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The Performance Life

Mark Martin's Longevity Roadmap

Jerry Markland / Getty Images

With young NASCAR drivers like Joey Logano rising fast, it’s easy to underestimate experience. Or fitness, for that matter. But at age 50, when most drivers have handed over the wheel, Mark Martin is still racing strong. At just 5-foot-6 and 130 pounds, he’s among the smallest drivers and attributes his longevity to a conditioning program he adopted more than 20 years ago after purchasing Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Encyclopedia of Bodybuilding.

For years, he tried to keep his conditioning a secret, not wanting his competitors to find out what was giving him the strength and endurance to thrive on long Sunday afternoons of racing in temperatures that average 130 degrees in the car.

By the mid-1990s, word got out and soon Martin’s workout regimen and washboard abs were being profiled in fitness magazines and on television. A teenager named Carl Edwards, an aspiring driver, figured he better start training if he wanted to reach NASCAR’s premier division.

By 2006, Edwards was a teammate of Martin’s at Roush Racing and showing off his own washboard on the covers of ESPN the Magazine and Men's Health. These days, Edwards is one of NASCAR’s top young stars. Martin, who has changed race teams several times in recent years, now drives for Hendrick Motorsports in 2009 alongside Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson, and Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Martin’s commitment to training offers some lessons that can improve longevity and performance in any field:

Get a mental edge.

“Racing is very physical and mental and you’re always just inches away of being out of control,” Martin says. “The training I do can mean the difference in the decisions I make under extreme fatigue. Make the wrong decision and it could end your career.”

Prolong your career.

“I’ve had bad wrecks, but because I’m in good shape, I’ve been able to walk away,” Martin says. “Other guys get injured and have to sit out. Training keeps me in the car and I know it’s extended my career.”

Deal better with stress.

A NASCAR driver’s life is non-stop, traveling around the country to races, dealing with sponsor commitments, and trying to fit in family time. “Training has helped me deal with the stress of my career and during difficult times enabled me to put things behind me,” he says. “For that one hour of training, at least, you can concentrate on something else.”

Set an example.

Martin had a hard-living reputation in his twenties, something he knew he had to change if he were to thrive in a career where attracting sponsors is a necessity. “Being a NASCAR driver is high-profile. You’re a role model for kids and an ambassador for major companies. I knew that if I wanted to be successful in my career I needed to live the part of a clean family man. Now parents can be comfortable with their kids looking at me and saying they want to be like Mark Martin because he has good morals and is a positive influence. And lifting weights helped bring that transformation about.”

About The Author

Pete Williams – Pete Williams is a contributing writer for CorePerformance.com and the co-author of the Core Performance book series.

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Tags: Attitude, Sports Performance, Motivation, Longevity, Stress, Pressure