FITNESS IN RACING - DOES IT REALLY MATTER?
People are always asking me if you really have to be in good shape to be a race car driver? I have a short answer as well as a longer version, but the general idea is a BIG YES! Race drivers are some of the most fit athletes in the world and there are many reasons why.
I find that having confidence in the race car is one of the most important advantages that I can bring to each race. I've heard it said many times and in many different ways that confidence comes from preparation... so for me, being fit is one way, and one thing that I have total control of that can make me feel more prepared and more confident. It's amazing how different the approach to a race weekend goes if you are feeling on top of things versus feeling like you're one step behind.
I'm very lucky to have great partners to help me figure all of this out. Simon Hayes with Perfomance Physixx is one of the leading trainers in motorsports. As luck would have it, he became a fan of Fastlife.TV and has headed up my training program for the last 2 seasons. I'm in pretty good company too- Simon trains drivers in all disciplines and has worked extensively in Indy Car and Formula 1 with drivers such as Ryan Hunter-Reay, Oriol Servia, Katherine Legge, Patrick Dempsey, and Romain Grosjean just to list a few. The point is, that Simon knows what he's doing and its just one more thing to add layers of preparation and confidence.
Simon is overseas so most of our communication happens via skype calls and he feeds me my workout regimens online. This being the case, its also really nice to have great local support. Justyn Yarbrough and Austin Stack with Crossfit The Den are just that for me. Not only have they become great friends, but they have an awesome facility filled with great people that also help keep me accountable and my workouts diverse.
It's not like normal training- a lot of people assume that we're just sitting around and going fast much like driving a street car. Actually it is quite the opposite. In an endurance race, you may be in the car for 2 - 3 hours at a time. That means you are seated and stationary for a long period of time but your heart-rate is raised as though you are intensely working out. Your core and muscles are also working and engaged as you are performing the tasks of driving while resisting very significant g-forces. Heat is another factor. I've had races where I finished with blistered feet from the intense heat coming off of an engine operating at the edge. Each type of car can be quite different. The luxuries or lack thereof in an Indy Car are certainly far different than what I'll experience in an endurance sports car, and so are the forces exerted on the driver. There are times in our closed cockpit cars that we'll see sustained temperatures up to 130 degrees. That makes for a pretty quick weight-loss program. The fitness of the driver makes a huge difference both in operating in these extreme conditions, but also in recovering from this time of endured stress. We haven't even addressed the mental component yet... When you need your mind to be at 100% the entire time, you can't have a lack of fitness getting in the way.
There are many ways that we prepare and I find that diversity is the key. When you are working out 5-6 days of the week it needs to vary in order to keep it interesting. Simons workouts range from a circuit style routine in the gym, a session with the TerraCore (One of my favorite workout tools), to him telling me to go hit a 3 hour long run, or grab my all terrain skis and go hike up a mountain. I mix in a few mornings with a good Peloton ride followed by a session in the Infrared Sauna, and I like to hit Crossfit a few times a week also. Like I said, mixing it up and keeping it fresh are the keys for me. Of course I always prefer something in the outdoors that has a little fun to it... Skiing, karting, wakeboarding, or even a good hike with Brooke and the girls all hit that mark.
So there you go. That was my long answer on being fit in the race car....