Generic Racer would say it's a travesty that we have a motorsports blog and haven't posted anything about our workouts yet. Fitness is important if you're getting in a race car: fact. You know what else is a travesty? This hardened stalactite of dried mucus that just wouldn't budge.
One of the worst consequences of getting sick—knock-down, drag-down, beat-up sick—is the level at which it interrupts your everyday routine. Not only did I have a family emergency and a troublesome 24 Hours of LeMons car to deal with last month, but I got sick as a dog after racing a LeMon in some of the coldest, wettest weather to hit Texas all Fall.
Stress likely played a significant role in the sore throat that started to develop on Sunday of the race, but I'm also an idiot when it comes to the cold. I probably didn't make enough effort to stay warm and dry all weekend.
I'm a total weenie in the cold. I live in Texas for a reason: I don't have to mess with inclement weather very often. Cold sucks. Most of my race gear was bought with Texas' summers in mind. I'm perfectly happy bathing in a giant fireproof quilt of my own sweat, but by golly, let it be a nicer, lighter, more breathable quilt that actually fits my body shape.
Naturally, both LeMons races this year were so butt-numbingly frigid that I'm convinced that thermal nomex underwear needs to be a thing, and it needs to be a real thing right now. My lightweight, sweat-absorbing balaclava that I'd bought to keep my hair from catching on fire in the summer didn't do a whole lot in freezing temperatures besides make me look like Condom Face. I need enough thick, warm and bulky layers to put Randy from A Christmas Story to shame for this stupid kind of weather.
So, I've spent the past couple weeks in utter misery. I initially refused to go to a doctor because it was just a dumb cold, doctors are expensive, and I've probably built up a good, healthy resistance to the Z-Pack just like every other eighties kid. Doctor visits suck particularly hard when you're funemployed and uninsured, too.
Here's a short list of things I could have bought instead of going to the doctor:
- A spare remanufactured water pump for the 944
- A new tire to replace the chunking flat-spotted Dunlop Z2 on my spare set of wheels
- Most of a tank of tow vehicle diesel
- One of those rare Canadian-market-only Enchanted Puffalumps (unicorn or pegasus)
- TWO oil changes for the 944, all synthetic
- A spare IMSA headset for the 944's radio system to loan out for arrive-and-drives
Finally, my parents got tired of having to communicate via text message only because I couldn't open my mouth without coughing up wads of phlegm and said they'd foot the bill for me to see a doctor. (I still would have rather gotten that spare tire.)
So, lesson number one of race car fitness: don't get sick.
Avoiding illness isn't just a matter of saving your parts budget. It's a matter of not interrupting your entire daily routine. Spending the past couple weeks mostly in bed has also meant that I haven't been able to work out very often, either.
I don't keep a very set routine, but there's a certain list of things I like to accomplish on most days. On that short list is a workout of some sort: something active, where I can move around, build some strength and flexibility, and sweat a little.
If you're wondering what working yourself into a sweaty little sweatball has to do with sitting in a race car, let me explain. When sideways G-forces acting on the car are trying to pull your body one way or another during turns, acceleration and braking—including your surprisingly heavy helmeted bobble-head—you need to be able to hold yourself upright. Strap yourself in as tightly as you want, but if you have a big ol' marshmallow where your abs should be, you're going to have a bad time when you're in the car.
Many racers point to their core (that funny middle section that holds the entirety of you upright) as one of the most important parts to work out. Upper body strength is good to work on, too, particularly if you're driving longer sessions or have a car that doesn't have power steering. (Power steering sucks in a race car. Work on those biceps instead.)
One racer I interviewed this year, Sam Silver, said that rock climbing helped her prepare to go racing more than anything. Not only was it great for her forearms and core, but it helped with relaxation and concentration, too. If you can master the art of calming down to focus on a strenuous task outside of the car, you'll be miles ahead when you go out for a drive.
After two weeks of being sick, I feel like a marshmallow all over. Even though the doctor a week ago said I wasn't contagious, I had irritated my throat from coughing so much that I could barely breathe normally, much less talk.
Then there was the issue of drainage. Snot was a large part of why I was coughing, and I've still got a nagging bit up in my sinuses hanging on for dear life. It drained down my nose. It drained down my throat, irritating my cough further. Every time I sneezed, blew my nose, or painfully hacked up a big, green, occasionally blood-speckled wad of phlegm, my eyes would water and my ears would stuff up from the extra fluid sloshing around in my head.
That's clearly not the right state of health even think about doing a downward-facing dog.
