Currently placed with a chance to match Michael Schumacher’s record of seven Formula 1 world championship wins, 35-year-old Lewis Hamilton has showed no sign of decelerating in a career that’s seen the Brit rise to the top of his sport.
The Formula 1 legend, who is the sport’s only black driver, has recently shared how he has been “inspired” and made “proud” of the recent #BLM protests and has used his social media presence to help incite much-needed change. He’s also called on his F1 rivals to make their voice and opinion known. “This past week, I have felt so inspired by the thousands of people across the globe using their voices to speak out against racial injustice,” Hamilton wrote on Instagram. “Fighting for real change starts with us, whether peacefully protesting, showing support on social media or signing petitions.”
In a recent interview with Men’s Health, the six-time champ discusses his physical approach to the sport, alongside a key dietary change that, in his words, has led to a “marked improvement in my fitness level” and made him “more mobile and in better shape” than he was a decade ago.
Men’s Health: Next season, you have the chance to match Michael Schumacher’s record of seven Formula 1 world championships. Nervous?
Lewis Hamilton: I honestly don’t think about it much. I don’t want it to be a distraction. I’m currently the world champion but, every year, I start from scratch. I just want to be at the top of my game in a physical sense, just as I want my car to be the best in terms of engineering. How can I make sure I’m ahead of everyone else? How can I be more consistent, meticulous and precise? How can I better understand the technology? That’s what I focus on.
MH: What do you do to stay at the top, physically speaking?
LH: I like lifting weights, but I have to make sure that I don’t overdo it. Formula 1 drivers can’t be too heavy: more muscle means more kilos. It’s also disadvantageous to put too much muscle on your shoulders and arms, because you need to have a low centre of gravity in the car. It’s important to have a good cardiovascular system as a driver. Over the course of a two-hour race, you might have an average heartbeat of 160-170bpm. During qualifying, it can go up to 190bpm. That’s why I do a lot of running. Sprints are a part of every workout.
MH: How has your training evolved since you started out in F1 almost 15 years ago?
LH: When I was young, I had a lot of energy and felt I could do anything. I didn’t have a strategy, and I didn’t stretch: I just got in the car and drove to win. But over the years, I’ve experimented with a number of different disciplines, like boxing and muay Thai. These days, I do lots of pilates, focusing on the core – the muscles beneath the muscles.
“I’m more mobile and in better shape than I was at 25.”
MH: What’s your approach to nutrition?
LH: Three years ago, I decided to follow a plant-based diet. The only thing I regret is not having done it before. My taste buds have learned about things that I never thought I would eat and that I now love: falafel, avocado, beetroot, fresh and dried fruit. I’ve also noticed a marked improvement in my fitness level since I switched, which is motivating.
MH: So, you credit your plant-based diet with helping you stay at your peak?
LH: I was already at the top before changing my approach to food, but I was definitely struggling more and my energy was inconsistent. I had days when I felt strong and others when I was just sapped. When I switched to a plant-based diet, those highs and lows decreased significantly. I’ve also noticed positive effects on my sleep and on my health in general. The benefits keep coming, and I’ve honestly never felt better. I’m 35 now, and though theoretically I should be less fit than before, I’m more mobile and in better shape than I was at 25.
MH: F1 is high octane, high adrenaline. How do you rest and recharge?
LH: Unplugging is a fundamental part of my routine. It’s so important to decompress after a race, so you can face the next one with a clear mind. I love spending time with my friends and family. Being with them helps me relax and focus my energy. But I can’t live without adrenalin. I love anything that makes my heart beat faster, whether that’s skiing, sky-diving, surfing or training.
MH: What are you most proud of achieving in your career?
LH: I was the first working-class, black F1 champion. I’m proud to have paved the way for others. One of my favourite phrases is: “You can’t be what you don’t see.” Anyone who sees me on the podium, even if it’s a child, can be inspired to follow their dreams. If that happens, I’ll have done my job well. Diversity is a problem that Formula 1 has to face up to. I want to do my part in helping the sport make progress, not only by inspiring others but also by collaborating to create more opportunities for people from different communities.
This article originally appeared on Men’s Health UK.
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