I recently had my first karting experience in the Affi Indoor Karting track in Italy. I only drove for 20 minutes on a 4-stroke go-kart, which is far from my most extreme adventures. Yet, once I was done, I felt exhausted!
But that was just the beginning. The next day, I was so sore that I couldn’t get out of bed. It felt like I had gone to the gym for the first time, with my ribs and my arms being extremely sore.
Fast forward a week, and I faced the same problem. This time, it was during the middle of the race when my arms started to hurt immensely. Every turn I took felt like I was burning my forearms from the inside.
So why did my body hurt while and after go-karting?
Well, the truth is that karting is a sport. So, just like any other sport, the physical toll on your body is pretty significant. That’s why a 20-minute race feels like a full-body workout, even with lower-class karts.
Can Go-Karting Make You Sore?
Go-karting can make you really sore. I mean, I’m by no means an athlete, but I didn’t expect karting to be this taxing to my body.
The two younger racers that were alongside me on my first race were probably much less sore, considering that they were teenagers. I don’t know if that’s true for the two German fellows who were pushing much more than I was.
Thankfully, I didn’t bump into the other racers while we were racing. If that was the case, I’d probably be bedridden for a couple of days.
Since this was my first couple of times karting, the effects on my body were pretty significant. As I previously mentioned, my arms and ribs were the body parts that took the heaviest hit. But, I also experienced a lot of pain in my hands, back, legs, and neck.
I can only imagine how sore competitive go-kart racers get after a race. Not to mention race car drivers, who have to go through hours of racing. And to think that there are still people out there who believe that racing drivers aren’t athletes is ridiculous.
All of this got me thinking about why go-karting is so exhausting. Before going to Affi, I expected karting to be much less physically demanding than it truly was.
Why Is Karting So Exhausting?
After my first race, I quickly thought about what could have made me so tired once the race was done. It was apparent that I didn’t feel a lot of pain or tiredness during the race due to the adrenaline running through my body.
The G-Forces Are Pretty Taxing On The Body
If you’ve ever watched a Formula 1 race, you’ve most likely seen the G-force graphics or heard the commentators talk about them. What I didn’t expect was to feel similar effects during my go-karting experience.
While I wasn’t going through heavy G-forces, their effects were significant. For those unaware, G-forces are gravitational forces pushing us in different directions. So, even light G-forces are putting a considerable strain on your entire body.
Go-Karts Have No Power Steering
Unlike cars, go-karts don’t have any power steering. So, when you want to steer a kart, you’ll have to put in a lot more strength. Or, you could always go straight on and hit the wall, which will be much more taxing on your entire body.
The steering wheels on a kart are also pretty uncomfortable. This adds an extra layer of resistance when you’re trying to take a turn.
Hydration During A Go-Kart Race Isn’t An Option
This was, in my opinion, the main reason why I was exhausted after the race. During a karting race, you’re obviously not able to drink any water. Add to that a helmet and a race suit, and… well, let me just say that I’ve never sweated so much in my life.
And to think that F1 drivers lose 2-3 kilograms every race due to dehydration. My respect for Checo during the 2021 US Grand Prix skyrocketed!
Karting Is A Cardiovascular Activity
Most people wouldn’t consider karting as a cardio workout. However, as I previously said, the amount of adrenaline running through your body is enormous. This leads to an elevated heart rate, making a go-kart race similar to a 20-minute cardio workout.
While this isn’t a reason why I got sore after the race, it adds to the exhaustion. If you think about it, it’s like doing a cardio workout and resistance training simultaneously.
So, how do these reasons explain the pain and soreness that I felt on different body parts?
Why Do My Arms Hurt After Go-Karting
After a go-kart race, the arms are the ones that take the most significant hit. After all, you’re navigating a kart around a track for 20 minutes with sheer strength.
The absence of power steering is the key factor that leads to your arms getting sore. Even the slightest of turns will require a lot of bicep and forearm strength in order to be executed perfectly. And by perfectly, I mean not hitting the wall.
Your upper arm isn’t the only part that will get sore, however. Due to how the steering wheels are made, you’ll need a ton of grip strength to keep the kart stable on the straights.
The same can be said for the turns, as you’ll have to use a lot of force to turn the kart. Even if you spend a couple of seconds each lap to stretch your fingers and wrists, they’ll still get sore.
