How do you feel, physically? Take a moment and think about the past few weeks. Is your energy level lower than normal? Do you run out of breath easily? Do you have trouble keeping your weight down? Are you huffing and puffing at the end of five laps? If you don’t like your answers to these questions, keep your chin up and turn that frown upside down, because there is hope!
The sad fact is that seven out of the 10 leading causes of death are preventable through diet and exercise. Heart disease, diabetes and stroke are byproducts of our fast-paced, technology-driven, sedentary lifestyle. Physical labor used to be a regular part of everyday living. Today, with gardeners, mowers, grocery stores and fast food, things have changed. We need to adapt to this new way of life—by going back to some of our old ways.
Adopting a healthy lifestyle isn’t easy at first, but if you love motocross, you love a challenge, because nothing about the sport of motocross is easy. Besides, you should be motivated by the fact that every aspect of living a healthy lifestyle directly affects the way you feel on the bike. The more conditioned you are, the longer you can ride. The longer you can ride without fatigue, the faster you will go—even if just by the law of averages.
The MXA wrecking crew believes that you can be factory-rider fit in six weeks. Note that we didn’t say factory-rider “fast” or factory-rider “rich.” We want to help you be a better motorcycle racer by taking care of the pistons and valves in your body and consuming the right fuel so you can reach your full potential.
FINDING MOTIVATION IS THE KEY TO FOLLOWING THROUGH WITH YOUR GOALS.
You have to be motivated to stick to a plan and follow through with your goals. Don’t be like the trendy New Year’s-resolution crowd. You know the ones. They pack the gyms on January 3rd of every year and are never seen again after February 3rd. Before we can help you, or you can help yourself, you have to commit to sticking with the program. Nothing worthwhile comes easily, and if you quit before the big changes start happening, you will never see results. Remember, no matter how hard you are working, it’s going to take six weeks to see or feel any significant changes in your body. Be patient. Don’t listen to the late-night-TV infomercials. Don’t buy miracle powders. Don’t fall for quick-weight-loss gimmicks. They are a waste of time, discouraging and possibly even toxic.
Make a plan and start. Nothing leads to failure faster than a case of the “tomorrows.” Have you ever said, “I’m going to start training on Monday.” There is no better time than now! If you have trouble with planning, use the chart provided to keep you on track. We all have busy lives, and it’s hard to find the time necessary to commit to a routine, but where there is a will, there is a way.
THE MORE DAYS YOU CAN RIDE, THE BETTER. BUT, WE AREN’T TALKING ABOUT THREE LAPS AT THE LOCAL TRACK AND THEN BACK INTO THE PITS TO TELL YOUR FRIENDS HOW YOU JUMPED THE BIG DOUBLE.
Fortunately, racing motocross is training. This weekend’s race is training for next month’s race. Look at every ride as an opportunity to improve your fitness. The more days you can ride, the better. But, we aren’t talking about three laps at the local track and then back into the pits to tell your friends how you jumped the big double. Nope. You have to use riding, practicing and racing as part of your grand plan—the fun part.
There are many different ways to train when riding. Each has a specific purpose and can be plugged into your weekly schedule. Here are some examples.
High-intensity/high heart rate. Don’t lollygag around your local track or riding area. Pick a specific amount of time (at least 10 minutes), and give it everything you’ve got. Sprint flat out! Don’t coast through the corners. Don’t look around to see if your friends are watching. Don’t waste time with useless no-footers or mediocre scrubs. Ride hard enough to increase your heart rate. As a general rule, don’t do two high-intensity days in a row. You will burn yourself out if you do too much too soon.
Long-duration/medium heart rate. Pick a timed distance that is beyond what your local track normally requires you to do. Let’s say 30 minutes. Now, go out and ride. Don’t sprint, hammer or go anaerobic. Just ride at a fast pace and try to maintain it. No matter how much your speed falls off, don’t quit until you have gone the whole distance. The goal is to discover what your limit is, and then raise the bar with every ride.
Light-intensity/low heart rate. If you can ride three days a week, you should fit one high-intensity day, one long-ride day and one short-ride day into your schedule. A better name for the light-intensity/low-heart-rate drill is play riding. Having fun is part of training. It is why we ride in the first place. You can climb hills, practice turn drills or work on your scrub—as long as you enjoy it.
If you can only ride two times a week and one of them is Sunday’s race, rotate high-intensity, long- and short-ride days midweek, and use the races as your high-heart-rate sprint.
WE CAN’T ALL GO TO THE TRACK EVERY DAY. THE DEMANDS OF MODERN LIFE OFTEN KEEP US AWAY FROM THE TRACK MONDAY THROUGH FRIDAY. DON’T VEGETATE IF YOU CAN’T RIDE.
It is possible, even desirable, to spend most of your six-week conditioning time just riding your bike, but real life often interferes. We can’t all go to the track every day. The demands of modern life often keep us away from the track Monday through Friday. Don’t vegetate if you can’t ride. Choose an alternate form of conditioning. Join a running club. Start mountain biking with your friends. Cycle to work. Go to the weekly criterium practice race in your town. Or, join a nighttime basketball league.
If you would love to go to the local track and put in a couple hard motos (of 20 minutes or more) but can’t do it, try a 30-minute high-intensity run, a 45-minute road ride or a pickup hoops game. The goal is to keep active regardless of your situation. As your fitness progresses, you can start to combine a hard day of riding with a high-intensity run or bike ride. Just be aware of what your body is telling you. Too much too quickly will lead to overtraining and possible injury.
