It takes more than a carbon fiber wing and a prayer to maneuver an IndyCar around a track at speeds up to 220 mph. Say for example, strong core muscles. It’s no secret that IndyCar drivers strive to maintain peak physical fitness during race season but what about the rest of the year?
As drivers and teams prepare for the second race of the season in Alabama, I headed over to Pitfit Training on the Northside of Indianapolis to find out how these athletes keep their bodies and minds in tip top shape.
Pitfit is known as an industry leader in the world of motorsports-specific human training. Serving approximately fifteen to twenty Indianapolis-based motorsports athletes on a regular basis, in addition to many more around the world, Pitfit utilizes the benefits of technology to coach clients year round regardless of their location.
For drivers who are traveling, or those who don’t live in the Indianapolis area, Pitfit owner Jim Leo and his team of trainers are able to email fitness routines to their clients. During their off-location training sessions, drivers wear a heart rate monitor and log in their workouts online daily. That way, they are held to the same accountability in their remote workouts as they are when training in the Pitfit facility.
There are, however, major benefits to working out at Pitfit. In house, there is a long roster of fitness experts in a wide range of areas from boxing and yoga to rock climbing and swimming that coach the drivers in those areas. Leo strongly believes in providing his clients with a wide range of exercise to keep them in the best possible shape. How does a Pitfit workout compare to a standard gym routine? Leo cites Pitfit client and IndyCar Scott Dixon as an example. “Scott is in the best shape I’ve ever seen him. He is focused and motivated like I’ve never seen him before,” Leo said.
Despite feverishly taking notes and touring the Pitfit facility, I suspected I wasn’t getting the full effect of what it’s like to endure the training session of an IndyCar or IndyLights driver. Leo was kind enough to set me up with a conditioning class to find out. My one and only goal was not to vomit, as Leo had warned me this is not uncommon for first-timers. Brilliant.
The class consisted of Pitfit rookies and veterans, each one of the former paired with one of the latter. I had the pleasure of partnering up with IndyLights driver Pippa Mann who has been a Pitfit client for almost three years. Mann says she’s seen incredible results since joining. “When you train yourself, however hard you work, there is only so much you can do, only so much you can learn, and only so much variety you can add,” she said.
Coming from someone who drove Toronto and Edmonton with a broken hand, I figured Mann must be doing something right. “I had to use muscles I didn’t even know I had to hang onto the car in those circumstances, but thanks to Pifit those muscles were prepared and ready to step in and help me out.”
Mann and I, along with the other members of the group were instructed to complete eight circuit stations listed on a white board. Each set of partners was alternate between two activities for three 60 second intervals. A few of the tasks were familiar (confirmed I still hate the Jacob’s ladder) while others were completely foreign, for example the Dynavision D2™. The Dynavision D2™ is one of the many high-performance training machines that drivers use to enhance their training. Just as a strong core is crucial in conducting the body to maneuver the car, exceptional visual awareness is also imperative in relation to reaction time, peripheral awareness, and concentration.
As I walked out of the class, with my heart rate through the roof and a level of fatigue I haven’t experienced in years, I tried to imagine what it would be like to go return the next day and do it all over again. My conclusion? Not even on a carbon fiber wing and a prayer.