These Boutique Gyms for Racing Drivers Are Nothing Like Your Local Planet Fitness

Source: Car and Driver

Professional auto racing is the Rodney Dangerfield of athletic pursuits—it gets no respect. Many casual observers assume that the car is doing all the work. But behind every rubber-scuffing hot lap is a human body also being pushed to the limit. Temperatures inside the cockpit can reach 130 degrees and most race cars do not have air conditioning. Drivers can lose 5 to 10 pounds in water weight during any given race. And racers must reckon with lateral and longitudinal forces that can go from 3.00 g’s in turns (what an astronaut experiences during a rocket launch) to in excess of 5.00 g’s under braking (blackout territory for the untrained). “And that force,” says veteran IndyCar driver James Hinchcliffe, “is applied to every inch of your body.”

In the dark ages of motorsports, before cars produced such cosmic forces, a reasonably fit driver could easily handle a car’s stresses. Hell, he might even have smoked a cigarette between sessions. It wasn’t until guys like Ayrton Senna and Mark Martin came along that their peers saw the impact that fitness could have on driving performance. Now working out is a year-round grind that has drivers fortifying their core, arms, and neck.

It’s not a regimen that drivers can keep up at Planet Fitness. Instead, many frequent places like Indianapolis-based PitFit, a boutique fitness center with a client roster that includes pros like Hinchcliffe and Tony Kanaan. PitFit aims to train a driver’s body and mind at the same time through a mix of strength and endurance drills, some borrowed from more-mainstream sports and adapted to the needs of drivers.

Some teams prefer to keep driver-fitness programs in-house. Two years ago, Ganassi Racing hired former NASCAR pro Josh Wise to develop a training program for its drivers. “A lot of teams shipped their drivers out to run circuits and lift weights with their pit crews, but from an energy standpoint and even a psychological one, there’s little relevance to what they’re doing in the car,” says Wise. Here’s a look at what makes Wise’s regimen or a place like PitFit different from your local gym, with an assist from IndyCar champ Kanaan.

Strobe-Light Panel
PitFit has a custom $20,000 sensory station created by Senaptec. It takes the old numbered-tennis-ball drill—a staple in baseball training in which the trainer throws a ball at the trainee who calls the ball’s number before catching it—and digitizes it. Here, the drivers are asked to interact with moving images on a screen. Their results are measured, indicating their ability to make quick decisions under pressure.

Race Trainer
One of PitFit’s pieces of equipment is the Race Trainer, its homemade steering-resistance machine that is composed of a weighted steering wheel paired with pedals. A light-up board mounted behind the wheel prompts the driver to simulate a turn, which then instructs his trainer to pull on the resistance bands strapped to the athlete’s weighted headgear, called the Iron Neck. This mimics the effects of lateral g’s.

Strobe Glasses
PitFit uses strobe glasses from Senaptec, a company that provides tools to enhance an athlete’s mental and physical perform­ance. PitFit president Jim Leo says the glasses, which intermittently disrupt the wearer’s vision, are often used with a tennis-ball toss, so drivers can practice tracking a moving object while their field of view is compromised.

PitFit Training September Newsletter

Gearing up for Fall…with a Linear Edge Contest!

It’s hard to believe but the race season is winding down and we’ve got a lot to celebrate as we get ready to cross the finish line with many of our members. But if you’re like anybody we know, you’re already looking to next year and what can be accomplished. What better time to get a jump on next year than right now? And what better place to partner up with either right here in Indy or wherever your little corner of the globe is using out Global Online Training Program. We want to get the PitFit word out with our newsletter and we’re teaming up with Linear Edge to offer one of their fantastic pieces autographed by our soon to be decided IndyCar Series Champion!  Everyone can enter by signing up to receive our newsletter and we’ll be announcing the winner in a special edition newsletterthat will be sent out next Sunday after the championship is decided!

Wherever you are, you can train with the best! Next year will be here before you know it. Are you PitFit Prepared?
Speaking of champions, long time PitFit member, four time IndyCar Champion and in the hunt for number five Scott Dixon hits the silver screen this fall in an all access documentary featuring the high-octane world of open world racing. This film is being called an all-access look behind the scenes with Scott, his family and his team. We have a sneak peek for you below and you can stay tuned for updates at 
Check out the trailer for Born Racer here!
IndyCar Team Discount Coming Soon!
Just in time for planning your successful 2019 season, we will soon be offering several discounts to all members of IndyCar, Indy Lights, Pro Mazda and USF200 on memberships, Conditioning Classes and our Sensory Training Program. Discount levels and codes will be announced in the near future, so stay tuned and get yourself ready for some great workouts! 

