The championship has been won, the accolades handed out, and IndyCar’s 2013 season is in the books. But for the drivers of INDYCAR, their job continues year-round.
Driving an IndyCar can be an exceedingly demanding and physical task. This is no country drive; the drivers have to be able to muscle these cars around, with reaction speeds timed in the blink of an eye. To be an INDYCAR driver means working out year-round, and maintaining yourself in top physical shape. For drivers like 2012 champion Ryan Hunter-Reay and Indy Lights winner Peter Dempsey, that means going to Performance Physixx.
Performance Physixx was the brainchild of its Director, Simon Hayes. Simon’s background in Human Performance Conditioning and training of professional athletes/drivers was forged in Europe in the British Touring Car Series, British F3, F3000, and Formula 1. Coming from a successful the British military, and a Master’s Degree in Exercise and Health Behaviour, Hayes knows plenty about getting and keeping these drivers at the top of their physical game.
Working in American open wheel racing since 2001, Hayes developed a range of unique individualistic services for professional drivers. These included specific periodized (progressive training programs of a balanced nature and structure) training programs. Just like every car setup has to be responded to differently, clients require their training focus to be dependent on their individual strengths and weaknesses. This training can change to meet needed adaptation as the season progresses.
Hayes believes that that the success of his program comes from really looking at the individual workout needs of each driver.
“The issue with many generic programs aimed at 'motorsports athletes' is a one size fits all attitude, even the idea that there is no differentiation between formulas. Also, many Injury professionals (physios and chiropractors), whilst they do an important job, tend to prescribe training from an opinion that assumes the driver will become injured at some point. Our view at Performance Physixx with vast experience is that each drivers program should be approached from the individual standpoint”.
Hayes also believes that technology and adaptability are important, given the hectic driving schedules and lives of his clients.
“Performance Physixx has managed to fine tune our delivery of training programs via an exclusive customized platform direct from our Web Site,” Hayes explains. “This allows our official IndyCar clients—such as 2012 IndyCar Champion Ryan Hunter-Reay, 2013 Freedom 100 winner Peter Dempsey, Oriol Servia, and others, to access their programs anywhere in the world. Each provision allows for equipment specific training and a 'what they have available' 'and think out of the box' attitude to provision”.
So what sort of focus do Performance Physixx drivers have in terms of their workout? As an example, Hayes notes Hunter-Reay and Dempsey focus very much on working the body as a single unit, with a specific focus on rear shoulders required to stabilize the upper body in the driving position, rotator cuff (muscles which support upper back and shoulders), arms, and core. The video below illustrates just one of these exercises showing the muscles at work:
Additionally, neck strength plays a big role in allowing drivers to handle G-forces and be ready for the massive strain of driving an open wheel race car at speed can mean. For this, Performance Physixx has teamed with some unique equipment providers such as Neck Training Hat. Along with the founder of Neck Training Hat, Markus Niemela, Performance Physixx has worked on development of a unique training program for the Neck Training Hat. Drivers such as Hunter-Reay, Servia, and Dempsey have tested this product, which gives a unique workout for the benefit of neck strength, stability, and can reduce the possibility of neck injuries.
Don’t assume just because IndyCar has entered its offseason that the fight has finished. Drivers like Hunter-Reay and Dempsey are training with Performance Physixx right now, in a partnership they hope will bring them even more success in 2014 and beyond. For the drivers, and the individuals who help maximize their physical conditioning, IndyCar is a year-round battle.
Thanks to Simon Hayes and Performance Physixx for their assistance with this article. For more info, check them out at www.performancephysixx.com.
Zachary Houghton runs www.indycaradvocate.com, which features regularly-updated INDYCAR, IZOD IndyCar Series, and Mazda Road to Indy interviews, commentary, and more. You can find him on Twitter (@indycaradvocate), or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.