F1 ace Mark Webber talks exclusively to AOL Cars
Webber isn't short of advice and opinions on the often gruelling nature of the sport so AOL Cars donned our Lycra shorts, hopped on an exercise bike and breathlessly chatted to Mark as he pounded away the pre-season miles.> You seem pretty at home on an exercise bike but how fit were you when you first started out in Formula 1?
Pretty rubbish to be honest. I was about twenty years-old when I first started in 1997 and back then, a 3k run was enough to beat me. I had a wake-up call when I had my first training camp with Mercedes-Benz in 1998 and I got smashed by the instructors all week in Austria.
I didn't enjoy that, so I took myself away and got my act together and came back fitter. The fitness side of it gave me a lot of confidence in the car, knowing I'd have no real issues with the length of the races I was going to be exposed to in F1. Then I went through a stage of doing too much, the racing was getting in the way of my fitness!
How fit are you now?
I think I'm not as fit as I probably was five or six years ago when I was at my most conditioned. But I still have the energy levels to do a full Formula 1 season. I have to realise I'm not a triathlon runner or an adventure racer, I'm a Formula 1 driver so I have to make sure I get through a season. I need to know I can push a car to the limit in a Grand Prix for the entire race. I need to make sure I'm not overweight, I have to be lean and in top condition.
How does training for motorsport differ to that of other athletes?
In motorsport, we are not training for the Olympics in the fact that we don't train hard for just one event. We have to perform every fortnight for ten and a half months a year. We need to make sure we are healthy and the immune system needs to be good. That means keeping well hydrated, resting lots and eating well.
I'm a terrible eater on race weekend; I push my food around a lot because I get anxious. I've done over 200 Grand Prixs but I go through the same sh*t every time. So I have to supplement the lack of food with smoothies and shakes.
What would you say is the toughest thing about the Formula 1 season?
A lot of people overlook the fact that we are constantly traveling all over the world and jetlag can be a real factor. There's no silver bullet cure for it but you have to make it as easy as possible for yourself by planning well. I sometimes take my own food to tracks because the grub on race day can be really terrible.
How does pre-season training differ from race week?
Pre-season is always more sport-specific stuff because I've been out of the car for so long. I have to do neck and shoulder work to cope with the G-forces when I'm racing. I also need to stay lean; I can't get too muscly or fat, as that's extra weight in the car. I don't enjoy the pre-season stuff because it's discipline for me and discipline is mostly doing things you don't like doing.
How many hours do you train at this time of year?
My volume has dropped considerably over the last two or three years because I went through a phase where I was doing too much, it shot my immune system. I probably do about 10-15 hours a week now. A couple of hours a day on average.
What happened when you over-trained?
When I first started in Formula 1, I found that the more sporting activity I did off -track, the more my confidence grew on track. But I got quite unwell and my immune system was in tatters. On Mondays after a Grand Prix, I was doing a minimum of a 60-70 mile bike ride and then Wednesday a 100-mile bike ride. I even used to do 25k on the rowing machine! I wasn't performing any better on the race circuit by doing that so I needed a reality check.
What's the worst injury you've had?
It was actually out of the car. I was competing in an endurance event in Tasmania when I had a head-on collision with a car while riding my bike. I broke my leg badly. I also had a bad crash in Valencia in 2010, I was concussed and had a fractured toe but because I was in good shape I recovered so much quicker. I only had the metalwork from the bike accident taken out of my leg six weeks ago but I am back on the exercise bike today.
Will you remain a fitness fanatic when you quit Formula 1?
I love so many sports, specifically the off-road element. I am a big fan of adventure-running, mountain biking and running off road. I think I'll do a bit of mountaineering after Formula 1, it's new to me but it is so rewarding to do. I also have to complete a sub-3 hour marathon before they put me in a box!