High-Intensity Training Helps IndyCar Star Charlie Kimball Beat Diabetes and Stay on Track

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In the midst of chasing your dream to make it to the next level, imagine finding out you have a chronic disease. Many people would give up, believing the disease prevents them from improving their athletic performance. But being diagnosed with Type 1 [insulin-dependent] diabetes did not stop Indy Car rookie Charlie Kimball. He both prepares for the rigors of the track and manages his diabetes through physical training.

Commenting on the need for drivers to be in peak physical condition, Kimball says, "A lot of people underestimate how physical driving a 650-horsepower IndyCar is. It's important to be able to stay strong mentally from start to finish, and to do that you've got to be in tremendous physical shape, so you can be aggressive and push opponents as you need to."

A week before a race, Kimball focuses on reaction-based training, preparing himself for the quick decisions he has to make on the track. At other times, he performs lots of high-intensity training, mimicking the driving experience as much as possible. For example, he does Kettlebell Single-Arm High Pulls and Shoulder Presses on an Indo Board to challenge his upper body, core and balance. [Read a previous STACK Blog post on Indo Board training.] He says,"We use a lot of kettlebells, a lot of complex motions, a lot of balance training."

Kimball also incorporates interval training to simulate the fatigue he experiences driving an IndyCar. And he says, "I find the training actually makes my diabetes management easier. The exercise also encourages me to stay hydrated, which allows me to keep my blood glucose numbers in a healthy range."

Kimball performs both the Kettlebell High Pull and Shoulder Press on an Indo Board. Young athletes should begin on the ground to perfect their form. Once that's done, move onto an Indo Board or other unstable surface to also work balance.

Kettlebell Single-Arm High Pull

  • Assume athletic stance on Indo Board with knees bent, back flat and chest high
  • Hold kettlebell with straight arm just above ground
  • Explode upward by fully extending hips, knees and ankles and shrugging with straight arm
  • Pull kettlebell up, keeping it close to body
  • Return to start; repeat for specified reps
  • Perform set with opposite arm

Sets/Reps: 2-3x8-12 per arm

Shoulder Press

  • Assume athletic stance on Indo Board holding dumbbells at shoulders
  • Keeping core tight, drive dumbbells overhead until arms are straight
  • Lower dumbbells to start position with control and repeat for specified reps

Sets/Reps: 2-3x8-12

Don't let race car driving fool you. Those guys are not just sitting in their cars, working the pedals and taking left turns all day. Like other professional athletes, they must engage in high intensity training in order to win. A bonus for Kimball: it also helps him win the battle against diabetes.

Photo Credit: Getty Images // Thinkstock