What To Do In The Gym If You Drive A Lot

Rear View Of a Man Having Neck Pain While Driving a Car
(Image credit: Getty Images)

At the end of a long drive most of us feel tired and ache in certain areas, because sitting in one spot for hours on end is always a strain on your body. You might not think there’s much you can do about this in the gym, but actually you can prepare your body to better handle long drives.

Endurance racing driver Phil Hanson is used to driving for long periods. Hanson won the 2020 24 Hours of Le Mans title in the LMP2 category, as well as winning the FIA World Endurance Championship and European Le Mans Series that year. We spoke to Hanson to find out what he does in the gym to help his body cope with long stints behind the wheel.

How long will you drive for during races?

The regulations for Le Mans say you can’t exceed more than four hours of driving in any six-hour period, but you usually end up being in a car for around two to three hours at a time.

What kind of physical problems typically arise during long drives?

I think it's important to say I don’t have the average seat you get in road cars – it’s a shell moulded to my body so I have a lot more support than the average driver. Still, over time normally what ends up going is the glutes and the lower back, which is actually very similar to the issues people normally get on long car journeys. 

How do you address these problems in the gym?

When I started I needed to build up a lot of strength in these areas through my core. When you start off with any sport, your core and midline are the areas that you tend to focus on because it builds a strong foundation for putting on appropriate muscle and strength in the rest of your body. 

For this specifically, I did a lot of front-loaded lower-body compound movements. So front squats, goblet squats, thrusters. Anything loading the midline from the front ends up working the other side of the posterior chain. 

Would you do short sets with heavy weights, or long sets with lighter weights?

A bit of both – what I didn’t do is the middle ground. I did some really heavy, low reps to build the strength without putting on too much mass, because as a racing driver, you’re trying to remain as light as possible. The other side would be long endurance with some sort of strength work. For instance, metabolic conditioning work with bouts of those movements, keeping a high heart rate. I never do 12-14 rep ranges for lots of sets.

What else can affect the body on long drives?

A lot of cramps and headaches. A lot of it’s down to lack of hydration, so you can avoid a lot of that just by making sure you’re hydrated before a long journey, and hydrating through the journey. 

We add electrolytes tablets to water to make sure that we’re hydrating efficiently. If you’re going to do a long drive, make sure you’re hydrated going into the drive. You don't want to be suddenly drinking loads of water during the drive and having to stop every 30 minutes because your bladder’s full.

Nick Harris-Fry
Senior writer

Nick Harris-Fry is a journalist who has been covering health and fitness since 2015. Nick is an avid runner, covering 70-110km a week, which gives him ample opportunity to test a wide range of running shoes and running gear. He is also the chief tester for fitness trackers and running watches, treadmills and exercise bikes, and workout headphones.