Driver Fitness: Overview


It’s often said that in the old days,
tires were skinny and drivers were fat. Now it’s the other way around. There’s no question that fitness is a key
component to being a winning driver today. All of today’s best drivers
are all extraordinarily fit, and Jim Leo is a man who
has trained many of them. Indy car champion Scott Dixon,
Dario Franchitti, Penske Racing’s Will Power and Nascar’s Kasey
Kahne to name just a few. You know, there’s a lot of money
being spent on this sport. It’s your parents, it’s
your team, it’s a sponsor. If you get out there and
you’re showing up not in shape, then you’re letting
a lot of people down. The fans, they don’t want to see a
guy fall out of a car like that. It’s your obligation to take it upon
yourself to go to the next level. You can’t be one of the people,
one of the drivers who sit back and let it happen,
you’ve got to make it happen. I think for me, it was a key transition
when I turned about 16 or 17. Where I really started kicking up my
physical side and training a lot more. Mentally it just helps you
so much more in the car when you’re not thinking about
how sore your hands are or if you’re out of breath or getting
tired towards the end of a race. When do people make mistakes in a race car?
What phase of the race? Usually the start, or on
a restart, but the end? They get tired.
They get fatigued. The mind starts to wander a little bit. The central nervous system tends to fade. We tend to find that the drivers,
the better shape they’re in throughout the race, the less chance
they’re going to make a mistake. Fitness is more important than ever. You have to maintain your mental focus. If you’re not physically fit, then
your mental side starts to fade because you’re thinking about your
back hurts or you’re out of breath or you need a break, or it’s hot in the car If you can do your homework during the week and you can really be prepared physically,
then you can be that much better mentally. What will happen, and you’ll
see this if you go out to a track, especially a go-cart
track I noticed this a lot Where there’s a lot of laps,
a lot of high fatigue laps The drivers will hit the same line, the
same apex over and over and over again At some point, some of them will drift. Some of them will miss that
line, they’ll get in the grass. If you go out to Newcastle,
you see that all the time. A lot of times, they can’t
hang on to the wheel. They’re just too doggone tired
to hang on to the wheel. Does that mean you need
to be a big bodybuilder? The big joke we have is, “how much does
it take to lift a trophy over your head?” Not that much. So you need
to train for your sport. So you’ve got to look
at the situation of the series you’re in, and
train at that intensity. We have guys running the 500 Guys and girls, the 500 We have other drivers doing
the shifter car races We have sprint car racers,
we have drag racers All very, very different in what they do. The length of time they’re in the car
has a huge effect on how we train them. The 500 drivers, they’re
not going to do as much high-intensity training
leading up to the 500 because they’re kind of
stuck in this cruising zone where they’ve
got to get focused. We will focus more on concentration
skills for long periods of time. but if you’re racing Sprint cars you’re out there 15-20 minutes at the most Pow, pow, pow, fast, get out do
your thing, get back in the car. Go do your thing, get
back in the car. That’s where nutrition and
everything falls into play. Go ahead and start with the GT cars They’re still giving away ground It is crucial for you to choose a variety of activities of what you do I cannot tell you how many drivers suddenly get this huge excitement over a particular sport,
cycling for example or weightlifting, and they focus on that Here’s the crazy thing, you’re
training to be a racecar driver If you get so focused on
one particular activity you’re limiting yourself
in some other capacity. If you decide you want
to deadlift 400 pounds you’re probably losing
flexibility in the hips. You’re losing your stamina,
I can assure you of that. If you’re focusing on being… there’s a lot of drivers right now the big thing is triathalon everybody is tweeting
about doing triathalons which is actually a nice
little complement because it does incorporate three
different activities So I do actually like
that, but are you doing any strength training? are you
focusing on your neck at all? You have to find these things and never really get into a routine
of one thing over another. The hallmark of our program is the variety. The drivers come in and every day they’re doing goofy things. We use sledgehammers and we do treadmill work. We do rock climbing. We swim. We do hot yoga. It’s a non-stop, crazy situation, and it looks like it’s uncontrolled it’s unorganized, it’s not at all. There’s very specific paths that we have with every single driver. At the end of the day, if
they show up to the track their stamina is fantastic their strength is exactly
where it needs to be. their flexibility, their heat tolerance concentration, reaction,
it’s all coming together. But if you had focused on one sport you wouldn’t have that.
Something would be left behind. So you want to choose a lot of exercises that work together, and you can mix in cardiovascular training, you can mix in strength training, you can
mix in core training. Anything you want to do, reaction training all into one whole package, and
you go non-stop through it. -inaudible- Stay out. Dehydration is a huge problem if you’re losing electrolytes
for the most part Gatorade is a good source of
electrolyte replenishment. If you’re losing enough in the race to need to replenish it with Gatorade That’s questionable. Your body
has a lot of stores of that. I’d say Gatorade is a good choice. We usually drink Accelerade. It has a little protein added into it. They’re not a sponsor. That’s just our preferred choice of drink. Gatorade is a good choice. Throw the sugar and
electrolytes back in there throughout the day. He’s probably
not drinking enough water. Honestly, if he’s getting dehydrated Hydration starts well before race weekend. You should be leading up to the race drinking more and more water throughout throughout the weeks, the day beforehand. If you’re going to drink
Gatorade, my only knock on a drink like Gatorade or Powerade The high sugar concentration
can sour your stomache. So we tell our drivers “Ok, I like the taste of Gatorade, but I know I can’t drink 15 bottles of it.” Which we have seen. So what do I do? Well, dilute it. Buy a bottle of Gatorade pour half in another bottle fill the other half with water,
you can sip that all day. The concentration is not so high that it sours your stomache or affects your blood sugar too much but it gets the fluid
back into your system. and I guarantee every
go-kart track you go to has either Powerade or
Gatorade, one or the other. For me, being safe and being fast or Safe is Fast it’s definitely about being
prepared to get in the racecar. You know, coming into it being physically prepared, making sure that you’re strong from a mental standpoint not having other distractions That all wraps itself around
being prepared in general. for me, Safe is Fast… it’s always about being
prepared to get in the racecar.

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