driver Mark Martin’s book “Strength Training for Performance Driving” is an excellent resource for motor sports athletes. (LINK: http://www.amazon.com/Strength-Training-Performance-Driving-Martin/dp/0879388439) — Do cardio training on alternate days, opposite strength training, to gain increases in stamina. — Do not do heavy workouts on the day of the race. Conserve your energy and do only light stretching of muscle groups. NUTRITION Food is fuel, and with a balanced diet, containing essential nutrients, you’ll have the energy and stamina you need to succeed on a hectic race day. — Eat foods high in fiber and rich in protein, along with grains and good fats, such as nuts. — Eat foods that promote digestive regularity, such as greens, chicken and fish. — Avoid fried foods and red meats high in fat. — Avoid alcohol and caffeine in high quantities. — Eat slowly to maintain sugar levels in the body, but avoid refined sugars. Refined sugars provide an immediate surge of energy, but shortly thereafter, energy levels plummet, impacting mood and performance. — Eat your last meal two to three hours before the event. SLEEP Good sleep promotes muscle recovery, resulting in less exhaustion, and provides cognitive benefits that can boost skills and focus. — Avoid late nights out before the event. — To ensure you’re obtaining the best-quality restorative sleep, explore the various devices available that monitor sleep, sleep patterns and snoring, which results in oxygen deprivation. MENTAL FOCUS A moment of distraction or a lapse in concentration can be disastrous on the track. Keep your mind on what you’re doing while you’re doing it, say sports psychology experts. — Try meditation to reduce stress and anxiety. — Use positive self talk to affirm your abilities and goals. — Use visualization techniques, particularly studying videos of the track you’ll be driving. A certified chiropractic sports physician in practice for 31 years, Dr. Demetri Meimaris is also a racing enthusiast, road racer, a practitioner of Brazilian jiu jitsu and the team doctor for champion athletes and Apex Wrestling School in his home State of New Jersey. A NASA Northeast member, Dr. Meimaris also served as the team doctor for the U.S. Karate national team for 12 years.