February 10, 2009

jump

Fuerteventura is one of the Canary Islands, just off the coast of Africa. It’s the first time we’ve ever repeated a Porsche fitness camp destination. We were there last season and we found the facilities to be a perfect combination of fitness, weather, and hospitality. The real trick for the fitness team is to find a blend of sports specific equipment and layouts to do things indoors and outdoors, that doesn’t feel like an army barracks. Because as beautiful and picturesque as Fuerteventura is, it’s a boot camp and I say that because it’s a good seven hours of pure intense training ten days in a row. You put in 70 hours of training in a ten day period and that will break down some of the most elite athletes’ bodies. There is a strict, distinct formula as to how they put us through our pre-season camp. It’s to prepare us for the season, to kind of knock the rust off from the holidays and it includes specific timing between physical effort, nutrition and proper rest. Many of you know that efficiency in fitness is all about how you mix the three together, and it’s quite a specific blend. They know, through science, that there is a point where your body hits what we call the wall. For us, as intense athletes, not at an Olympic level, but at a professional level, somewhere around the fourth or fifth day, your body hits an absolute wall after intense exercise for that many hours a day in succession. And it’s amazing. Your mind completely drops into almost a cloud of bad mood and your body hurts so much that literally it’s hard to get out of bed. But they know with the proper nutrition and just a half day of rest that you hit a second wind and actually the seventh, eighth and ninth days are easier than the fifth and sixth day.

Of course, you have to mentally fight past a lot of the physical parts of it. Most of us know how to do that because there’s always an element of physical pain in a 24 hour race and you kind of use that same skill set. Come the ninth, tenth, eleventh day, especially for the drivers who are ultra lean, you start to break down your reserves. Some will get sick, will pick up a little bit of a cold or flu and I think that’s like the checkered flag. The doctors have gotten you to break down every last molecule. Then you are on a good two-week resting period.

The rest period means that you come back to blending in a regular routine of fitness but also your diet needs to change. You actually gain a lot of weight just after the camp. People might imagine that you lose weight. When you put out seven hours of fitness in succession, your calorie intake is high. Basically it’s input versus output and you need to take in as much energy (food) as you exert. We’re taking in as much as 6000 to 8000 calories a day where normal average calorie consumption is in the 2000 – 3000 range. So you need to come back to earth and concentrate on not eating everything in sight. We have great, very diverse choices on food where we have our camp set up. We get to eat whatever we please and that’s a lot of fun. So we have to adjust when we come back to normal life.

This will be my seventh fitness camp in succession and they get a little bit easier every time. Not physically; they push us harder every year because they know that our level as a group has risen, but they get a little bit easier because mentally you know how to prepare and pace yourself.

Send your comments and questions to Patrick at askpatrick@pca.org. Although he can’t respond individually, he’ll get to as many as possible in his blog.