  • Possess a current had card for IndyCar or any Road to Indy Series.
  • Be immediate family members of someone with one of the above hard cards.
  • Type “INDYCAR” in the discount section during checkout process.

* funny hard card photo optional
Click to check out PItFit Memberships
PitFit Essentials – Global Online Training
Can’t get to Indy?  Join our many members who work with us around the world through PitFit’s Global Online Training. We provide top notch training programs, nutrition, recovery and stress management tools along with accountability and continued support from our highly experienced, certified trainers. You will receive a customized program to help you be your best whether you’re in the racing world or just out there in the regular world. Prices will be increasing on September 1st and we have lots of exciting enhancements on the way so get signed up before pricing does! Click on our link below to find out more on our updated website:
Membership has it’s privileges…
And we like to drive results, whether you’re attending our classes right here in Indy or in one of our Global Training Programs. You also do not need to be a race car driver! We have many clients from a wide array of backgrounds in our online training, membership programs, personal training and more! Check out the repost from @angelars125 celebrating 50 pounds lost! Pick up a 50 pound weight at the gym and you know that is quite an accomplishment. We love to see the rewards of hard work for ALL of our members!

Down 50 pounds and only 21 more to go until the 1st goal is reached! It has taken time to get here, but finally having thyroid levels in range and amazing workouts by @alex_wanee I’m getting back to where I was before surgery! #positivevibes #thyroidectomy #keepworking #hardwork.

 Our members will tell you the journey is something special. Everyone starts somehwere. 
Are you interested in seeing details at a distance, seeing through distractions, judging depth information, hand/eye coordination with changing targets, rapidly shifting and recognizing peripheral targets?  How about hand reactions to visual signals, tracking multiple objects in space and perception span? We can help racers, kids in hockey, football, baseball, lacrosse or any other sport out there. Assessments offer detail and the ability to see your profile compared to our athlete performance database. See Senaptec in action in the video below, at and see it live at PitFit Training! 
Check out Senaptec in action!
Click To Purchase YOUR Senaptec Assessment and Sessions
PitFit Prepared – Rehabilitation Edition
Why would driver Diego Narbona travel over 2000 miles just to visit us here in Indy? Because he knows if he doesn’t he will never get back to the sport he lives and breathes for. This time he will be even better. #PitFitPrepared
Speaking of better, we’re getting itchy to get our hands on this guy, just named IndyCar Rookie of the Year!  Well deserved, Robert! Looking forward to helping you get #BetterStrongerFaster #GetWellWickens #PitFitPrepared
J.R. Todd had a huge win with Kalitta Motorsports last weekend at the NHRA Nationals here in Indy, winning two years in a row! He’s been hammering down for weeks prior to last weekend with a daily diet heavy on reaction, sensory and relaxation training.  The amount of time he’s spent on the Senaptec Sensory Station, Fit Light Training and @Dynavision D2 has been staggering. J.R.’s win has been rewarding on many levels but now we’ve got our eyes on the championship and we’re thinking J.R. does too! 
Wild weekend in Portland! Patricio O’Ward locked up the 2018 Indy Lights title, Spencer Pigot went from 17th to finish 4th and Scott Dixon and Alexander Rossi take the IndyCar Series Champion battle to Sonoma. Jim and Alex were on hand to provide track support for Scott Dixon, Alexander Rossi, Charlie Kimball, James Hinchcliffe, Zach Veach, Gabby Chaves, Dalton Kellett and Tony Kanaan, being worked on by Alex in the photo below. Excellent event!
Alex Wanee working with Tony Kanaan, dad to his first baby girl last week! 
National Sprint Car Racer Justin Grant has been attending PitFit to gain strength for a grueling schedule that often can include four or five different races weekly.  Justin was out turning some laps at IMS earlier this week and you can keep track of his schedule at                                 – photo credit Jason Fuller Images
Kane Martin is a kart racer with Martin Racing, part of our Global Online Training program (Privateer Program) and has also purchased our PitFit Fundamentals manual!

We helped him push through physical pain and keep the battle going and helped get him to the bottom step of the podium through it all!

