Think Racing is a Lazy Sport? Think Again!

Have you ever seen an overweight F1 or NASCAR driver?  No?  Well, that makes sense.  A lot of people believe that racing is not a physically demanding sport, but that is most certainly not the case.  Racing is an extremely taxing activity that requires excellent fitness—maybe not on par with what NASA needs, but certainly better than the average American.

Drivers need to be able to cope with extreme temperatures, extra G forces, dehydration, and increased heart rates for hours at a time.  It’s certainly not easy, and they have to condition themselves to handle it.  That’s all in addition to isolating certain muscles that are used in driving.

loftinThe thing that prepares drivers the most for the 120 degree heat, dehydration, and prolonged elevated heart rate is cardio.  Running, bicycling, and climbing stairs are all ways that drivers stay in shape.  NASCAR’s Justin Lofton, for example, regularly mountain bikes.  The cardio also helps drivers focus their minds.  According to Vitantonio Liuzzi, a Formula 1 driver, explains, “Fitness is a very important thing in Formula 1…to be sharp for a one and a half or two hour race without making mistakes–[is] more than a physical thing, I believe it’s a mental thing.”  Cardio helps drivers get used to exerting themselves for extended periods of time, which is perfect conditioning for getting behind the wheel.

Drivers also have to focus on their upper bodies.  Wrestling around a 4,000 pound car with no power steering can be difficult, especially at high speeds and for hours on end.  Shoulders, neck, biceps, triceps, and wrists all need to be in tip top shape to keep adequate control of the car.

The real key is variety for a driver that wants to stay fit.  Cardio, weight lifting, and good circulation are all essential for a racing driver.  They take plenty of risks behind the wheel at 200 mph, so it’s especially important for a driver to look after his or her health.  Want to start racing?  Well, getting fit is an excellent place to start!

Damon Tiggs is a sports journalist and fitness bug who writes about American racers like Danica Patrick and Jeff Gordon.

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  1. John says:

    Now that you pointed it out, I’ve never seen an overweight driver and most of them have pretty good muscle tone. I can vouch for the amount of muscle needed to make up for no power steering. My first vehicle had no power steering and it was like wrestling a bear some days to get it turned around. Got very adept at parking in spots I could drive straight out of, even if it meant a long walk across the parking lot during snow storms. These drivers make it look so smooth, but I can just imagine the kind of upper body strength they must have.

  2. Jasper says:

    Being physically fit also helps reduce fatigue and keeps the mind sharp. Outdoor exercise especially helps stimulate brain function which in turn improves eye hand coordination, an extremely necessary skill in race car drivers. A good driver need strong hands, strong heart and strong mind to keep up with the challenges.

  3. Deiter says:

    Racing is most definitely not a lazy sport! Men and women train for many hours over many years to build up the required muscle to handle such powerful machines. It’s not just cars either, but racing bikes requires the same if not more physical strength and mental alertness to become a professional. There’s a reason why racing is considered a sport. While they are rarely referred to as athletes, that is actually what the drivers are.

  4. Terry Dodge says:

    When I saw that title I thought you meant foot racing. I never associated auto racing as a sport, but now that I read this I guess it makes sense. Officially, racing is considered a sport after all, and like any athletic endeavour it requires the right training and fitness in order to perform well.

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