Racecar driving is physically demanding. Professional racers are not only skilled drivers, but they are also athletes. Many people still think all we do is sit down and turn left. No matter what the sport, the fitter competitor holds an advantage in competition. Because racing requires stamina and strength from its top drivers, fitness programs are important to performing your best. I know of no professional driver nowadays who doesn’t have some sort of fitness and nutrition regimen, so here are a few ideas to kick-start your own fitness routine.
It all starts with what you put in your body. What you need to realize is that your diet is your lifestyle. Changing to a healthier diet is a must! As a person who is always on the go, I know how difficult it is to beat the convenience of fast food and processed foods. Once you realize how important it is to cut those foods out of your diet and start eating healthier whole foods, you will notice a huge improvement in your overall energy. It’s difficult to change your diet, but an easy way to take baby steps toward a healthier lifestyle is moderation. Shop the outer aisles of the grocery store. Everything in the middle is processed stuff. Cut back on sodas and fast food. Try to limit these to maybe once a week or cut them out altogether. Structure your diet to about 60 percent carbohydrates, 20 percent protein and 20 percent fat. Try to incorporate more natural whole foods and lean meats. There are many ways to go about it, but it’s important to find a diet that works for you.
Leading up to your race weekend, it’s best to have a routine of what you eat and drink. Typically the track food isn’t healthy. So come prepared with healthful meals and snacks to last throughout your race weekend. Staying hydrated is another key factor to make sure you are performing your best. Remember it’s all about fueling up your body to perform the best you can.
Now, let’s move on to what I think is the most important factor in gaining an edge over your competitors: endurance. Cardiovascular fitness is critical and especially if you drive in longer endurance races. Increasing your aerobic health can lower your heart rate, improve your respiration and help keep you as strong as possible in those final laps of your race.
Most cardio exercises also strengthen your legs, which are constantly moving during a race. If you’re new to aerobic exercise, regular walking is a good place to start. Later you can 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 also helps strengthen your arms and legs. Gym memberships are becoming more and more affordable, so there is no reason why you shouldn’t start exercising regularly.
The next step to giving yourself an edge over your competition is strength training. Having a strong upper body, core and legs will keep you performing close to 100 percent throughout your race sessions. Also being in top shape will cut down fatigue and muscle soreness, so you will be fresh throughout your whole racing weekend. You don’t need a huge upper body to shift gears and to turn the steering wheel, but you do need a strong upper body to do so for an entire race.
Exercises such as bench press and chest flies 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 seated rows to work your back. 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 sit-ups, crunches, planks and arm-leg extensions.
You will be quite surprised how fresh you will feel after a race once you’ve started exercising and eating healthier. The better you take care of yourself, the better you will perform. I guarantee it.
Kyle Loustaunau is NASA’s 2014 Western States Champion in Spec Miata and the winner of the 2014 Mazda Club Racer Shootout. He is currently racing professionally in the Battery Tender Mazda MX-5 Cup series.