Yoga is usually where I try to build up the aforementioned core and upper body strength. It's relatively low-impact to where you're not constantly bouncing up and down and pounding on your joints, which makes it ideal for if you've ever hurt yourself in any feats that were prefaced by "dude, watch this." Motions have to be as calm, fluid and controlled as possible, and it takes a surprising amount of strength to gracefully stretch and bind your body where you want it.
You know what else requires calm, fluid and controlled movements? Racing.
PorscheMama has an in-depth look at everything that ties together yoga and racing (complete with a core and upper body intensive workout plan), but to me, it's one of the few oddly calming workouts. You spend a lot of time in the same state of calm focus as you do in the car. Somehow my mind goes to the same exact place when I get a tough balancing pose right as it does when I nail turn one at speed at Harris Hill. Don't lift. Toss it in. Straighten it out. Downshift if you're not in the Lulzcer. Throw it in for turns 2 and 3. Good. Gooooood.
All that stretching and flexibility work certainly helps with ingress and egress of tightly caged cabin spaces, not to mention all the awkward positions I end up in when I work on the stupid car.
Secondly, picking a group workout to go to gives me a time where I need to be there. I'm going to do this thing at this o'clock today, and I feel downright accomplished when I do even though it's no huge feat. If you have trouble motivating yourself to get into a big box of a gym and pick out things to do on your own, having a class where someone else does that for you can help keep you motivated to go. Find something that looks interesting and try a bunch of stuff until you find a class that works.
People obsess over maintaining their cars well without considering that they're part of the whole package that makes it all go forward. You only get one butt to put in that seat, so start maintaining it well now.
Same goes for you, too, Guy Who's Only Here Because He Watches A Ton Of Racing On TV. Trust me, taking care of yourself and staying active is only going to get harder as you get older, and when you do get older, you typically have more money to blow on a race car. Don't hose yourself out of future opportunities by not taking care of yourself now.
I decided that yesterday was my opportunity to get back on the workout horse. I've taken all the cold meds as prescribed for almost a full week, rested my throat as much as I could and finally felt as if I could go into a public space without immediately being singled out as Typhoid Mary.
I rushed to wrap up some work from earlier in the day, filled up my giant pink bottle with water, and headed to the usual Monday evening yoga class.
By now, most of the really dribbly snot I'd been battling isn't an issue. I can sniffle it all back into place if I need to. I'm a little short of breath from those last few clumps of mucus tormenting my nasal passages, but not by much. I still can't talk for very long without erupting into a fit of coughing, but otherwise, I feel okay.
My nose felt a little off when I left the house, but I figured that all of the deep breathing of a yoga class and some relaxing sauna time afterwards would do it good.
I arrived at the gym, tossed my stuff in a locker, left my shoes and bottle at one corner of the workout room for easy access, and plopped down my yoga mat at a far enough distance away from other (presumably well) people for me to feel comfortable should I let out a cough or a sneeze. Immediately, I felt some roughness in my throat from having moved from my usual perch in front of my laptop and through the cold night air to get to class. It was probably just some drainage, but I figured I should take care of that now instead of later when we're in the middle of stretching ourselves into oddball positions.
I quickly moved my water bottle and shoes closer over to my mat, hoping I could just drink gobs of water before starting to kill the urge to hack up grody phlegmballs the whole time. The instructor was running late, so this bought me some time. Excellent. I've been a little dehydrated from two weeks of mucus-o-rama and I'll probably sweat more today from being out of shape, so down goes most of my water bottle.
There was an immediate disparity between the two nostrils. One nostril was running ever so slightly. This was annoying, but tolerable. An occasional sniff would keep if from causing a mess.
My right nostril, however, seemed to have a hardened wall of dry, miserable boogers blocking much of the airflow in and out of my nasal cavity. It seemed to be a solid mass, too, right along the arch of cartilage where my nostril flared out into a wider opening. I couldn't quite wiggle my nostril in any way to break it loose. It was stuck in just the wrong location until I could find a tissue or even privately pick it loose.
Yoga focuses a lot on controlling your breath, so feeling like one nostril had been JB-Welded shut was very bad news. I was here, though, and I was bound and determined to alleviate that marshmallowy feeling all over by having a nice workout for the first time in weeks.
I pushed on through the class even though I had to breathe through my mouth more to compensate for my mostly blocked nostril. This, of course, led to more coughing than I had hoped.
Covering my cough could provide the solution I'm looking for, right? I mean, my hand was going right up by my nose. I discreetly tried to jiggle my nose back and forth as I struggled to keep my mouth-germs to myself. No dice. Not a single booger moved out of place.
