Fitness Training for Race Driving
There’s an old question that’s been long settled, “Are racing drivers athletes?” Yes, they are.
For all of us who’ve raced, we know the physical demands of G-forces, the strain on your arms, legs, and neck, the heat inside the car, the mental fatigue from concentration, and we know you’ve got to be athletically fit to withstand it all.
Does every driver need to be a marathoner or tri-athlete? No. Can you be on the podium at the end of a long race weekend without any attention paid to physical fitness? Not likely. If you can’t handle the physical demands of driving and tire quickly are you going to find yourself off the track? You can almost count on it.
A tired driver is not a safe driver. Physical tiredness leads to mental tiredness and mental tiredness leads to mistakes. Mistakes I don’t want to make.
So as I look towards La Carrera, a seven day rally with twenty-eight speed stages, fourteen hour days, ninety degree temps, on roads I’ve never driven, through towns I’ve never seen, with potential dangers around every corner, I know it will be the toughest drive I’ve ever done.
With so many Carrera variables beyond my control, I’m going to focus my energy on the things I can control. One of those is the fitness of my body and mind.
Training Starts Today
The Carrera runs in mid-October, so I’ve got six months to build the base of aerobic fitness, core strength, and functional fitness that will get me through the race.
I’ve been an athlete all my life, but I’m not an expert in sports physiology. So, I’m going to start with what I know and build out from there. Along the way I’ll reach out to driver-training experts for help.
Areas of Focus
My training will include work on these areas.
Heart - aerobic fitness to fuel my muscles and deal with the heat
Core - core strength to work against the g-forces
Mind - the ability to focus and relax in challenging situations
Neck - functional fitness to handle g-forces and the weight of my helmet
Arms & legs - strength and endurance to drive with precision
Month One - April - The Base
My first month is focused on establishing a base of aerobic and core fitness that I can build on. Here’s how I’ll structure my program.
Weeks 1 & 2
Training Mon–Fri, 1.0 hr per day, rest on Sat-Sun
4-5 runs per week
25-30 min each, 8:15-8:30 pace, 70% of max HR
10 exercise/10 min core ab workout
done after run
10-15 min sessions, Shambala technique
after core workout
Weeks 3 & 4
Training Mon–Fri, 1.25 hrs per day, rest on Sat-Sun
Running - same as weeks 1&2
Add a 10 min high intensity (HIT) all body workout
Alternate HIT with core ab workout
done after run
Sun salutations, Surya Namasakar A (tutorial)
done after core
Meditation - same as weeks 1&2
Eat enough clean food to maintain energy, reduce saturated fats, reduce added sugar and reduce alcohol consumption.
Month Two - May - Becoming Functional
In the second month I’ll continue my aerobic and core base workouts and add functional fitness work to strengthen my neck, arms, shoulders for the rigors of driving at speed. I’ll post the structure on my May program in the weeks to come.
My Approach as an Athlete
This week I interviewed Murray Smith, the highly accomplished vintage and historic driver, for our May podcast episode. Murray raced the Carrera nine times as the co-driver of Bill Shanahan. Together they placed first in their class seven times, with only one retirement. An amazing record of Carrera success.
I asked Murray if he ever prepared for the Carrera, or if other drivers of his era such as Sterling Moss and Dan Gurney ever trained for racing. Murray emphatically said, “NO.” Well that might have work for a drivers as skilled as Murray Smith, or Sterling Moss, or Dan Gurney. For the rest of us mortals I think it’s wise to stack up every advantage we can.
So I’m going to arrive at the start in Mexico physically and mentally fit for the challenge ahead. As a life-long athlete embarking on a new adventure, I don’t know any other way. I’m hoping Murray won’t think me any less of a driver for having done a few push-ups. ; )