If NASCAR seems simple to you, then you probably haven’t heard the driver’s side of the story. It’s not just about making left turns for three hours. Drivers face incredible stresses on the track—rival drivers pouncing on their every mistake, rogue cars threatening to smash them into a wall in a split second—all while they’re dehydrated and slowly baking alive, since the inside of a car can reach 140 degrees. And out on the track, your spotter can’t help you if all hell breaks loose.
Kasey Kahne is one driver that prepares exclusively for these conditions. In an interview with The Wall Street Journal published Monday, the NASCAR veteran—who will race in the Daytona 500 on Sunday—says he loses nearly 8 pounds of water weight during a race, so he trains to acclimates his mind and body to perform even under such duress.
To put his body under the stress of being inside the car on race day, Kahne will exercise for 60 to 90 minutes in 70- to 90-degree heat. When the weather is warm, he’ll do his cardio during the hottest time of the day. During the winter, the agenda includes treadmill runs with a sweatshirt and hot yoga. After cardio, he’ll jump right into strength training to get his muscles used to working while his body is deprived of electrolytes.
After he feels wrecked from the workout, Kahne’s trainer will even have him do cognitive exercises on a machine called the Dynavision D2, which is commonly used with patients recovering from a concussion. Think of a gentler Whack-a-Mole, except one that tests your reaction time to the one-hundredth of a second. To Kahne, this is an effective way to stay mentally sharp when his body has had it. “The longest I’ve raced is 5 hours and 45 minutes. In races like that you are worn out mentally and physically, and that’s when you start to make mistakes. I need to make smart choices to avoid a crash,” he said in the interview.
For more on staying hydrated and working out in extreme temperatures, check out these Men’s Fitness stories: