Nazareth’s Sage Karam, Ready for Sunday’s Indy 500, Shares His Fitness Tips
It’s 3 a.m., and Jody Karam has a thought. The father of professional racecar driver Sage Karam, Jody is already planning the next step in his son’s never-ending fitness regimen.
“He’ll wake up from a deep sleep and write down programs and ideas for me,” says Sage, a 21-year-old from Nazareth who is in the starting field for Sunday’s 100th running of the famed Indianapolis 500 INDYCAR race. “I show up to train, and he’s all excited about new exercises he wants me to try. I don’t know how he thinks of these things.”
A dedication to personal training helps Karam to rocket toward the front of the pack in racing. Last summer he visited LVHN Fitness–One City Center in downtown Allentown and shared how his commitment to wellness has helped him enjoy life in the fast lane.
A family tradition
“A healthy lifestyle is all I was ever exposed to in our house,” says Karam. That’s easy to understand. His father Jody, a renowned scholastic and collegiate wrestler, has been the Liberty High School wrestling coach for 20 years. His sister Sydnee, once a state champion swimmer, now competes on a national level. Sage himself won state honors as a Nazareth Area High School wrestler.
A trip to the Indianapolis 500 at age 8 inspired Karam to pursue a racing career. At 15, Nazareth racing legend and neighbor Michael Andretti hired him to join the “Road to Indy” racing development program. He finished ninth in his first Indy 500 start in 2014, and then placed a disappointing 32nd after a first-lap crash in last year’s race. On Sunday, he’ll strap into a car fielded by Dreyer & Reinbold – Kingdom Racing for his third consecutive Indy 500 start.
In addition to racing at Indy, Karam will make some starts later this year on the 2016 WeatherTech SportsCar Championship series, driving a Lexus for the F Performance Racing Team.
“Wellness and fitness has always been a way of life, and it certainly translates to auto racing,” Karam says. “It’s a competitive business.”
Man in motion
On the track, Karam is always in high gear. His training is non-stop too. Here’s how he stays fit and fast:
- He bumps up the intensity. Karam’s typical strength training circuits last 20-25 minutes. “But it’s the most intense 20-25 minutes you can imagine,” he says. “From the moment we walk into the gym, you have to have your game face on.” At LVHN Fitness–One City Center last summer, Karam tried a wide range of physical challenges that tested his speed (he ran a 40-yard dash in 5.1 seconds), flexibility, balance, core stability. . . and even his pitching velocity (he threw a baseball 61 mph on the center’s sports simulator).
- He focuses on endurance. “Most of my exercises are geared toward my driving – working on the neck and upper body,” he says. “We work on interval strength training that focuses not only on muscular strength, but muscular endurance as well.”
- He encourages others to challenge him. “I like to have some high school wrestlers perform circuits with me, because they push me,” he says.
- He sneaks in some cardio. Because he’s always had a lean body type, Karam doesn’t go for long runs. “We incorporate cardio training into the strength training,” he says.
- He mixes it up. In particular, his father keeps his fitness routine fresh with those 3 a.m. wakeup calls.
Karam also embraces healthy eating, with a diet that emphasizes protein (steak, chicken) and green vegetables. “It’s always chicken and a green before a race,” he says. “I try to avoid soda and sweets. But being 21, that’s not always easy.”
Karam is confident his commitment to wellness will lead to a strong finish in Sunday’s Indianapolis 500. “Physical conditioning alone won’t win you the race,” he says, “but the guy who is not training his tail off will fade. I won’t.”
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