The 2019 edition of the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona was a perfect example of how endurance racing is such a physically demanding form of motorsport where the race takes a toll on both the mind and body. One aspect of this type of racing that always fascinated me was how these drivers can maintain themselves in peak condition so that they can manage such a grueling event. In order to find out more about this topic I spoke with Dr Nathan Karpinsky of Elite Health Solutions, a doctor who has been offering treatment and support to drivers in endurance events.
Motorsport Prospects: What is your background? How did you come to get involved in motorsport?
Dr Nathan Karpinsky: I am a licensed and board-certified chiropractor (DC) that specializes in soft tissue injuries and management utilizing Active Release Techniques. I am also a certified Kinesio Tape practitioner and have advanced training that includes biomechanical/functional assessments, strength and conditioning, rehabilitation, and physiotherapy-modalities.
I grew up only minutes away from Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin. I spent much of my summers growing up with a love and passion for motorsports. Like many young kids, I always had dreams of being a racecar driver, but I also had a passion for science and health. Over the years I have been fortunate to blend both passions and utilize my skills and knowledge to help the more qualified drivers and crews shave tenths of seconds off of their lap times. I started providing care at the Rolex 24 hours of Daytona in 2015 when I realized that what I have done for Ironman races would be a perfect fit for endurance racing. Since then, I have provided treatment at the various IMSA WeatherTech endurance races.
The importance of physical and mental conditioning to an endurance driver
MP: With the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona just concluded and Sebring around the corner, how important is physical and mental conditioning to the success (or lack off) in an endurance race?
NK: It is an extremely important aspect of an endurance race, especially, the 24 Hours of Daytona. I have been fortunate to treat at multiple 24 Hours of Daytona, and this race has an entirely different physical and mental demand to it. First, the physical demand requires one to be strong, yet have the stamina to thrive throughout the race. That is where training before the event becomes significant, but also the day of the race it is critical that you get your rest and recovery whenever possible. The same can be the said regarding the aspect of mental conditioning. Fatigue can make anyone mentally drained and lose focus. You need to prepare for the highs and lows that can occur over a 24-hour period to reduce any unnecessary waste of energy.
MP: What kind of services do you provide teams and drivers?
NK: Most recently I have provided soft tissue therapy for general care and injury/pain specific treatment. I also can provide a wide range services that includes chiropractic care, Kinesio Tape, functional assessments with corrective exercises, and dietary/supplemental recommendations for general wellness or person specific goals/needs if needed.
Misunderstanding and misconceptions
MP: Do you feel that the type of services you offer are misunderstood or dismissed by some drivers and teams? If so why?
NK: Absolutely. I generally get misconceptions about what I do as soon as people hear I am a chiropractor, but that is only a small portion of what I do with my patient’s and with the teams I have worked with in the past. Thankfully, the teams and my patients know the difference from the care they receive from me versus what they get from a massage therapist or another chiropractor. The biggest difference is my extensive background with soft tissue injuries. I utilize Active Release Techniques which is a very efficient and effective way to treat the soft tissue. I am able to target specific areas quickly and treat them. Being able to do this quickly allows the drivers to get back to the other facets of the race or training that needs their attention. In my opinion, it makes this more useful than just a standard massage.
MP: What is the most important thing in your professional experience that drivers and teams neglect when running an endurance race?
NK: Proper rest/recovery needs. I have had the pleasure of being able to work alongside Scott Pruitt and had a wonderful conversation with him regarding this specific topic. He had been doing endurance racing for over 50 years and he said it took him some time to find out what was the best blend of rest/mental break, hydration, recovery, and soft tissue/physio care. I feel some drivers forget to properly blend these together and can run into physical or mental hurdles because of them. I think this has been improving as teams and drivers take a more comprehensive approach, but understanding much of the work that goes into these endurance races occur months in advanced. As one of my Ironman athletes said to me, “the race is the fun part. The training is where the real work has to be done.”
The importance of nutrition
MP: How important is nutrition to an endurance racer.
NK: It is a vital piece of the puzzle that should not be overlooked. It is the foundation to our performance, and having the proper plan in place allows a racer to get stronger and have more stamina which is key for any endurance race.
What to do outside of the race weekend?
MP: How can a driver work to maintain optimal physical and mental performance outside of the racing weekend?
NK: The key is to be consistent with whatever workout routine a driver decides to proceed with. There are many variations of exercises and variations of exercise plans. I find that my patients tend to have the most success with an exercise program that keeps them entertained, engaged, and properly targeting the areas they need to address. This will help allow for more physical gains and proper maintenance of these gains during a race season. To maintain proper mental performance rest is a key, but also take the time to read, write, exercise, or whatever it may be to keep your mind sharp but well rested. You don’t always need to be right on the edge, or have laser focus all the time.
You can find out more about Dr Karpinsky and Elite Health Solutions on their Motorsport Prospects listing here.