How to Train Like a Race Car Driver

Conor Daly is an American professional racing driver from Noblesville, Indiana. He is the son of Irish former Formula One and Champ Car driver Derek Daly.

When the racing season comes to an end, physical training kicks up a notch. Racing is a lot more physically difficult than the general public thinks. We have to be prepared at a very high level of fitness to race at the top levels of the sport.

Cardio is a huge part of driver fitness. On one lap of a road course in an Indycar heart rates average around 180BPM and a race can be anywhere from 50-90 laps. The oval races are much longer, 250-500 miles, with slightly less physical output over that distance. This is why cardio is extremely important for drivers. When training in the gym, I do a lot of high intensity circuit training based around the upper body and core. Shoulders and triceps are important to work while at a high heart rate because those are what we use in the car. Having said that, racing takes a toll on the entire body. We put around 1200psi of pressure on the brake pedal every heavy brake zone during a road course race. For this reason our circuit training has various exercises to make sure we work the body from head to toe. I personally think single leg squats are brutally tough in high reps, but we crank those out on regular occasion to maintain balance and leg strength.

A normal week of training is an hour and a half to two hours at St. Vincents Sports Performance in Indianapolis in the morning, combined with a run later in the day, every day. As I mentioned before we do a lot of circuit training but we also have many days where we use the rowing machine and the stationary bike. It’s good to combine these activities with some driver specific strength workouts where we sit in a driver seat position with a circular steering wheel like weight holding it out in front of us and turning back and forth. It gets us to work closer to how we are in the race while on a rest period during an interval workout on the treadmill or bike and the heart rate is high.

There is plenty more that goes into training during the season and how it differs from off season training but this is a taste of how important fitness is to race car drivers!