The few poses where we'd lie on our backs felt like a reprieve. The left nostril would open up completely as the runnier snot in it immediately drained out of airflow's way, allowing me to breathe really well out of that side of my nose.
Anything where I had to hang upside-down, though, was still bad news. I started poking at my right nostril whenever I went into a forward fold. Nope. Still nothin'.
While the class was a less intense one than usual, I was glad that my first workout after some time off wasn't too hard. I still needed to dislodge this now massively uncomfortable wall of nose goblins somewhere private, though. It felt as if it had grown somehow over the course of me sweating through an hour of yoga. Perhaps some of the ooey gooies from the other side of my nose settled on the right and somehow managed to dry out already into an irritating, immovable booger monolith.
The problem with prime-time at the gym is that there is nowhere private, and it's simply not polite to jam even a tissue-covered finger up there all willy-nilly. It looks too much like you're diggin' for gold. All of my attempts to sniff or wiggle this booger out of the way seemed to suggest that it wouldn't be removable with a mere blow. I filled up my water bottle and went to the sauna, somewhat defeated that a booger was still the bane of my existence.
The Finns have this right: saunas are cool. It's a big, hot sweatbox that always makes my skin feel better all over after a workout. Whatever I didn't sweat out before, I'd sweat out now. Plus, I think all this sitting around in the heat waiting for tense muscles to relax makes getting into a hot smelly race car in multiple layers of gear less of a daunting task. I'm used to chilling out in my own sweat.
I was hoping that the heat and all the additional sweating would melt this awkward snotbaby in my right nostril like an ice cube in August.
Nope. No such luck. It did, however, make my cough return for a bit. I drank some more water, caught up on emails, sent a few texts and even sent the boyfriend a photo describing exactly how I felt about this whole immovable booger situation.
"Finally got back to the gym, yessssss. Only problem: there is a stalactite of boogerdom in my right nose that's hardened, uncomfortable, and unpick-/unblowable that's been there the whole time. BOOGERSSSSSSS."
Desperation started to set in. I did not want to put any of my fingers up that nostril to dislodge this behemoth, nor did I want anyone to see. Every time I thought I might be able to sneak a thumb in there for an exploratory probe, someone else would walk by the sauna. No, no. Not here. Get to a tissue like a civilized human being.
Finally, I decided that the steam room may be a better option for this. My cough had subsided from quietly tinkering with my cell phone, stretching tired muscles and sipping on water. Everyone always feels better after a hot shower when they're sick, so an ultra-humid sweatyroom should be just the thing. I put my phone away and walked into the steam room.
Immediately, the last remnants of phlegm clinging to my throat loosened up from the stifling moisture. The steam room tends to be a lower temperature than the sauna, but you feel like it's much hotter because the humidity punches you in the face as soon as you walk in. Thick clouds of steam meant that visibility was poor enough that I could cough a little in the corner and wiggle around the outside of my nose in semi-privacy, though, so I tried to rock my whole nose back and forth in an attempt to unseat this huge wad of dried snot.
It still wouldn't budge even with a room full of steam. By now, this booger had been noticeably there for so long that it was starting to feel like I'd shoved a Cocoa Pebble up my nose, and I was doomed to the eternal punishment of it never coming undone. It was simply stuck, clinging to the same awkward place as when I came in. The runny side of my nose felt great, though, and I hacked up a proper loogie of throat-mucus when I stepped out of the steam room.
I looked again in the locker room for a tissue. No dice. Since when do locker rooms not carry basic amenities like tissues?
Nevertheless, I knew I would have a napkin or something in my car, but then remembered that I had a rental when I went for my keys. That's right: my car and all its glorious hoard of extra napkins is in the shop.
I rushed outside anyway. No one would ever notice a girl picking her nose inside a boring rental car in a dark parking lot. No one. This logic was flawless.
I checked my surroundings. Empty.
I awkwardly fumbled with the rental Yaris' manual door locks, as I've never actually owned a road car with manual locks before. This was the basest of base model rental vehicles, and it was now in the way of me evicting Snotzilla out of my nose.
Finally, I was in.
Alone in my goofy little rental car, I shoved my index finger into my right nostril, dislodging the problem booger at its very base with my fingernail.
That was the single most satisfying nose pick of my life.
So, take better care of yourselves. Always remember to dress for the weather so you can hedge your bets against getting sick, and treat driving as the physical activity that it is. You'd feel unprepared if you were out of shape for any other sport. Building up the strength and stamina to drive well really isn't that different.
Most of all, though, don't get sick.