CHAMPCAR/CART: Tagliani works up a sweat between races

Any time he gets time "off" between Champ Car events, Alex Tagliani is busy with his personal training and preparation for upcoming races. While many professional sports require advanced skills and a high level of physical fitness, the nature of...

Any time he gets time "off" between Champ Car events, Alex Tagliani is busy with his personal training and preparation for upcoming races. While many professional sports require advanced skills and a high level of physical fitness, the nature of auto racing puts unique demands on an athlete. Tagliani tailors his fitness routine and lifestyle to ensure optimum health and performance on track for a sport that is far more demanding than it may seem to a spectator.

Tagliani's fitness routine is designed to build strength and endurance to withstand the "workout" of a race, and the added pressure of intense g- forces and heat for sustained periods of time. Tagliani likens the physical feel of a race to a constant aerobic workout at 100 degrees in a firesuit and helmet, with limited breathing space and the threat of dehydration.

Another factor that influences the seemingly simple act of driving is the need to maintain concentration on his driving strategy and the handling of the car, which Tagliani claims is "essentially a mathematical equation." Somewhere in all this intensity, Tagliani is attentive to the car beneath him and communicates with his engineers to make appropriate adjustments as he's driving or when he arrives in the pits for lightening quick stops.

As Tagliani strives to achieve his highest level of physical fitness, he follows a routine developed by personal trainer, Anthony Young, suited to his needs and goals. Between races, Tagliani varies his training schedule, but a typical session includes one to two hours of cardiovascular work and weights. He incorporates cycling, running and multiple sessions of weight training throughout the week. In 2002, Tagliani built a personal gym in his backyard and has it fitted with a cross-trainer, multiple action resistance machines and free weights.

Tagliani has perfected this part of his race preparation. "There always has to be a balance when training for a race. I can't expect my body to get stronger if it is stressed or tired. I allow time for recovery after a hard work out, since the muscle fibers break down, so if I go for a really long ride one day, I'll take it easier the next day." Fitness is extremely important to Tagliani's sport and career, but he also takes it very seriously and accepts it as a huge part of his life.

Since time and access to equipment is limited when the team is traveling, Tagliani's training routine differs greatly on the road. "I don't worry too much about getting a good work out in when I go away for a race weekend," explains Tagliani. "I work hard the day before I leave and take a break before I start driving, which is usually my travel day. If there's a gym at the hotel I'll use the treadmill or cross-trainer for some light cardio at night, but nothing too strenuous."

Tagliani will typically relax for a day before getting back into his routine after a race weekend. "I pay attention to my body after every race. If it was a very physically demanding weekend and I feel a little beaten up I might take more time out to recover. I must also allow for adjustments to time changes when I return to the west coast," explains the Nevada resident.

In order to sustain the energy necessary for races that last up to two hours, Tagliani follows a strict diet that capitalizes on nutrition to provide this stamina. At the track, he will increase his caloric intake for the extra energy he needs to perform in the race car. "I try to stay as lean as possible during the racing season," says Tagliani. "Not having to carry around any extra weight is an advantage and if I feel healthy, it's a stress off my mind."

Excellent service from Mathey Entertainment in the Johnson Controls/Rocketsports hospitality unit allows Tagliani to maintain his efficient diet. Mathey's staff takes care of Tagliani's meals every race weekend and caters to his dietary needs. "No matter where the team is, I am always able to eat right. I need a sustained release of energy when I am in the car, and complex carbohydrates are best for this," explains Tagliani. "I start with a good breakfast because it's the most important meal of the day. Sometimes I will eat cereal before a race, but I usually eat rice or pasta."

Tagliani keeps a low-fat, moderate to high-energy diet while training at home. Supplements play a big part in Tagliani's nutritional plan. On days of hard training Tagliani takes Vitamin E and Magnesium to reduce the oxidant build up and increase muscle recovery. He also takes Glucosamine, Vitamin C, and Ginseng daily.

Being a professional athlete of Tagliani's caliber requires as much dedication and hard work as talent. He doesn't consume alcohol during the season and keeps a very strict diet. While Tagliani sacrifices many lifestyle choices common to most of his generation, he views these as easy options in order to be fit and feel good behind the wheel, where he prefers to be. "The advantage of being really fit in this sport is tremendous. In a race with no yellow flags, my endurance is pushed to the limit and it can be really tough. I need to be consistent with exercise and diet. If I have to sacrifice alcohol and certain foods to achieve my goals, then it's worth it," states Tagliani.

Although Tagliani's 'down-time' doesn't seem entirely relaxing, he finds the hard work and training rewarding both on and off the track. "Being fit and healthy allows me to spend good quality time with friends and family. I feel energetic and up for anything, whether it's a friendly game of tennis or a hike," says Tagliani, who maintains his fitness routine even in the off-season. "I use my time off to my advantage, but my real 'down-time' comes in the winter, when I head back to Canada for some snowboarding. I am free to play and no one recognizes me when I'm covered from head-to-toe in snow gear!"

-rsr-

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Alex Tagliani