An Inside Look At How NASCAR Drivers Stay in Top Shape

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Their fitness regimens are some of the most intense.

It’s important to stay in shape in all walks of life, but especially as an athlete. Dale Earnhardt Jr. (above) recently took up cycling thanks to his Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jimmie Johnson. Image from WHAS.

In all walks of life, staying in the best physical shape as possible has incredible benefits. From lifting weights to walking, running, swimming and cycling, the benefits of exercise are endless. As professional athletes, NASCAR drivers must stay in the best shape of their lives, so that they can wheel their 3,500lb stock cars around the fiercest racetracks on Sunday afternoons.

Let’s take a look at some common exercise methods among NASCAR drivers, why they’re doing them and the benefits.

Cycling

Recently, 14-time Most Popular Driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. took up cycling. “I’m in love with it,” he said after succumbing to peer pressure from teammate Jimmie Johnson. Going from four wheels to two during the week has helped Jr. stay in tip-top shape during his final season. When Hendrick Motorsports officials told drivers they expected them to maintain a certain level of fitness, Earnhardt Jr. answered Johnson’s cycling call. “Jimmie was like, ‘You gotta try the bike, you gotta try the bike.’ He kept pushing and pushing and pushing, and finally I was like, ‘Alright, I’m gonna go ride.’” Earnhardt Jr. rode under one condition — he refused to put his spandex on in the driver/owner motorcoach lot.

Running

Last May, after the All-Star race at Charlotte Motor Speedway, Jimmie Johnson woke up early the next morning to run in the 5k (3.2 miles) that his foundation sponsors, along with Matt Kenseth. Johnson and Kenseth finished within one minute of each other, with Johnson turning in a slightly better 20:49, compared to Kenseth’s 21:27. Both drivers averaged under seven minutes per mile.

Johnson also made headlines in 2013, when he and others ran a half-marathon one-week prior to the 2013 Daytona 500 (which Johnson would win). Kasey Kahne, Aric Almirola and Michael Waltrip joined Johnson on the course, which both started and ended on the Daytona International Speedway. Kahne turned in an impressive time of 88 minutes and 44 seconds, while Almirola was just a shade under two-hours (1:45:35). Waltrip brought up the rear with an impressive 2:07:00, a time I only could dream of beating.

Two years ago, Landon Cassil, who fittingly was sponsored by Snap Fitness, completed the Coca-Cola 600 and ran 14 miles to the NASCAR Hall of Fame, immediately following the conclusion of the longest event on the NASCAR schedule. Cassill finished the 13.92 run in 1:41:19, which comes out to be a 7:19 minute mile on average. To make things tougher, he also competed in the 300-mile NASCAR XFINITY Series event that Saturday. 900 miles of racing and a 14-mile run after his second NASCAR event … not too shabby.

Landon Cassill (above) is an avid runner and ran to the NASCAR Hall of Fame after competing in the 2015 Coca-Cola 600, the longest race on the NASCAR schedule. The above graphic shows information on how Landon trains and how racing affects his body. Image from NASCAR.com.

While Jamie McMurray hasn’t yet completed a marathon. He’s put the petal to the metal and is currently training for the 26.2 mile event. McMurray used to be an intense cyclist, as he completed the Assault on Mount Mitchell — a 102.7 mile ride with an ascent greater than 10,000 feet. McMurray still ran when he wasn’t cycling, but not as far. He built up cardio through his cycling efforts, but quickly realized that running is a different animal.

“My first 10-mile run was my first come to Jesus run,” McMurray said. “I wasn’t sure I could do it. As I did more longer runs, I realized everybody is in pain on longer runs, and now I look forward to them.”

McMurray’s runs have gotten easier though, and he’s even considering a half marathon in December of this year. He’s even challenged himself by running when the heat index is 100 or higher, as he tries to simulate the temperatures that he may experience in a race car.

Want to develop a healthy lifestyle or continue the good path your already on? Exercise is certainly something to pick up. Let these NASCAR drivers serve as testimonials that being fit is important AND has great benefits.


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