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Fitness training for karting

Let’s talk about fitness and endurance training for kart racing. Now when we look at kart racing, it doesn't seem too difficult. You just sit in a go-kart, you turn the steering wheel, press a couple of pedals, and away you go.

But it is much more physical than that. Especially for our younger kids, like you're thinking a seven-year-old kid, they're trying to muscle around a 70-kilo kart. That driver might be 25 to 40 kgs themselves and they're trying to maneuver something that's double their weight. It gets quite physical, and even though races might only be 10 laps, those 10 laps of moving something with high grip and in a battle, it takes a toll both physically and mentally.

We want to look at ways that we can train our body to stay in good shape so that throughout the whole race we're able to drive at a maximum performance rather than starting off really good and then maybe our neck gets sore or our arms get sore, and then our lap times drop, and we're under pressure from other competitors.

The physical demands of go-karting and which muscles tend to get exerted a lot more than others. It tends to be the neck, so the g-forces that drivers are experiencing around the corners, that tends to show an effect for a lot of these younger go karters. Basically you're turning a corner and your head wants to fall off your neck, that's probably the easiest way to explain it. Then with more laps, your muscles start to train up, they start to get stronger, and then hopefully after 10, 12 races, you start to build up that strength and you can hold on for a whole race. At the start, you're carrying something on your head, that’s a couple of kilos. If your kid weighs 25 kilos that’s basically 10% of their body weight on their head. Kids only have a little neck to be able to hold that helmet up, so that takes a bit of extra strength as well.

The second muscle group we need to be strong in is our core. We're holding onto the steering wheel, and as we're turning the corner, we want to keep that core engaged. We want to have a nice strong stomach so that everything stays aligned. If our core starts to give way and is getting fatigued, then from there, our neck starts to let go, our arms start to let go as well. We've got to have a strong core to keep up that stability.

The last muscle group that gets fatigued a lot is our forearms. With that, it becomes hard to grip the steering wheel, and obviously if we're struggling to grip the steering wheel, we're going to have to drive slower because we're worried that our hands are going to either slide on the steering wheel or we physically just can't hold on. I've had some races in the shifter kart racing, which are a lot more physical than the single speed classes, and after the race, I literally had to peel my fingers off the steering wheel. I was gripping the wheel that tight because I knew if I let go, I wouldn't be able to get my hand back on. The physical strength of holding onto those shifter karts was extreme.

This is probably the reason why we see so many other motor racing drivers in different categories, whether it's Formula One, IndyCar, NASCAR, Supercars, they still like to get back into a go-kart from time to time, whether it's in the off season or during the season just to drive, and that's simply because you are training muscles; neck, forearm, core, and it's happening at a fast pace. You're doing laps in 35 to 50 seconds, and you might have 13 corners on that lap. That’s a lot happening in a short space of time. Now for some other motor racing categories, you might be on a long straight for six or seven seconds at a time, so you've got time to take a couple of deep breaths, let the body relax for a split second, where in karting terms, you might've done two corners in quick succession in those seven seconds. Again, the neck is under more strain, the forearms getting fatigued, and the core's struggling. Motor racing drivers like to get back into karts just to sharpen their skills and to keep their mind and their body in tune as well so when they get back into the racing cars, it becomes a little bit easier for them.

What are some of the exercises that we can do to improve these parts of our body? We want to try and do some self-body exercises, so whether that's pushups, pull-ups, sit-ups, things that don't really require a gym or any weights, it's just you are lifting your body weight to improve those areas.

The way that we can get our neck strength improved, is we can put a helmet on and start to do rotations. That starts to have a weight on our shoulders and by just simply moving our head a few rotations around like a circle or some slight lifts with our head, we can start to improve our neck muscles. That might help you out the next time you go to the track.

For our core, it's sit-ups and planks, that engage that core, and just to try and start off small and then just slowly increase the time that you're doing these things for.

We want to try and then stay hydrated and eat good food so that the energy that we are losing within a race, we're starting to replenish our body with good foods. If we're high on sugar, then our concentration and energy wears out very quickly. We might get a spike in energy, but then trying to hold that energy for a long period of time throughout a race, you start to then lose concentration once that sugar wears off. You make silly mistakes, and especially younger kids, they can go off the rails quickly.

It's drinking plenty of water. It might be something to replenish the electrolytes that you have lost throughout a race. Eating fruits, muesli bars and vegetables will tend to help you maintain that energy for a lot longer. Especially when it comes to warmer conditions, where it's higher grip, more physical, I'm sure if you can drive at a 100% for 12 or 15 laps in a final rather than someone who can only do it for six laps, that must have an advantage as well.

If you guys need more information on your kart racing, be sure to check out our Champions program. We can help you out with your fitness, race craft and driving, to make sure that you have the complete package for your son or daughter.

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