In the Loop

News and views from across Mayo Clinic

March 22, 2016

Born to Run: Physician’s Career Reflects Her Passion

By In the Loop

Sara Filmalter, M.D., a primary care and sports medicine physician encourages her patients to make exercise a priority.When it comes to exercise, Sara Filmalter, M.D., walks the talk. Well, runs the talk, actually. Dr. Filmalter, a primary care and sports medicine physician on Mayo Clinic’s Florida campus, encourages her patients to make exercise a priority. She even recommends they schedule a specific time for it. And that’s just what Dr. Filmalter, an accomplished athlete, does herself.

“On weekends, I look at the week ahead and figure out when I’ll be able to work out,” she says. “Then I literally write it on my calendar. I make it a non-negotiable appointment with myself.” That kind of commitment has helped Dr. Filmalter achieve a number of impressive goals, including serving as a lacrosse goalie in high school and college, earning a black belt in mixed martial arts, and completing numerous triathlons, including a half Ironman. That last achievement, consisting of a 1.2-mile swim, 56-mile bike ride, and 13.1-mile run, often required her to schedule daily workouts both before and after work.

Why does the busy physician put such an emphasis on exercise? The proof is in the pudding. Or rather, the research. “Physical activity is like a magic pill because it has been proven to reduce risk of many chronic diseases,” Dr. Filmalter tells First Coast Magazine. Among them, she says, are “breast cancer, colon cancer, dementia, depression, stroke and diabetes.”

Dr. Filmalter is helping to grow the science around running, in addition to her work caring for patients. She’s “part of a multidisciplinary team of physicians at Mayo Clinic” working on “a research initiative known as Runners’ Science.” The effort, which studies participants in the 26.2 with Donna, is aimed at understanding “the impact of endurance running on the human body.” Among the team’s findings: injuries increase with both overtraining and undertraining. Dr. Filmalter says people can avoid those pitfalls by increasing activity gradually, and maintaining a consistent exercise habit. “It’s really common for people to who start exercising to try to go from zero to hero, from nothing to everything,” she says. “Or they do the opposite, and just do nothing.”

What’s the key to finding that sweet spot? Dr. Filmalter says it might just be finding something you enjoy. "If you hate running, then you won’t do it," she says. We're guessing she’s in the "loves running" camp, as First Coast Magazine reports that she’s currently training for the Ultra-Trail Cape Town 65 KM. She says part of what she loves about running is the people she meets at running events. “It’s such a positive environment,” she tells us. And because she’s run a mile (or 26.2) in their shoes, she’s especially dedicated to helping injured runners return to the sport they love. “If you can get people running again," she says "they’re forever grateful.”

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Tags: Dr Sara Filmalter, Employee Stories

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