From my personal experience, I have to say my arms as a whole were the sorest out of my entire body. During the race, I usually felt the same burning sensation in my forearms that I get when doing hammer curls (or bicep curls).
My fingers were even worse. I used to play a lot of racing games when I was younger, where I’d race for 20-30 laps straight.
When I got off the kart, the pain that I felt was the same as I had when I finished a race on Race Driver: Grid. Thankfully, the soreness was gone the next day.
Why Do My Shoulders Hurt After Go-Karting
Similar to the arms, the shoulders are bound to hurt after a race. However, the soreness isn’t as severe.
The shoulders are under continuous stress throughout a karting race. Since there are no armrests on a kart (it’s a kart, not a couch!), you’ll have to keep your arms lifted.
This doesn’t affect the arms themselves that much, but the shoulders are working hard to keep your body stable. And don’t even get me started on tight corners.
When you need to take a tight turn, you’ll have to shift your whole body. Your upper body needs to stay in place somehow, right? That’s where the upper back and shoulders shine through. And that’s also when you’ll feel like your shoulders are on fire.
But, the G-forces that you go through on every turn have a significant impact on your shoulders. Albeit not being strong, even the slightest of G-forces can hurt your neck. This, in turn, will affect your shoulders during the latter stages of a race.
Thankfully, my shoulders weren’t as sore as the rest of my body. However, I have to admit that I felt my shoulders burning when I was racing for the second time.
The sensation is similar to holding your hands above your head for half an hour holding a dumbbell in each hand. But, once again, the next-day soreness wasn’t that bad.
Why Do My Ribs Hurt After Go-Karting
Ah, the ribs. Do you remember the feeling that we got after P.E class? You’d go back home, have a quick nap. Then you’d wake up feeling like your abdomen was about to explode.
This is the exact same feeling you’ll get after go-karting. Unfortunately, the abdomen takes as much stress as the arms.
Whenever you take a turn, your abdomen’s job is to keep your body stable. So, that’s why the muscles around your ribs will hurt during and after a race.
But, your ribs will usually suffer the most from G-forces. That happens because you’re constantly changing direction while you’re racing. So, your midsection is getting hit by G-forces from every direction.
As you can imagine, having that stress on your ribs for 20 minutes straight isn’t the best.
And I can tell you that my ribs were really sore. The way that I was seated in the kart didn’t help much. My legs were crammed, so I was putting much more stress on my ribs. This has to do with something about the center of gravity, but let’s not get into a scientific analysis.
On top of that, let’s not forget that a karting race is a cardio workout in itself. So, when I was breathing rapidly during the race, it most likely affected my ribs as well.
So, you’re probably wondering how you can avoid all this soreness and pain after go-karting.
How To Avoid Pains And Injuries In Go-Karting
The short answer is that you can’t avoid the pain if you’re go-karting for the first time. It’s like expecting to not feel sore after lifting weights at the gym.
However, there are a few ways that can reduce the soreness after a race and the pain during one.
Participating In Go-Karting Races Regularly
Just like working out, the more often you do it, the less sore you’ll get. The soreness that you feel after a workout or go-karting is absolutely normal.
The stress that’s put on your muscles produces tiny tears on them. But, once they heal up, they’re stronger than before. So, if you take part in karting races more often, you’ll get stronger, and in turn, your soreness will be much less.
Exercising More Often
Notice how I’ve continuously compared working out to go-karting. Unsurprisingly, if you work out more, you’ll be less sore after a go-kart race.
If you think about it, it makes perfect sense. If you get stronger arms, you’ll be able to withstand more stress on them. The same goes for your shoulders, your neck, your abdominal muscles, and so on.
I really don’t know why people forget to stretch out. I mean, I also forgot to stretch after both races I participated in… but that’s beside the point.
Stretching out is crucial after go-karting. When you stretch your muscles, they are less likely to get sore afterward. I’m not the best when it comes to explaining scientific stuff, but this just works for some reason.
That being said, I hope that this doesn’t deter you from going karting. Believe me when I say that karting has been one of the best experiences that I’ve had.
It’s strenuous, and you’ll definitely be sure for the first few times. But, the sheer adrenaline that you get when you go around corners at 60-70km/h is undoubtedly worth the pain.
Stay tuned for more articles just like this one!