Patrick is the first woman to win an IndyCar race and posted the highest-ever finish for a woman in the Indianapolis 500 (she placed third overall). The boundary-breaking bombshell’s latest endeavor is a new kind of challenge, however. She’s teamed up with four other celebrities for the Drive4COPD campaign, an effort to promote health screenings for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), a blanket term that includes the lung diseases chronic bronchitis and emphysema.
The fourth leading cause of death in the U.S., COPD kills more than 100,000 people each year. While over 12 million Americans have been diagnosed with COPD, an equal number are believed to be living with the disease without knowing it.
Patrick sat down with Health.com and discussed what it’s like to be a female in a man’s world, how she stays healthy on the road (and track), and why COPD is close to her heart.
What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced as a woman in the traditionally male world of auto racing?
As I came up through the ranks, it was really a matter of getting people to believe that I could accomplish what I knew I could accomplish, and that I have the same capabilities as a guy. You really have to prove to people you can do it; maybe in my position I have to prove it more than once. But being a girl has also opened doors. You get people’s attention by being someone different.
One thing I remember is to always put 100% effort in. I always do everything I can to prepare, and as long as I’ve done those things, I know I’ve done everything I can. Then it’s just a matter of experienceand a little luckand I can rest easy knowing I’ve done my best.
What do you do off the track to stay in shape?
Racing is an interesting balance of strength and endurance. I lift weights a lotdriving cars is more work than it looks, and I lift weights to stay strong. I do cardio for the endurance. I like to run; I’ve been a runner for a long time.
In the off-season I like to take the weight training out of my program because I think the body needs a little break from big, heavy weights and asking a lot of your muscles. I do yoga in the off-season because I think there are three really important pieces to fitness: flexibility, strength, and endurance. Working out doesn’t have to take long, but it should be demanding. You should break a sweat and should be breathing heavy.