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.