It isn’t training if you just do it one day a week. To gain benefits from exercise, you have to push yourself at least three times a week, which could work out to be a race day, a mountain bike day and a day at the gym. It is the consistency of training that yields results. Training hard one day a week probably tears you down more than it builds you up, but add two other training days to that schedule and you are on your way to fitness.
WHEN YOU WERE A KID, YOU WERE LIKE THE ENERGIZER BUNNY—YOU JUST KEPT GOING AND GOING, DAY IN AND DAY OUT.
You only can train as hard as you can rest, and, as you age, recovery time becomes even more critical. When you were a kid, you were like the Energizer Bunny—you just kept going and going, day in and day out. Unfortunately, as the years passed, you got busy with life and became more sedentary. And when you did exercise, you discovered aches and pains that you never noticed at 13 years old. As you age, your body produces less of a chemical called HGH (aka the anti-aging drug), which is one of the reasons your body can’t keep up the way it used to. The older you are, the more time it takes to recover from exercise. After a hard day of training, your body needs time to repair the broken-down muscles and tendons. If you don’t give it that time, you will wind up experiencing diminished performance, illness or even injury.
But, taking time off doesn’t necessarily mean plopping yourself on the couch for the day. Active recovery is better than passive recovery, because it increases blood circulation, which helps remove lactic acid from your muscles. The activity you choose for active recovery should not raise your heart rate above 110 beats per minute. Your exertion level should be comparable to a brisk walk. Not everyone has access to a gym, but if you belong to a gym, spend a little time on the elliptical machine. It works both your arms and legs—unlike cycling, which only works your legs.
YOU CAN LIFT WEIGHTS IF YOU WANT BULGING MUSCLES TO IMPRESS THE GIRLS, BUT BUSTING OUT CURLS CAN LEAD TO DREADFUL ARM PUMP DOWN THE ROAD.
Clearly you need to be strong to manhandle a 240-pound bike. How can you get stronger? You can lift weights if you want bulging muscles to impress the girls, but busting out curls can actually hinder your riding and lead to dreadful arm pump down the road. The best strength-training exercises are prehabilitation exercises. These exercises are designed to prevent injuries by strengthening your whole body and correcting muscular imbalances.
Everyone knows riding is a high-risk sport, so it is important to do what you can to stay injury-free. If you have been around motocross long enough, you know the kinds of injuries that are common in this sport. At the top of the list are bad knees, rolled shoulders and thoracic kyphosis (hips rolled forward). So, right off the bat, you should be looking to keep these areas strong and solid.
Knees and hips: The best exercises for your knees and hips focus on strengthening and elongating your hamstrings and glutes. Squats and Romanian dead lifts are good examples, but be sure to focus on proper technique.
Shoulders: Simple rotator-cuff exercises with light weights can help you avoid rounded shoulders and dislocations. Internal and external shoulder rotations and back rows (make sure to squeeze your shoulder blades together) will help keep those shoulders rolled back and the secondary muscles nice and strong.
As you build core strength, you also need to focus on staying flexible. Flexibility is a weak point for most motocrossers. As you hammer through whoops and land hard from big jumps, you eventually become a compact, tight, coiled bundle of muscles. Every time you flex your muscles or brace yourself for a jolt, you compress the muscles further—and they don’t always decompress. And for nine-to-fivers, hunching over a computer is equally bad. But, you can elongate those muscles, find your central balance point, and become more flexible with just a few minutes of remedial exercise every day. Develop a full-body stretching routine and stick with it. Make sure to hold each stretch for at least 30 seconds, and always stretch when your body is already warmed up or after a workout. Don’t be too proud to go to a yoga class with your significant other.
THERE ISN’T A SINGLE FACTORY RIDER ON THE NATIONAL CIRCUIT WHO ISN’T ON A STRICT DIET—NOT A DIET TO LOSE WEIGHT, BUT A DIET TO GAIN STRENGTH AND FITNESS.
It’s time for some brutal honesty. If you know you eat poorly and think you feel good, you’re wrong. If you think eating junk won’t catch up with you, you’re wrong. If you think fast food is just good food made fast, you’re wrong. There isn’t a single factory rider on the AMA National circuit who isn’t on a strict diet—not a diet to lose weight, but a diet to gain strength and fitness.
We aren’t just pointing the finger at your eating habits, because the MXA wrecking crew has its fair share of fast-food junkies, but at least they aren’t deluded into believing that it’s good for them. They know that eating healthy will not only make them feel better now, but pay big dividends down the road. Yes, it is harder to eat healthy food than to grab a quick burger at the drive-in. But, like it or not, if you’re eating fast food now, you’re going to be paying big health consequences later.
The food you eat is fuel, the same as gas is fuel for your bike. Your bike won’t run right on bad fuel—and neither will you. So, what should you eat? Skip steak and prime rib and choose lean meats such as turkey breast, chicken breast and fish. Find assortments of legumes, nuts, fruits and vegetables that you enjoy snacking on. Here are a few guidelines you should follow.
(1) Look for minimally processed foods that have a short list of ingredients.
(2) Eat breakfast early to get your metabolism going and your body ready for the day.
(3) Plan ahead and bring snacks when riding or working out so your body doesn’t run on empty. You have a maximum two-hour window to refuel your body after exercise. Wait any longer and the workout was a waste.
(4) Don’t be a statistic. There are enough government reports and health-foundation white papers on what’s good for you and what isn’t. Pay attention to them.
If you want to be factory-rider fit, you have to start by taking control of your life. No excuses. Find your motivation and set goals that are achievable. For example, pick a big race that is coming up in two months and vow to be leaner, meaner and fitter for that big day. Throw procrastination out the window. Take the next six weeks seriously and see your body—and your life—transformed. Not only will you be healthier, but you will be better at the thing you love most—motocross.