Many people wonder if karting is a good form of exercise. After all, how hard can it be to just drive around a racetrack for 20 minutes at a time? But there is actually a lot more to the physical aspect of go-kart racing.
Karting is good exercise, and it’s a lot more physically demanding than many people might think. It elevates your heart rate, exposes you to G-forces, and requires a large amount of physical output from the driver. Kart racing drivers therefore need to be quite fit.
Most of the time after a day of karting, especially for newcomers, people will find that their entire body is stiff and sore. This alone shows that karting is in fact good exercise. Below, I’ll take a closer look at the physical demands of go-kart racing.
Why Go-Kart Racing Is Good Exercise
Karts Have No Power Steering
Firstly, go-karts do not have power steering. This means that their front wheels are turned purely through the force you put into the steering wheel. Karts do not need power steering and are not fast enough in order for it to become a requirement.
However, this means that karting can become extremely tiring on your arms after extended periods of time. If you are planning to race competitively, it’s a good idea to work on your physical strength, especially in your arms. As races last around 20 minutes or so, you could see a significant drop in your lap times towards the end of the race if you aren’t fit enough.
You Need Good Grip Strength
In addition to the lack of power steering, karts also do not have the most comfortable steering wheels. You will find that even in slow rental karts your grip strength becomes really important. Hanging onto the steering wheel when you are barreling through corners with no power steering can be a tough challenge. Even veteran drivers will start to feel their wrists giving in towards the end of a session.
This heavily affects both your wrists and your palms specifically. Pick up a grip strengthener and do as many reps as you can. This will give you an idea of how your hands will feel towards the end of your final session of the day in a kart, and it’s also a good way to improve your grip strength if you use this from time to time.
The G-Forces In Karting
Next we will factor in something that our bodies are not particularly used to and arguably aren’t designed to withstand – excessive G-forces. You might experience some light G-forces here and there when you drive in a normal car on the road, or when you’re in a plane taking off.
However, in a go-kart, you’ll experience higher G-forces than normal. For someone that is not used to experiencing G-forces, this can mean a stiff neck and a sore body the next morning when you wake up.
Adapting To These G-Forces
The only real way to train your body to withstand G-forces is through experiencing them. So, expect your first time in a kart to be the worst, and as your body becomes used to the experience, you will be able to adapt to them. You can also train your neck specifically to deal with them better too.
Experiencing G-forces can be good exercise on its own. It can help you to develop the muscles in your neck, as our necks do not get much training on their own. In addition, the rest of your body (especially your core) will also develop more strength through experiencing G-forces.
Key Fact: You might experience up to 1.5 or even 2 G in a racing kart at very high speed, but that’s nothing compared to the G-forces in F1, where drivers have to withstand up to 6 G!
The Importance Of Hydration In Karting
Hydration is a key factor in exercise, and so it is also important in karting as well. Have you ever ran a 100-meter sprint, or even a long-distance marathon, and felt your throat get really dry? That extreme dryness in your throat is the same kind of feeling you get after a session in a go-kart (if you were driving fast enough!). That’s why you see drivers frantically reaching for their water bottles after getting out of the kart.
The reason hydration is so important in karting is that there is no onboard water bottle. So, you will be performing a physical activity with no hydration for however long your karting session is. If you factor in the fire-retardant clothing and race suit you have to wear, plus the helmet, it can also get quite hot. This is especially true if you are karting in the summer or in highly humid areas.
Drivers tend to lose quite a bit of weight during long races. Depending on the class they are racing in as well as the ambient temperature, drivers can lose up to 2 or 3 kilograms (4-7 lbs) in weight during a day of karting. It’s therefore important to stay hydrated during this time to keep your body fuelled up.
Karting Is A Cardio Workout
Cardio might not seem that important to drivers since it doesn’t seem like you are doing a lot of moving around in the kart itself. However, the G-forces and strength required to withstand them (and to control the kart without power steering) mean your heart rate is also very elevated as you drive around the track.
Driving a go-kart at high speed is enough to give anyone a good adrenaline rush on its own. But when you put 30 other karts on the same circuit and tell them to race each other, the result is an even higher heart rate and even more adrenaline.
Exercise and cardiovascular training are all about increasing your heart rate and increasing blood flow (along with working your muscles), and that is exactly what karting does. In that sense, karting certainly is cardiovascular exercise. The result of the increased heart rate is also an increase in breaths per minute. When your heart rate increases, you start breathing faster and shallower, much like you would when running for example.
Are Kart Drivers Athletes?
Racing drivers (karting drivers included) are very much athletes. Although it may not seem like it, karting is actually very good exercise. There is much more going on than just sitting in the seat and driving the kart.
As such, many drivers have taken on personal trainers and start their own training regimes in order to improve their fitness, and therefore hopefully improve their performance on track. Drivers tend to spend a lot of time in the gym doing strength training in particular.
In addition, they also add in some cardio exercises like running or cycling to get their heart rate elevated and increase their endurance and stamina over an extended period of time. Some drivers also like to focus a lot on swimming, as this is a full body strengthening exercise, and it also throws the cardio factor into it as well.
Karting is great exercise. To many it seems easy enough to sit in the seat, press the pedals, and turn the steering wheel. But if you want to be competitive, you need to be highly focused on your fitness levels.
The physical aspect of keeping a kart under control at high speeds can be extreme. Factor in the addition of G-forces in go-kart racing and you will wake up the next morning feeling like you have spent the previous day in the gym!
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