Indy 500 drivers prepare physically, mentally for big race

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SPEEDWAY, Ind. (WISH) — We are just four days away from 103rd Running of the Indianapolis 500. That means the 33 drivers need to be ready both mentally and physically for the 200 laps around Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Your morning commute may not be considered a sport, but 500 miles in the Racing Capital of the World certainly is. When drivers become athletes, there are certain workouts that make sure they’re the strongest behind the wheel. 

This isn’t your ordinary road trip. IndyCar drivers push both their vehicle and their own bodies to the limit. That means workouts on the track itself with Indianapolis-based Pit Fit training.

“We’re very focused on preparing them for every physical and mental aspect that they’re going to face on track,” said Alex Wanee, performance director of Pit Fit Training.

Colton Herta is the youngest driver in the pack. He’s preparing for his first Indy 500. While he runs, other drivers like Tony Kanaan are biking on the Yard of Bricks.

“They’re going to have very high heart rates for most of the race, but then also to be able to focus and react so quickly for so long is very, very important,” Wanee said.

As each driver completes an interval of cardio, they go straight to what’s called the reflection board. Drivers must quickly touch buttons that light up.

“We get three or four seconds on a straightaway to recover and breathe and this kind of simulates that to where we still have to focus touch all the buttons, but we can calm down a little bit and catch out breath and it makes us quicker to recover,” Herta said.

It’s a full team of experts who work closely with the drivers to not only keep them safe on the oval but hopefully claim the title of Indy 500 champ. 

IndyCar drivers also do strength training to prepare for several hours behind the wheel. That includes a focus on the lats along the sides of the body and their neck. 

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Aaron Nolan is a morning show co-host in Little Rock, Arkansas with Nexstar Media Group's KARK-TV. He has a passion for social media and makes it an important part of his daily routine. Click here to read Aaron's full bio.