A year after retiring from professional racing, Danica Patrick is still going full speed ahead. The former IndyCar and NASCAR driver, 37, has launched a weekly podcast, Pretty Intense, where she interviews professional athletes, top chefs, and nutrition and wellness experts on how to achieve both success and balance.
“I believe each and every one of us has the power within ourselves to create the life we really want,” Patrick says. “I hope my podcast will inspire people to conquer their dreams, both personally and professionally.”
Patrick’s guests have included former New York Yankees star Alex Rodriguez, discussing how he overcame his baseball suspension to become a successful business investor and real estate mogul, and nutritionist Melissa Hartwig Urban, talking about healthy eating and her Whole30 program.
Patrick’s podcast also ties in with her book “Pretty Intense: The 90-Day Mind, Body and Food Plan That Will Absolutely Change Your Life” (Avery, 2017), a plan that Patrick herself follows and one she hopes to soon make available as a mobile app.
“My Pretty Intense program was born from a place of being stuck in a predictable routine with food and exercise,” Patrick explains. “I knew I needed to shake things up, and this is the plan that really worked for me.”
By combining tips on how she maintains mental, physical and nutritional wellness, Patrick hopes her Pretty Intense podcast and book will inspire others to live healthier lives.
Sculpt your body. While Patrick has always embraced fitness, her exercise routine has changed over the years. She’s found that doing shorter, more intense workouts, combining strength training with cardio, work best for her.
Even though she ran every day and did yoga several times a week, Patrick found she had no muscle definition.
That all changed when she started working with a personal trainer to increase her strength as a race-car driver.
“I learned you can change the size of your body with cardio but you’ll never change the shape of your body without adding weights to your exercise routine,” Patrick says. “Weight training can help you build lean muscle and lose body fat.”
Now there’s rarely a day that goes by where Patrick just does cardio. Her exercise regimen includes high-intensity interval training and combines aerobic exercise with calisthenics (push-ups and burpees) and weights. Patrick often posts her workout on her Instagram page @danicapatrick.
Eat the best foods. Patrick loves to cook, and her book contains more than 50 recipes she developed herself.
“Cooking is one of the most therapeutic things I do,” she says. “I primarily eat a Paleo pescatarian diet, focusing on food that’s high-density nutrition and sourced both locally and organically.”
As part of her Pretty Intense nutrition plan, Patrick recommends eating more grass-fed beef, poultry, fish and game, vegetables, fruits such as berries, melons, citrus and apples, nuts, seeds and eggs. When it comes to foods to avoid, Patrick suggests eliminating gluten and dairy, soy-based foods, corn or vegetable oil and sugar. She also recommends cutting back on beans, lentils, peas and other legumes, as well as gluten-free grains such as rice, oats and quinoa that are packed with empty calories.
“Nutrition has everything to do with feeling good, not just looking good,” Patrick says. “Eating right makes you function and feel better.”
Calm your mind. Patrick began practicing yoga at age 19 while living in England, but she says that in recent years, she’s come to appreciate both the mental and meditative side of yoga.
“Through the years, there have been periods I would practice yoga for a long time and then take some time off,” she says. “I’m such a Type A person that likes physical challenges, but I’ve started to realize how powerful the mental side of yoga is. I’ve become more consistent.”
Patrick says yoga allows her to connect with her breath, turn her thoughts off, and return to something repetitive and simple. She also created a “woman cave” in her home to have a place to practice yoga and store her art materials.
“It ultimately became a sacred space,” Patrick says. “I encourage others to carve out a space in their home where they can focus their minds and re-engage with their passions.”
Embrace your fitness goals. Having a clear set of goals is the first step toward improving your physical fitness, Patrick says.
“I see people who go to the gym and aren’t sure what to do, so they jump on an elliptical machine,” Patrick says. “If you don’t know what to do, you’re very limited in the gym. I don’t go to the gym without an exercise plan for what I want to accomplish that day.”
For those who are unsure how to set realistic goals, are uninspired by their workout routine, or need guidance or accountability, Patrick recommends working with a personal trainer.
“In my book, I don’t just tell readers what type of exercises to do, but I also offer them the tools and techniques,” she explains. “Your exercise goals should be long range and go beyond just losing weight. For me, exercise isn’t just about looking good, it’s also about but feeling good, and enjoying both the physical and mental challenges that exercise brings.”
Photo credit: Scott McDermott