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Fit Stop

It is not just about driving a fast car. Lewis Hamilton tells HT about the intense fitness regimen he follows in order to do what he does out on track

india Updated: Oct 31, 2008 23:57 IST

It is not just about driving a fast car. Lewis Hamilton tells HT about the intense fitness regimen he follows in order to do what he does out on track

How many hours do you spend training outside the Formula One car?

Well before the season its very intense, so every day we have to usually spend 4-6 hours and we might just do a 4 hour bike ride or we might split it up, we might do a run, then we might go to the gym and then we might go for a bike ride, or we go swimming, or we go hiking, or go walking up the mountains, there is something called pod de fort, and that’s actually with skis going up the mountain which is very intense and at different altitudes. During the season we are already fit, and it’s trying to maintain that through the season because you have so many different demands, you have very little time to do the training, so every little bit you have, even before today I would be up in the morning, quick run, trying to fit it all in as soon as possible. But what’s important is not doing too much or you’ll have no energy for the weekend.

When you run, you say it’s slow, to keep the heart rate low; when your racing your heart rate is up around 170 for the entire race – marathon runners are up at around 150/160, so are cyclists, normally for a shorter period. How do you prepare for that?

Well to be honest there is a lot of science involved in preparing for my fitness; as I’ve said I have got a great team around me, who make sure we know when to train – recovery is a huge part of the process as well because your travelling all the time. You have all these different demands, making sure you get back and recover is vital to the improvement and performance of your body. And for the running we do, it is not important that you go out and put your heart rate at the maximum for half an hour to an hour, if you do that and you don’t have your foundation, which is at the lower end, then you have nothing. That is why we tend to go on a longer run, slow it right down between 130-140 and go for a lot longer, so 1.5-2 hours is a killer. But then once we have done that for quite some period of time in the winter, then we start putting some higher heart rate into it and that is what really prepares us.

How do you improve your reactions for driving?

Reactions are key. I think a lot of it is natural but it is definitely important that you always keep your mind going, so we try certain games that help you, mind games with numbers for example. I do also have a steering wheel at home with a programme that I can practice starts on. So I practice and practice and practice and just make sure that I am always improving my reaction time.

Given the high G force component in F1 on sharp bends about 24kg of pressure is generated on your neck. Can you tell us about how you handle that?

We generally pull 4 to 5 G’s, mainly on the braking. We pull 4.5-5 G’s through the high-speed corners as well, so you can imagine the pressure on the neck. Before braking we can be moving at 200mph then you stamp on the brake as hard as you can to generate maximum down force and all of your body wants to go forward, your head especially, as you are belted in, the head is the only thing that’s not locked down. You’ve got to be able to control that, controlling the muscles in the back of the neck. It also comes from acceleration; you have to have very strong muscles on the side of neck for the high-speed corners as well. You can just imagine four times, five times the weight of your head, including the helmet and everything, pushing for sometimes eight seconds and your doing that every lap for 78 laps or something.

They say your blood pressure increases by 13-16% when riding on a rollercoaster, but when you’re driving it’s up at 50%. How do you cope?

You can’t comprehend how tough it is, what is going on in your body; and even when I’m driving I don’t know what is going on, all these different feelings, and these different vibrations I’m trying to pick up, and you’re just trying to deal with it in the best way possible. That is why it is so important that we prepare ourselves, I have a great team around me who help me prepare to make sure that that side of it is not an issue for my mind, and so I’m 100% focussed on the driving.

How does your body feel after driving?

It’s so important at the end of the race that you get out and look strong. So you jump out, usually you’re very excited, especially if you have a win. You jump out and you just forget everything that is going on in your body, and some races are easier than others, for example Malaysia – it’s so hot in Malaysia and in the cockpit, before you’re even in the cockpit, you are sweating buckets and you get in there, and its like doing an hour and a half gym work in the sauna so it is incredibly tough, and I think I lost 4kg last year in Malaysia just in one and a half hours and I got out and I remember I could barely stand but I couldn’t show that to everyone. The next day you definitely feel it. Imagine if you went to the gym and did a hard workout, you’d feel very sore, very bruised the next day…