Fitness and motorsport are two important parts of my life and a significant portion of my training is to improve my capability on a race weekend. I’ve read books, spent a weekend at the Porsche Human Performance center at Silverstone and built a gym in my garage. But one of the challenges for auto racing is that there are not many sport-specific exercises that can prepare you for the experience of actually driving. What do we need to deal with in the car?
- High temperatures (made worse by wearing the equivalent of an oven mitt and helmet for safety)
- Endurance stamina (30 minutes – 3 hours at a time)
- High G-loads
- Noxious fumes such as carbon monoxide
- Sustained loud noise upwards of 100db
- Awareness and “butt sensitivity” key to extracting maximum performance from car
Very few sports require the sustained concentration and focus (with life and wallet-threatening consequences) as motorsport but we can’t just do a hundred deadlifts, swim a mile or practice some yoga and call it good. All of those things would help but none of them alone will really prepare us to deal with the above. There are motorsport-specific trainers out there, Jim Leo’s PitFit in Indy probably amongst the best in the States, but most of us don’t live in Indy so what can we do?
I’m a small guy – 5′8″ and 140# – so strength is something I have to work at. Hours behind the wheel in a 25-hour endurance race with big sticky slicks could tire me out if I’m not in shape so I wanted a tool for my home gym. I have a one-car garage so it had to be modular and not take up a lot of space. I sketched a design that could attach to my Rogue Fitness half-rack and called my friend Tony Colicchio at TC Design Motorsports to make it a reality.
With a spare Mazda Miata steering column, a $25 “race wheel” from Ebay and a J-Cup from Rogue Fitness, Tony (who is also a big fitness junkie) built the perfect arm and shoulder exercise tool for replicating the experience behind the wheel. I can load it up with weight and do sets of turning the wheel left 90 degrees, holding for a count of 5, then turning right 90 degrees and repeating. When I’m done, it just hangs on the wall. You could achieve similar effects with just a plate weight but I find that this more closely taxes my arms and shoulders as when I’m racing. It also replicates the hand position required.
The old race seat is something I use with iRacing (another training tool) and is definitely overkill but there’s no question it puts me in precisely the right position. I frequently race a Mazda and have received a lot of support from Mazda Motorsports so the steering column is a subtle nod of thanks.
Check out another of my DIY projects: Racecar cool shirt system.