Anyone who has ever set foot in a racecar understands how physically demanding the cars can be during competition. We have all heard stories of Cup drivers losing up to 5 to 10 pounds a race because of the extreme conditions. One would have to be very nave to think that being in better physical condition would not benefit the local short track racer.

Even if you are only running 20-lap A-mains, it's not like you are showing up at the track and jumping right into the main and then going home. Races are typically all-day events. You have practice, qualifying, maybe heat races and consolations, then finally the A-main. You can sometimes spend 10 to 12 hours at the track in the heat of the day. So when your A-main comes along, the amount of energy you have left in the tank is crucial.

It is hard to get into a routine of working out and being more physically active. This is especially so for those of us who really don't like to exercise. To compound things, most racers I know have full-time jobs outside of racing, so even finding time to work out can be a challenge. However, the potential payoff is big. Even small changes can lead to big results. You'll notice after a month or two you have more energy, which can be crucial when you are at the track. Under extreme conditions, being physically fit will help you maintain focus and increase your mental and physical durability.

The off-season is a great time to start a workout regimen and establish a routine. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends 30 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity at least five days per week, or vigorous-intensity activity at least three days per week, and strength training at least twice per week for healthy adults. Relax. This doesn't mean you have to spend money and a lot of time in a local gym. It just means you need to be active every day.

Here are 10 tips to help you get started.

1. Choose activities you enjoy.
Moderate physical activity can be anything that gets your heart rate up and makes you break a sweat. For me, simply running can be extremely boring. But a game of tackle football will hold my attention and make me sweat. So if you fall into this category, then choose an activity that piques your interest, such as basketball, biking, hiking, etc.

2. Invest in a set of free weights.
If you do not want to join a fitness center, then I suggest purchasing a set of free weights with a wide range of weights. This will provide you with many different exercises you can perform from inside your own house. A lot of free weight sets come with diagrams that show the proper techniques of using the weights. The trick is that you have to actually use them. Don't buy them to collect dust. But if you do not want to purchase a weight set, then simply doing pushups and sit-ups would be a good start.

3. Strength train twice a week.
Once you have the free weights, you can do some strength training, which we said earlier needs to be done twice a week. This will act as a shock to your muscles and help you increase muscle mass, strength, and durability. This will require 8 to 10 different exercises that will be done with 8-12 repetitions. On the last rep, your muscles should be struggling to lift the weights. There are a number of Internet sites where you can learn specific strength training exercises. One such Web site is maintained by Georgia State University at www.gsu.edu.