Check out all the action at                        –photo: 
Baltazar Leguizamon is the Formula Atlantic 2018 Champion! We are so proud and ready to help Baltazar get to the next level championship! 
Kyle Tilley is one of our Level III members and we’ve modified his program to be a little more specific torwards his racing. We’ve highlighted some incredible footage from his race a few weekends ago where he fought back to 8th place overall after a stuck throttle put him in 32nd place with two laps to go. 

Check out more on Kyle at
Click here for Kyle Tilley’s amazing last laps!
Laguna Seca
We also had a little chance to go vintage a few weekends ago at the WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca where Jim Leo provided track support with vintage racing drivers. That’s vintage racing…not vintage drivers. 
Click to see McLaren CEO Zak Brown getting some of our new TheraGun with Jim.
The IndyCar season is coming down the home stretch and we’ve got a lot of PitFit drivers to keep an eye on as they close in on the championship.  Check out the freshly minted 2019 IndyCar schedule that includes a return to Laguna Seca as well as Circuit of the Americas at We will continue to feature members as well as drivers from all of the other series we support as well in upcoming newsletters so stay tuned!

How’s that healthy eating going with all that shopping and preparing healthy food at home with your busy schedule? Yeah, us too! That’s why we like to lean on our good friends over at Kettlebell Kitchen to order healthy, convenient meals that are delivered right here to us at PitFit on Mondays and Thursdays! Clean ingredients, a variety of plans like Sports Performance, Whole 30, Keto or even a custom plan designed for you are available! Check out what’s new and fresh on the menu at
Your next newsletter will arrive in October and we will continue to share more of the exciting updates that we will be implementing at PitFit in 2018 and beyond. 

We are looking forward to the tremendous results that await you as you continue your PitFit journey, we’re excited about keeping you connected through our newsletter and cannot wait to hear your success stories.

In health, 

The PitFit Crew

Neck Training for the Modern IndyCar Driver

With the 102nd running of the Indy 500 today, many who tune in may not appreciate the fitness and conditioning of these athletes, particularly of their necks. Since the ’90s when Formula 1 racers began coming to race CART in the US, motorsport drivers have become far more focused on their strength and conditioning as a way to improve their performance.

A driver’s neck is subjected to forces as high as 5Gs. Sustaining high levels of force on the neck over the course of 2-3 hours requires an incredible amount of neck strength and conditioning. With eight drivers in this year’s Indy 500, PitFit Training in Indianapolis is at the leading edge of today’s motorsport fitness and conditioning.

The Drive’s Jerry Perez recently spent the day with PitFit Training founder and president, Jim Leo. What began in 1993, integrating advanced human performance practices with Penske Racing driver’s strength and conditioning programs, has grown into the industry leader in the development and implementation of motorsports-specific human performance training, developing programs for IndyCar drivers like Scott Dixon, Tony Kanaan, James Hinchcliffe, Charlie Kimball, Simon Pagenaud, Robert Wickens, Spencer Pigot, and Josef Newgarden.

Neck Training for Motorsports

Leo has always been looking for new ideas and and innovative approaches to training. Discovering the Iron Neck at the 2013 National Strength and Conditioning Association Conference, Leo was one of the early adopters of the Iron Neck. Originally sold to NFL and Collegiate football teams to help reduce concussion risk in football players, the invention was not exactly designed for drivers.

“The original Iron Neck was big and a bit rough, but it allowed us to train the neck in a new way,” says Leo. Here Zach Veach trains with the original Iron Neck, which was made of aluminum and weighed 13 lbs.

“Every single race represents a grueling war between man and machine,” says Leo. “whether it’s challenging road courses where drivers are battered by constant braking and accelerating forces, or high-speed ovals where normal humans would black out due to the sheer speed. Being a racing driver, believe it or not, isn’t an easy task.”

Iron Neck has since been a key part of Leo’s program and over the past 5 years he has developed a lot of innovative uses and modalities designed specifically for the motorsport athlete. The newly redesigned Iron Neck is under 3 lbs and a much more comfortable fit for today’s drivers.

When the 1994 CART season began, Jim Leo had put in place a conditioning program that focused on improving team pit stops and overall wellness. That year, Penske Racing dominated the competition by winning 12 of 16 races, the CART championship, and the Indy 500. 24 years later, perhaps another Indy 500 victory is in order for Leo and PitFit Training.