In general then, how much time do you spend exercising, and what kinds of things do you do?
CE: I have been really lucky, in that people understand I need my time to get in some running, and I need healthy food choices when we are eating. Race days are different, but during the week, and especially during the off-season, I am training in some way at least an hour. At home, I train more intensely— I am more productive, when going into the gym for just 20 or 30 minutes, then spend 30 minutes or so on my bike. I really love running. The only training equipment I travel with is my pair of running shoes. Even when we are traveling, I’ll throw on my running shoes and head out for an hour from the airport.
A real challenge in racing is the heat. The suit is Nomex, you wear a helmet, the boots are insulated, and the only circulation is air vented from the outside. I have never weighed myself before and after a race, but I know it takes a couple days to feel myself again, I am sure I am seriously dehydrated by the finish. It is hardest at the start of the season, as it is impossible to duplicate those conditions. [Note: Carmichael’s description of its training for “Four Wheels Motor Sports” takes heat tolerance into consideration – http://trainright.com/coaching/sports-we-coach/motorsports/]
It is not just the drivers who have to stay in shape. I have a great pit crew that trains five days a week on pit activities, and three days a week on physical conditioning.
DG: You mentioned healthy food choices? Have you left fried chicken in your past then, or is there something unique about what you eat?
CE: [Laughter from Carl] When I was first racing, I lived in an apartment by the shop. I had a couple roommates, my cousin, and then one of my friends. They called living with me the “Carl Edwards Weight-Loss Program” because I wouldn’t allow any unhealthy food in the place. My aunt actually sent care packages with cookies, pies and stuff like that because my cousin lost so much weight. I think she thought he was sick.
I don’t really follow a diet, like one from a book. After watching what I eat for so long, and working with the people at CTS, it has become natural for me to avoid junk food and stick with chicken, fish, vegetables, etc. I really try to watch calories in beverages, especially smoothies, as those can add up quickly to several hundred “hidden” calories. I haven’t had soda since I was sixteen or so. That was hard since everyone else drinks it, and I had headaches at first. Now, I don’t really even think about it. I don’t drink any caffeinated beverages really. A lot of guys are grabbing Red Bull, or Monster drinks, something like that. I guess I don’t really think about it.
I tend to stay away from high-fat food, so my diet ends up low in fat. I recently made an effort to include a bit more fat in my diet, and my wife commented on how my skin and hair looked really good, so maybe I was being too strict.
Just like with training, a disciplined person can get into a dieting habit that becomes too much of a sacrifice, or too strict. I tend to stay within limits, but have just recently found that if I relax a bit from time to time, I actually feel a bit better. I am not saying I have cheat meals, or get lazy, but I am willing to accept that it is not what you do all the time, but what you do most of the time.
DG: So, would you say you are making dramatic changes in your physique or conditioning at this point?
CE: I have been at the same weight for the last 10 years. I try to minimize fat in the diet, as that seems to work well for me. The only recent change I have made in my diet is to try to include more fresh fruit.
I never really got into supplements. I would take whey protein from time to time, or a protein RTD at the gym if my schedule was tight. I really prefer eating whole foods.
DG: Being named to the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition is quite an honor. What is the inspiration for you, and what impact do you see the group making?
CE: It has been great working on the Council with Michelle Obama and the other members. It has given an opportunity to reach out and communicate with a large number of people, especially kids, about the value and importance of getting active, doing something every day. I read the report on the impact today’s lifestyle is having on our children. My wife and I have two young children. One sentence that really impacted me was, “The youth of today may, on average, live less healthy and possibly even shorter lives than their parents.”
Working with the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports, and Nutrition has really been rewarding. It is not a political message. It is a message that needs to get to all. I believe everyone has the right to choose the lifestyle they wish, but they need to be aware of the consequences of that choice for themselves and their children. Not everyone is an athlete, but everyone can choose to work on becoming healthier and more physically fit.
DG: Your message carries a lot of impact because of the examples you set. Would you like to close with any last thoughts?
CE: People need to understand this is coming from someone who 10 or 12 years ago laughed at people who spent time working out, someone who ate whatever sounded good, and never considered that physical fitness had any real value at all. Adopting a lifestyle that promotes physical fitness is more than a competitive edge in racing. Knowing I am fit, and that I have become fit through my own actions, is the best part of my life as an individual. I would encourage everyone to try and find that for themselves.
Carl’s dedication and discipline have captured the attention of the American public, extending well outside of NASCAR. Trainer Dean Golich of Carmichael Training Systems commented on Carl’s approach to his training: “Carl’s discipline is a lifestyle discipline. He has dedicated himself fully to his health and fitness; it has become natural for him to make the right choices.”
Demand for Carl’s time continues to expand; yet, he makes himself available to help promote the message of physical fitness. When asked if opportunities would ever take him away from racing, he did not hesitate with his response. As much as he enjoys appearing on television, or working with charities, he can’t see himself ever leaving the track. We wish him a safe and successful season in the 2012 Sprint Cup Series.
Photos by Action Sports Photography, Inc.