I'm A Competitor: Jimmie Johnson

May, 20, 2014
May 20
11:41
AM ET
Jimmie JohnsonKevork Djansezian/Getty ImagesJimmie Johnson often trades his helmet and fire suit for running shoes and goggles.
California-born six-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Champion Jimmie Johnson has always been competitive. From swimming and BMX bike racing as a kid to racing cars, running and competing in triathlons as an adult, the 38-year-old resident of Charlotte, N.C., is in it to win it.

When he’s not driving his No. 48 Lowe’s Racing car around the track, Johnson spends time with his family, does youth-based philanthropic work for the Jimmie Johnson Foundation, exercises and encourages others to get fit through the Jimmie Johnson Foundation Wellness Challenge. In February, he ran the Daytona Beach Half Marathon in 1:28:16, good enough for a third-place finish in the 35-59 age group.

How does running contribute to your driving?

My job is far more physical than most give us credit for. Having cardiovascular fitness is important. Running has been the cornerstone of my training for a long time—it’s easy to do when I travel. With NASCAR racing, the cars have become so tough that the drivers are the weak link. Fitness has become important and most drivers are training pretty hard.

How has your running and triathlon coach, Jamey Yon, helped you?

We really hit it off. I like that he’s had such a great career and he still trains hard. He’s also right beside me for a lot of my workouts. He pushes me but will change things up on the go if there’s a day when I don’t have it.

What’s a typical training week look like for you?

I work out six days a week and race on Sundays. Since I’m usually pretty wiped out from driving, I don’t have the intensity for anaerobic work on Mondays or Tuesdays, so Monday is my long run day and Tuesday is my long swim day. By Wednesday I start to feel recovered and add in speed work.

Do you ever run on racetracks?

Sometimes they open them up to us for walking, running and cycling, and it’s great. Some tracks are banked really steep, and you end up running on the inside apron to save your ankles. But it can be a good opportunity to check out the surface of the asphalt, the age and properties of it.

Gear to go

I’m really curious about my stats and have an arsenal of Garmin devices. I always wear a watch and heart-rate monitor.

No tunes

I have a lot of noise in my life and like the quiet on my runs—nothing in my ears. I think a lot about my job, racing and what we’re doing with the car.

Post-race splurge

Knowing I have an ice-cold beer waiting for me at the finish line helps me push through to the end.

Favorite places to run

Charlotte, with its big, beautiful trees and safe neighborhoods making it a tough place to beat for running. But we race near Chicago once a year, and I look forward to running along Lake Michigan. I also love running in New York City -- through Manhattan, the Financial District, on the West Side Highway and up to the George Washington Bridge.

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