Will Davison is one of Australia’s premier professional racing drivers. Last October he won his second Bathurst 1000 race, the Australian equivalent to the Super Bowl, in a brilliant drive that handed him victory by a split second. He’s a winner of multiple races at the sport’s premier level in Australia, a multiple champion and one of the country’s highest-profile racers. He understands the importance of training everyday and does triathlons for a bit of weekend recreation.
He’s also a Polar Ambassador.
RACING CAR DRIVERS ARE ATHLETES TOO
Picture a professional athlete and racing drivers don’t usually come to mind.
After all, they do their job sitting down and are mechanically-assisted in performing, so fitness surely cannot be as important to a racing driver as it is with a traditional athlete or sports person?
In fact, today’s professional racing drivers have to be supreme athletes to perform at the highest level and in an environment that does its best to stymie that performance.
Australian Will Davison is a prime example of that. Once touted as a potential Grand Prix star, Will contended his way from junior racing in Australia to a Formula 1 test. For a decade he’s been one of Australia’s most successful Supercar drivers … and arguably its fittest professional racer.
Will’s daily training regime is relentless as he seeks to optimise his personal performance in every race.
“Many people, probably Polar too when we first started talking, don’t understand just how fit today’s professional racing drivers have to be able to perform at their optimum,” Will Davison says.
“Any race car is an intensively hot and physical environment. You generally race for sustained periods of time where competitors have to race wheel-to-wheel on the very edge of control. One error can spell disaster.
“It’s not just about having a crash, it’s general performance.
“The level (of competition in Supercars) is so high now that there is no escaping the intensity. It‘s 100 percent for the whole race. It’s relentless, like a sprint!”
MASSIVE PHYSICAL LOADS
Will explains that the key to success is to remain calm mentally to make decisive decisions, to maintain absolute focus under extreme levels of load and endurance.
Racecars are very physical things. They’re not easy to drive and there are immense forces running through the steering, the brakes and the astonishing acceleration that all batter the body.
“The cockpit is generally 25 °C (77 °F) above ambient, so often in the mid 60 °C (149 °F) degrees.
“Each brake application is equivalent of 80–100kg, so you can imagine the load and strain this puts on your lower back, especially after so many repetitive motions.
“There are heavy steering loads too with 20–30kg loads on every gear shift.
“Add to that the constant lateral and longitudinal forces whilst strapped in tight. Plus trying to finesse and maintain control with the brake, which is often more important than the steering wheel itself.”
FIGHTING FATIGUE WITH FITNESS TRAINING
Will is in the gym, on the bike or running every day. He believes that his fitness gives him a mental, physical and emotional edge over his rivals. And being able to utilise Polar technology to measure and monitor his fitness has enabled him to fine-tune his fitness and training regime.
“For me, gym work is crucial. I include lots of core stability and strength work,” Will says.
“Over a two hour period my average heart rate will be around 150 bpm. Often it’s sitting around 145 bpm when in a rhythm and often spiking at 180+ bpm during an intense moment.
“So, concentration in the car is paramount and you can only sustain that if you are not physically drained when actually driving the car. That’s where having accurate data from my Polar is hugely important in my training regime.
“Aside from being quick and simple to use, my Polar V800 enables me to measure my fitness and performance. I do this throughout my daily training, and then adapt that training to improve my fitness where I need to.”
THE HEART OF THE MATTER
“Probably key to utilizing my Polar to its optimum in my training regime is its heart rate monitoring function,” Will says.
“Polar were the pioneers of this technology, the advanced data enables me to understand my body and my heart rate zones. Allowing me to get the most out of my training sessions, and to optimise my fitness results.”
Cycling is central to Will’s regime because Australia’s milder climatic conditions enable year-round training.
Aside from having a natural affinity with a piece of training equipment that’s very mechanical. Will enjoys cycle training because it’s mobile and he’s able to get out and about, and train with other athletes.
“I’m out there every single day, rain, hail or shine.”
“Heart rate training on the bike enables me to strive for the ideal zones for my body. I aim for 70 to 80 percent of my maximum heart rate for sustained periods. This builds my in-car stamina, is a great cardiovascular workout and improves my capacity for oxygen intake,” Will says.
“The endurance aspect of cycling too contributes to mental endurance, again incredibly important in our longer races which can be up to 12 hours in duration.
The accuracy of the Polar heart rate technology also ensures my workout is maximized but not overdone, I generally work towards 60 to 90 minutes sessions, followed by recovery.
“Over the past decade I’ve done lots of endurance training, mostly consisting of running/riding/swimming and I would like to consider my endurance level is now at its peak”
NEW DIMENSION TRAINING
Will admits that such intense training can get repetitive. Practice in the car is severely restricted by Supercar rules, which stipulate drivers can only have three official test days in the car. And so, Will says he needs to do different things between his 16 annual race meetings to stay engaged.
“In the past 6 months I’ve added a slightly new dimension to my training.
“I still focus on 2–3 endurance steady sessions a week. I’ve added a lot more interval training. I’m working harder on my strength & conditioning and general mobility to prevent injury.
“The interval stuff is hard work but very rewarding. Lots of maximum heart rate running and ergo sessions.
“Mountain Biking is very good for this too, as you get high spike rates and need to keep your focus. You stop pedalling up a hill in a rocky section and you crash.
You need to be disciplined with your sleep, recovery, hydration and fuelling of the body. It’s more a pre-season boost, and then when our calendar gets busy I focus on maintaining and keeping fresh mentally and physically.
“So it’s about keeping your vision, balance and concentration even with a heart rate recording at 180 bpm. Quite similar to a race car.”
Will confirmed too that despite living in what’s a very temperate climate, he’s finding that if he does too much training it’s very easy to get run down.
“The heart rate sessions have been rewarding to my general speed, fitness and energy. But I’ve also felt the effects of over doing it and it isn’t good going into a busy race period.”
THE YEAR AHEAD
Will is currently contesting the 2017 Championship Series. He has a big year ahead, including the opportunity to win back to back titles at Australia’s most famous motorsport event, the Bathurst 1000. We look forward to sharing his successes this year.
Information in this article is not intended as medical advice and is the opinion of the featured athlete. Before pursuing any physical activity or program, you should consult with a medical professional.
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Please note that the information provided in the Polar Blog articles cannot replace individual advice from health professionals. Please consult your physician before starting a new fitness program.