As I continue my interviews with the latest additions to the Services section of Motorsport Prospects I speak this week to Leanne Holder and Jacob Leaver from Torque Human Performance on the importance of fitness and to answer that age old question of whether a racing driver is an “athlete.”
Motorsport Prospects: How long have you both been involved in fitness?
Leanne Holder: We have both had a love for sport and exercise from a young age which as we have got older, has ended up with us seeking careers within the fitness industry. I started with Dancing and Football, while Jacob enjoyed Rugby. It was around college age that we started to lift weights and become involved with fitness in order to change our own bodies compositions.
MP: What are your professional backgrounds?
Jacob Leaver: I have a BSc (Hons) in Sports Therapy and an MSc in Strength and Conditioning.
Leanne Holder: I have a BA (Hons) in Dance, as well as Personal Training qualifications. I also have an MSc Degree in Strength and Conditioning. The two of us also have a vast amount of experience with professional sport working with athletes in teams such as Football, Rugby, Volleyball, Cricket and of course Motorsport Individuals.
Are race car drivers athletes?
MP: A lot of people believe that for some reason race car drivers are not “athletes.” What can you do to convince them that this is false?
LH: You only have to look at the physical demands of the sport to know that a driver has to be an athlete. For a racing driver, they have to consider not only the actual concentration of driving of the car, but the hydration needed, the fatigue that can impair perception, the g-force, the heat of the car and race suits and the physical strength that is needed to control the car. This is a lot!
JL: Yes, they are most certainly athletes. The different type of racing also accounts for how they should train like an athlete. A racing driver in an endurance race will face far more physical exhaustion than a footballer playing a 90 minute game, yet footballers train daily to perform their best. A driver should be also!
The importance of a regular fitness routine
MP: How important is a regular fitness routine for a driver?
Both: Extremely important. In order to ensure that you are performing the best on the track you need to guarantee that you have a good balance between strength in order to hold the car around corners, power to ensure quick acceleration and braking and also stamina to keep yourself going under physical conditions. Ensuring that you are training regularly will mean you can focus on each of these individual aspects and get a well-rounded body that will help you to drive to the best of your ability.
MP: Is this fitness routine something they can practice on their own or is it recommended that they do so at a gym?
Both: It’s entirely up to the driver. A gym has many benefits, such as increasing motivation as you are changing environment and of course the added benefit of certain equipment that you may not have at home, however we are firm believers that, with the right plan, you can train anywhere in the world. This could be at home, outdoors or whilst traveling in a hotel room.
MP: What are the basic things a driver should work on in their fitness routine?
LH: The biggest thing that a lot of drivers do not focus on enough is having a strong core. This is not just your abdominal muscles but the entire trunk, so the back included. When cornering, drivers will find that the core is often used to stabilise themselves in the seat and therefore should be worked on!
JL: Another really important area of fitness for motorsport is the neck muscles. With the weight of the helmet worn, and the g-forces that drivers experience, a strong neck is super important! Luckily there are neck exercises you can do at home!
MP: How often should a driver work out?
Both: This depends on the level of the drivers racing career, age and time available. On average however, 3 x a week is a great start. The more advanced you become we often suggest upping this to 5 x a week as like we previously mentioned, drivers are athletes. We always recommend rest days as these are essential to the recovery of the driver, and of course the workouts and rest days will need to be timed around race weekends to ensure that the driver is not over training.
Working out when not at a gym
MP: Do you have any tips on working out at a hotel or at the track?
Both: Getting a small bag of equipment to take around with you is so handy. Therabands, reaction balls, hand grips and kettlebells are always great tools and often with just those 4 things, you are able to have a successful workout.
MP: How important is nutrition for a driver?
JL: Nutrition is just as important as training, if not more important. You could have the best training mentality in the world and be super strict with it, but if you are eating all the wrong food’s, you will not get the results you are after. You can’t out-train a bad diet!
LH: Yes I agree. You also need to think about what to eat on a race weekend, pre and post racing. What you put into your body before you race is just as important as the fuel you put in the car… It is what will get you through the race and depending on what you put in, this will determine your performance.
MP: What kind of foods do you encourage a driver to eat?
Both: Healthy foods that are sustainable. By this we mean lots of vegetables, protein in the form of meat or meat alternatives, and complex carbohydrates – things like rice and potato.
MP: What kind of foods do you encourage a driver not to eat?
Both: Simple carbohydrates such as bread and pasta will give you a spike of energy which will drop very quickly. Sugary foods such as biscuits and sweets are an example of this too. We see lots of drivers heading to the burger van on race weekends. Remember that what you put in to your body will directly affect your performance in the car.
MP: What about at the hotel and at the track? How can a driver ensure they are eating properly?
Both: Meal prepping is probably one of the best tips we can give you. Go shopping before you head to the hotel and track and get a load of food that will see you through, in case the circuit is only selling unhealthy food! Cooking up chicken before hand is a great idea, as is taking protein shakes for after your race. Porridge pots are handy too as you can always find a kettle somewhere at a track! If you are at a meal out with the team ahead of the weekend, pick sensible options such as something that contains vegetables, a good source of meat and a sensible carb option.
You can view the full Motorsport Prospects listing for Torque Human Performance containing full contact information and social media links here.