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MOTORSPORT: Alice Powell Column
12:00pm Sunday 18th August 2013 in Sport
I often get asked the following question, which is mainly by my friends who don’t really understand about racing… “Why on earth do you need to do all this fitness training?
Surely you just jump in and drive?”… At this point, I just have to laugh to stop myself from exploding!!!
I have been lucky enough to be on Lotus F1’s Human Performance Programme for more than three years now.
It is also lucky that I only live 15-20 minutes away from their base in Enstone.
I try and train six days a week, which includes a variety of exercises. It is important to have stamina as well as strength, so I don’t only do weights, but also plenty of cardio work too. You need a strong body overall.
A strong neck is important to allow you to cope with the G forces of cornering, braking and acceleration.
You need strong shoulders, arms and wrists to actually turn the car into, through and out of the corners and also control the cars movements.
You also need a strong back, not only to aid turning the car, but to also brake hard and accelerate. Some people don’t think you need strong legs, but you do!! The pedals in a race car aren’t like those in a road car.
They are much stiffer. Having a strong core helps with your balance in the car and also helps with everything above – so basically keeping it all together!
As well as all of this, cardio vascular work is just as important. We operate in cramped and constricted conditions, strapped in around the crotch and chest, amid sweltering temperatures (when it does get warm here in the UK) and loud engine noise.
The hottest conditions I have raced in, were in India, where the air temperature was 41C, which meant that the cockpit temperature was more than 50C.
Our heart rates can get high (over 160 beats per minute), not only from the temperatures, but through the effort of driving (strength and concentration), but also the adrenaline puts our heart rate up as well.
I also train my brain to react and focus. You have to drive your pants off in the car, 110 per cent, but you also need a good memory and awareness and also communicate to the team what the car is doing.
To help my brain and mind with this, I use what you call a Batak reaction machine. This helps with your hand eye co-ordination as well.
The aim of the Batak machine is to hit as many randomly-lit lights as possible in 60 seconds My highest score, which is done in the dark, is 136. We also use the same exercise, but for five minutes – that is very hard!!
You really have to focus and be accurate, even when your body and mind is tiring. For my cardio training, I do a variety of sports, which include cycling, swimming, running and I also enjoy playing hockey.
The Batak is also a form of cardio work. I do around 1-3 hours of cardio per training day. My heart rate, mainly in the hockey matches, can reach up to 200 BPM.
Hockey is not only my hobby, but I use it as part of my hard interval training, varying my heart rate from 130BPM right up to and sometimes above 200BPM.
Around all of this, I would do weight training 4-5 days a week, exercising different parts of my body each day. I train my neck using a special machine they have at Lotus. Combining all of the cardio work and weights, on average, it would be 3-5 hours of training per training day.
Of course, if it is a race week/weekend, I reduce the amount of weights and usually have less time to exercise anyway as I am travelling and driving a race car!
I also have to watch what I eat, keeping my body fat down… So no trips to the local McDonalds!
Alice Powell, who comes from Chipping Norton, will be aiming to retain her lead in the British Formula 3 Cup Championship when rounds 11 and 12 are held at Silverstone this weekend.
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