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NASCAR’s Mark Martin’s inner drive

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in Leaders & Managers,Profiles in Leadership,Workplace Communication

Here’s how NASCAR great Mark Martin, now in his 50s, stays fit as a box of lug nuts and faster than most young drivers:

He’s a perfectionist. He admits it. The floors of his office, airplane hangar and garage are spotless. He packs for a two-day trip two days ahead. He turns down his bed an hour early because when he’s ready to go, “I like to hit it.”

He does it now. He doesn’t need a trainer because “If I have a trainer, I have a schedule.” For most people, that would be good, but “What if I wake up at 6 a.m. and want to work out, but the session isn’t until 7?”

If he finds a burned-out light bulb when he gets home from a race at 2:30 a.m., he replaces it: “I don’t like things not to work. It drives me crazy.”

He’s fit as a fiddle. Diet and exercise—daily 90-minute workouts and a Spartan meal plan—are Martin’s anti-aging medicines. He hasn’t missed a workout in 21 years. Asked about holidays, he says, “No, that’s ridiculous.” Asked about pain, he snaps, “Tough stuff.”

He’s resilient. After a dismal patch from 2003 to 2006, Martin, “the Mick Jagger of NASCAR,” came roaring back in 2009. How? “You just exhale at first,” he says, cranking back to part time in 2007 and 2008. Then, “it was like, OK, what do I love to do? Well, I kind of like racin’—if it’s a fast car.”

He adapts with wit as well as grit. At his age, it may take him a nanosecond longer in reaction time, but his strategies are cleverer, as they were when he won a race in Michigan by conserving fuel and running out of gas only 500 feet before the finish line.

— Adapted from “The Old Man And the Wheeee!” Selena Roberts, Sports Illustrated. Flickr Photo: American NASCAR driver, Mark Martin being introduced during the 2007 Daytona 500.

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