Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Faith on the Frontstretch: Keeping Hydrated Through NASCAR’s Summer Stretch

Jimmie Johnson rehydrating in Victory Lane, May 31, 2015
Credit: Beth Reinke / Skirts and Scuffs  
“ ... and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” ~ Hebrews 12:1b

Summer heat is rough on NASCAR drivers. On top of a 120-to-140-degree cockpit and even hotter temperatures near the floor, each driver wears a fire-resistant uniform: long underwear, a firesuit, helmet, shoes and gloves. Sounds downright toasty, doesn’t it?

Even the most conditioned athletes such as Jimmie Johnson sometimes feel the effects of extreme heat if they sweat excessively or slack a little bit on hydration.

Such was the case at Dover this past weekend, where temperatures were in the 90s with high humidity. When Johnson pulled off his helmet in Victory Lane after the 400-mile race, his face appeared flushed. He unzipped his firesuit, leaned back against the car and downed a few gulps of a blue sports drink before giving his interview. Before the photos with his tenth Miles the Monster trophy, he stripped off the firesuit sleeves and continued to hydrate, slurping a red drink.

Johnson talked about the segment of long, demanding races -- Charlotte, Dover and Pocono – in this part of the season.

“The summer stretch is always grueling. I think the mileage at most tracks ... is just something we’re seasoned to and conditioned to perform at,” he said. “As the humidity comes up and the heat kicks in, it’s a big challenge for everyone. When you think about the guys turning wrenches on the car from when the garage opens to when it closes, the guys jumping over the wall, the guys and gal in the cars, it’s definitely a tough summer stretch for us and one that I really look forward to.”

Wait, he looks forward to it? Why would he look forward to a rough patch of races that are physically challenging? Probably because he’s prepared for them. Through ongoing physical training and workouts, long bike rides and marathons, Johnson primes his body for trials like 400-to-600-mile races in a sweltering stock car.

Keeping hydrated is important for everyone’s physical health, even non-athletes like me. Drinking adequate fluid helps you perform normal physiological functions such as regulating your body temperature, getting rid of metabolic waste products and maintaining a normal blood volume.

People who aren’t physically conditioned, such as myself, don’t fare as well in hot conditions as trained athletes. Hoofing it around the Cup garage in Sunday morning’s oppressive heat and humidity, I suddenly didn’t feel well. Thankfully it was time for Motor Racing Outreach chapel, so I sat in the shade of the big tent and drank a Gatorade during the service, hydrating my body and soul at the same time.

The fluid and electrolytes replenished my body, but it was hearing the word of God -- shared by MRO chaplain Nick Terry -- that refreshed my soul. By the end of the service, I felt rehydrated and rested, and I headed to pit road for opening ceremonies with a spring in my step.

How’s your hydration? Drinking enough water is essential, of course, but I’m asking about your spiritual hydration.

Is your soul being watered by soaking in Bible verses? Is your spirit saturated with peace that comes from praying through the grueling “summer stretches” in your race of life?

Try choosing activities that give your faith a workout and provide “fluid” for your soul. Drink in faith-building music. Spend time with faith-filled friends. Just sit quietly and talk to God.

You can look forward to every straightaway and turn in your life, even the more challenging stretches, by staying spiritually hydrated. Drink up!

The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul. ~ Psalm 23: 1-3a


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“Faith on the Frontstretch” explores the role of faith in motorsports and runs every 1st & 3rd Wednesday of the NASCAR season. Follow Beth on twitter at @bbreinke.

Want more racing devotions? When you donate $25 to Skirts and Scuffs, we’ll send you a complimentary copy of Beth’s book, Race Fans’ Devotions to Go, a month-long, pocket-sized devotional book for NASCAR fans. Or you can purchase the book in paperback & ebook here.

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