Workout for Race Car Drivers
Race car drivers literally sit down on the job as they travel around the track. But drivers still must be fit, particularly in longer and faster races. Anyone who’s taken a long freeway trip without stopping knows how taxing normal driving can be. And racing isn’t normal driving. Road course cars, for example, typically use manual transmissions, so the drivers constantly accelerating, braking and shifting multiple times on each lap, all while trying to outrace their competitors. Additionally, the faster a car travels, the more G-forces are placed on the driver. In the Indy 500, drivers are subject to forces equal to about 2.25 times their body weight, so being physically fit isn’t an option - it’s a must.
Improving your cardiovascular fitness is a key if you’re planning to drive in longer races. Increasing your aerobic health can lower your heart rate, improve your respiration and help keep you as strong as possible in those crucial final laps. As an added bonus, most cardio exercises also strengthen your legs, which are constantly moving during a race. If you’re new to aerobic exercise, regular walking - either outdoors or on a treadmill - is a good place to start. You can then move up to workouts including outdoor or indoor biking, jogging, jumping rope or using a variety of cardio machines, such as stair steppers. Swimming is another exercise that not only improves your cardio fitness, but helps strengthen your arms and legs as well.
Upper Body Exercises
You don’t need huge arms to shift gears and turn the steering wheel, but you do need strong arms to do so for a full race. Exercises such as the bench press and pec deck will build your chest. Do upright rows and deltoid raises to work your shoulders. For stronger arms, try pull-ups and curls, including wrist curls for your forearms. Do deadlifts and seated rows to work your back.
Core and Leg Exercises
To make sure those all-important legs can still help you brake on time and put the pedal to the metal when you need it most, perform exercises such as squats, leg presses, leg extensions and calf raises. To solidify your overall fitness level and work your core muscles, try situps, crunches, planks and arm-leg extensions.
Unlike some sports, race drivers can typically do their workout routines all year. Indeed, some circuits have very short off-seasons, allowing little time to build strength. Do your upper and lower body strength routines twice each week. Do the same number of sets, but perform fewer repetitions, in the second workout each week - the one closer to race day. Perform your abdominal training once each week.
The typical race car driver isn’t alone - he has a pit crew at each race to add fuel, change tires and make adjustments or repairs on the fly. This crew must work quickly, as every second lost in the pits costs you distance in the race. So it won’t hurt to involve them in your fitness routine as well. Working out as a team can also reduce any boredom you may feel. And team members can encourage and motivate you in your fitness efforts.