The NASCAR Workout

Mj 618_348_the nascar workout
Nigel Kinrade Photography

Kasey Kahne likes to get things done. “My dad built that into me when I was young,” says the 35-year-old NASCAR driver who recently teamed up with Aquafina to support Partnership for a Healthier America’s Drink Up program. That work ethic applies to the 17 NASCAR Sprint Cup wins Kahne has racked up, as well as his life outside the track — particularly his workouts.

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Kahne says he really got into exercising about six years ago, and despite the stereotype that NASCAR drivers don’t need to be in amazing shape, he attributes his fitness to making him happier, healthier, and more competitive. “Late in a race, your adrenaline is up,” Kahne says. “If you’re racing on physical and mental strength, I think you’re in a better position than the guy racing on straight up adrenaline.”

In 2009, Kahne enlisted strength and conditioning coach Ryan Von Rueden to get him in the best shape of his life. The workouts they do together — a rotating cast of high-intensity bodyweight routines, longer cardio sessions, and short interval training — are designed to emulate the high heart rate he experiences while racing. This kind of training preps him to stay agile and focused throughout a three- to four-hour race in a crammed cockpit with a temperature that can climb as high as 140 degrees. “I race better when my heart rate is up, when I’m more intense, mad, or hot,” he says. (Despite that, Kahne starts hydrating two to three days before, knowing he’ll sweat out 10 to 15 pounds of water-weight during a race, particularly during the summer.) Kahne’s 36-race season doesn’t allow him the luxury of hours at the gym, so Von Rueden packs everything into a 20- to 45-minute workout. These fast, high-intensity sessions are perfect for the NASCAR driver, or anyone looking to get in better shape, fast, according to Von Rueden.

Here, a sample of one of Kahne’s go-to routines, a 25-minute mix of sprints and bodyweight strength work. If you want a challenge, do it with a workout buddy and compete to see who can finish first — what Kahne and Von Rueden do to push each other. 

• Warm-up with a jog for three minutes
• Sprint for 1/3 mile. (As you get fitter, you can increase the distance; Kahne and Von Rueden do anywhere from a half to full mile.)
• Immediately after the run, do 20 lunges on each leg
• Do 30 squats
• Do 30 push ups
• Do 50 toe touches (make this slow and controlled; you shouldn’t be jerking up and down)
• Do 50 leg lifts (lie on your back and lift both legs simultaneously, as high as you can while keeping your lower back glued to the ground)
• Rest one minute; do the circuit three times total.

NASCAR driver Kasey Kahne working out in Central Park on September 24. (Alex Reinhard, GSE Productions)

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