The winter break isn’t that relaxing
Feb 25, 2023

The 2023 IndyCar season is just around the corner. Next week I’ll be on my way to St. Petersburg, Florida, for the first race of the year. I can’t wait to get back behind the wheel after a six-month winter break.

Despite what you might think, the off-season is never that relaxing for me. In reality, I only have three weeks in late October to early November when I relax completely and don’t do any physical training. Then I go back to training so that I can be at the top of my game in February. In December I usually head to France during the holidays to see my family and friends, but also to reconnect with the French media and organizations I can’t see regularly during the race season. Even then, training is not far away since we take the opportunity with my coach to evaluate my physical fitness in Poitiers. In January it is immediately back to work to prep for the 24 Hours of Daytona, and then in February we jump into the IndyCar pre-season testing. On top of that, team sponsor and PR events all over the US are sprinkled throughout the off-season.

Intense physical training

But with all these commitments there’s one thing that never changes: It’s my physical preparation. For almost 10 years, I have had the same routine at the beginning of the season. My coach, Bruno Daudin, flies from France to my home in Charlotte, North Carolina to join me for a pre-season fitness boot camp.

Coach Bruno & Simon Pagenaud

When I met him in 2012, we decided to put a plan together to prepare me specifically for race car driving. We pulled data from the race car with forces applied to the body like heat, heart rate, steering load and lateral g-forces since we don’t have power steering.

I train on a regular basis with a focus on two main objectives:

  • Cardio training: My bike is connected to Zwift to target specific physical efforts. I use a rowing machine concept 2, a boxing app connected to Fight Camp to also target specific efforts and I run.
  • Muscular training in the gym: To vary periods of muscular strength and cardio is very important in motorsport. Strength training consists of lifting exercises of bars and heavy weights with low repetitions. This is followed by periods of muscular endurance training with light weights and bars with long repetitions, always in instability to work the body effectively.

Work focuses on shoulders, neck, forearm, triceps, biceps, latissimus dorsi, abdominal belt, ankle… I also work on stability which includes a lot of unstable sheathing exercices to fight against extreme lateral and longitudinal forces.

I also have specific test sessions for Sports Car Racing and the 24 hours of Daytona. The preparations start in October with a lot of testing session and learning a new car with new driving positions. Testing takes place in October, November, December, and January for the Roar and the race at the end of January.

Each year at the end of February we ramp up with a 10-day boot camp that includes an average of 5 hours a day of working out followed by stretching. Bruno tries to push me as much as possible to simulate race conditions. This, in turn, helps me to enter the first race weekend, and each one after that, feeling confident.

After Bruno returns home to France, he sends me training plans throughout the season that I diligently complete. Our boot camp for 2023 has just ended. So now I’m 100% ready to start the new season!

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