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September 1, 2021

Podcast 138: NASCAR's Aric Almirola on Life in the Driver’s Seat & Importance of Recovery

NASCAR driver Aric Almirola joins the WHOOP Podcast to share firsthand what it’s like to manage the physical and mental strains that come with being a professional driver.

By Will Ahmed

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Hot cars, high speeds, and hours of deep focus are required to excel in racecar driving. NASCAR driver Aric Almirola joins the WHOOP Podcast to talk about life in the driver’s seat.

Aric regularly puts up 20+ strains behind the wheel. The inside of the car can reach up to 140 degrees, and Aric says he regularly loses 6 to 8 pounds during races. He discusses the extreme level of focus required in his profession, and how losing focus for a single moment can lead to a 200-mile-per-hour crash.

Aric talks about how he manages that high strain on his body, and what he’s learned about recovery along the way. He also details how he struggled with adrenal fatigue and how that taught him the importance of rest.

Everything Aric does is designed to help him make the smallest improvements, and it’s obvious how scientific his approach is. I know you’ll be able to take a lot away from this conversation. Enjoy!

 

NASCAR Driver Aric Almirola Podcast Quotes and Highlights

3:08 – Inspiration. “I grew up watching my grandfather race,” Aric says. “He was my hero. He was so cool. He drove a race car, a dirt sprint car, at 140 miles an hour and he was successful. I looked up to him very much.”

5:12 – Dealing With Injuries. “I’ve broken so many bones in my body. Tibia, fibia, arms, wrist, scapulas, collarbone, ribs, fingers, all sorts of stuff. My body’s been through the ringer.”

5:46 – Toll of Racing. “The race car just takes its toll on the body because you’re in a violent environment. The compression, the bouncing around, the shaking, and just the constant G load on your spine and on your neck.”

9:45 – Conditions Inside the Car. “If it’s a cold, cool, crisp day, it’s going to be 125 degrees inside the race car. If it’s a hot, humid day, it’s going to be humid and it’s going to be 140 degrees inside the race car. Because no matter what the external temperatures are, we have an engine sitting in front of us that runs about 300 degrees. We have an oil tank sitting right behind our back that runs about 340-360 degrees. We have brakes on the car that are operating at about 1,200 to 1,400 degrees. So there’s just so much heat. There’s so much heat in the race car that it all radiates through the cockpit.”

11:11 – The G-Load of Racing. “We’re pulling two-and-a-half to three G’s at some of these racetracks. So you do that for three-and-a-half hours. It takes a toll on your body.”

13:55 – Race Preparations. Aric walks Will through what a typical week is like on the NASCAR schedule and how he prepares for race day mechanically, mentally, and physically.

20:01 – Focus. “As racecar drivers, you always have to be in that hyper-focused state. We’re on the ragged edge … And so if you are not hyper-focused and you make a mistake, you crash at 200 miles an hour and it hurts really, really bad.”

21:18 – Finding the Flow State. Will recalls a previous episode of the WHOOP Podcast with Free Solo rock climber Alex Honnold, “He was talking about why he loves free soloing so much because it almost immediately puts him in the flow state. He has to be so insanely focused. He’s executing at such a perfectionist level because, of course. if he doesn’t, he dies.”

22:28 – Hydration. “The most important thing for me that I’ve learned over the years is hydration,” Aric says. “We’ve talked about the extreme environment inside the car and how hot it is. I lose six to eight pounds, on average, every race. Getting the hydration dialed in is key.”

27:24 – Cycling. Aric says he rides his bike to train for driving. “Cycling is the one thing that I feel that I can do that most closely relates to the [heart rate and strain] that I see in the racecar. I can go on a three-hour bike ride to train my heart rate for being in the racecar for three hours.”

28:15 – Adrenal Fatigue. Aric details his bout with adrenal fatigue in 2014 and 2015. “I was just not resting. I had the mentality, ‘I’ll sleep when I die.’ That was literally my mentality. ‘I’ve got the opportunity of a lifetime in front of me. I’m not going to squander it away. I’m going to train as hard as I can possibly train. I’m going to travel as much as I need to travel.’ I was running and gunning all over the country. Racing and training like crazy and getting next to no sleep like with two toddlers at home.”

33:42 – Sleep. “I realized I was going to fail, not only as a racecar driver, but as a human being if I didn’t take rest and sleep properly. Now I’m very regimented [with sleep].”

35:19 – Keys to Success. “Hard work, perseverance, and faith. Just faith to know that if I just keep doing what I’m doing, [success will] come.”

41:41 – WHOOP Live. WHOOP is bringing WHOOP Live integration to NASCAR, allowing for fans to get live biometric data of drivers while they’re racing. “It’s going to be awesome,” Aric says. “I think it’s going to be a compelling story for the fans. It’s going to tell such a great story about racecar drivers and really what our bodies are going through in the racecar. Because a lot of people just don’t understand, right? Like you can see most athletes on the field … When the fan is watching the race, they see a car and the driver is hidden away inside the car. It’s hard for the fans to recognize what the driver is going through in the racecar.”

Connect with Aric on Instagram.

 

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Will Ahmed

Will Ahmed is the Founder and CEO of WHOOP, which has developed next generation wearable technology for optimizing human performance. WHOOP today works with everyone from professional athletes to fitness enthusiasts to executives. Ahmed has raised $400 million from top investors and has an active advisory board that consists of some of the world’s most notable cardiologists, technologists, and designers. He wrote “The Feedback Tool: Measuring Fitness, Intensity, and Recovery,” which sparked the underlying physiology and engineering for his work today. Ahmed was named a 2011 Harvard College Scholar for finishing in the top 10% of his class and a CSA Scholar Athlete; he captained the Harvard Men’s Varsity Squash Team. He was also recently named to Forbes 30 Under 30 and Boston Business Journal 40 Under 40.

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