Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Rookie Stripe: Six Ways Pit Crew Athletes Prepare for the Physical Demands of the Job

Photo Credit: Debbie Ross for Skirts and Scuffs
by Logan Stewart Kureczka

Fitness has gone full throttle in NASCAR. While pitting may not be an actual sport on college campuses, modern-day NASCAR teams now recruit many of their pit crew athletes straight out of college and even from professional sports.

Drivers face many challenges, but the over-the-wall crew members truly are some of the best athletes on the track and have to be in peak physical condition to do their jobs. Because pit stops and their timing can literally make or break whether a driver wins a race, the speed at which the pit crew can work efficiently is one of the most important elements of a race. Elements like weather and heat can also impact their performance, so teams take special measures to prepare appropriately.

A study posted in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research shows that NASCAR pit crews face temperatures that can fluctuate between 56 and 102 degrees Fahrenheit at any given race, depending on the track and weather conditions, and they endure the temperatures for three to six hours.

Here are six ways pit crews prepare for the physical demands of their jobs:

1. They follow a specially designed strength program. Many teams, especially larger teams, have strength coaches on staff who design programs for pit crew athletes. Pit crew members work out on site daily and usually have a main workout, but may also have a supplemental workout based on their position on the car.

2. They practice reps. Beyond strength and cardio workouts, pit crews also practice pit stops, including repetitions, as they would do during a race. Some athletes perform more reps at practice than others depending on goals and needs of the team.

3. Being in shape goes hand in hand with being healthy. Teams focus on whole body health including inflammation, nutrition and proper warm-up and cool down. Some teams have orthopedic, chiropractic, physical therapy and/or athletic training providers in the shop daily.

4. Many teams put special focus on heat training. Heat training helps pit crew athletes get acclimated to performing physical tasks at hotter temperatures where they may experience an increased heart rate. Teams spend time on heat training because athletes can develop a physiological adaptation to the heat they work in, making them more efficient and able to work through soaring temperatures, which frequently happen at tracks like Daytona.
Photo Credit: Charlotte Bray for Skirts and Scuffs
5. They cross-train and practice recovery. Pit crew teams may utilize the pool for a weightless workout, post-injury workout or active recovery, take a spinning or cycling class, or practice yoga onsite with an instructor. Cross-training and active recovery are important parts of a full performance plan.

6. They engage in team-building activities with their crew chief or driver. Pit crews may head to the shooting range, driving range, go go-karting, play golf, or participate in other team-building activities together. This is a way for them to get away from the grind of daily practice, learn to work as a unit and get to know each others’ personalities better.

More:

Hendrick Motorsports: Fast Five: Pit Crew Workouts
How JGR Keeps Pit Crews in Tip Top Shape
Why NASCAR’s Best Athletes are in the Pits
11 Things You Might Not Know About NASCAR Pit Crews
Photo Credit: Debbie Ross for Skirts and Scuffs

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