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Motocross Training

By Carl Bastedo


When you hear Motocross referred to as one of the most physically demanding sports in the World, they are referring to the professional level. The sport is very physically demanding at any level, but the faster a rider goes and the longer the race, the more demanding the sport is physically.
Riders can develop a “Motocross Training Lifestyle”, at any age. The earlier the better, (of course limited for those under 14) because then training will become routine to you. Many people immediately think of training as pumping iron. I used to marvel at the stamina of Bob Hannah. He was a skinny little kid but seemed to have more strength and get less tired than most of the competition. He knew something the other riders didn’t. How to train properly for racing motocross.

It’s very important before embarking on an exercise program or riding to warm up and stretch, two entirely different things. Warm up and stretching exercises will help prevent injury before exercising or riding. To warm up you can just do a brisk walk, run on the spot, ride a bike for 5 minutes etc. just enough to break a sweat. Stretching exercises should follow. Cool down as well, a walk will do, don’t just go and jump into a cold shower after working out, don’t cool down to quickly.

Motocrossers must do more than just “pump iron”. TRAINING FOR MOTOCROSS IS DIFFERENT THAN TRAINING FOR MOST SPORTS. The reason for this is the heart rate reached during actual competition. At the professional level, the riders heart beats from 180 to 200 beats per minute during actual competition, even during practice it is not uncommon for the heart rate to run a 160 beats per minute. This rate seems to maintain the entire race or practice session. The high risk and extreme competitiveness of the sport contributes to this high heart rate and Hannah understood this more than most. Aerobic exercises such as running, bicycling, or swimming are a must. You should take part in these activities, AT A HIGH LEVEL, twice a week during race season and 3 times per week if you are not racing or practicing regularly. Start exercising 5 to 15 minutes and building yourself up to 30 to 40 minutes. Nothing wrong with switching activities week to week.
Check your heart rate often, (hold your wrist where you can feel the heart beat and count the beats for 10 sec., then multiply by 6 to get beats per minute). Always stop immediately if you feel breathless or light headed. You should be training at 80% of your total aerobic output. How you figure that is 220 minus your age, say 20 years, would give you 200, 80% of 200 is 160, which is what your heart rate should be during training. If it is less you can push harder and last longer. If more, slow down and build up slowly to a higher level.

The second thing about motocross is the extremely high lactate concentrations in the muscles of the legs, forearms and buttocks. Muscles held in the motocross riding position for long periods can cut off their own blood supply and lactate can build up. The pain and fatigue a rider feels is in direct proportion to the amount of accumulated lactate. Stage 2 of your exercise program should include isometric and isotonic exercises. Isotonic exercises will improve the blood supply and speed up lactate removal in certain muscles while Isometric exercises will help train your muscles for little movement which happens when you are straining in the riding position. You should train using these exercises 2 to 3 times per week as well.
Isometric exercises— These exercises are NOT for people with high blood pressure or any type of heart problem. An example of an Isometric exercise is to push against a brick wall and maintain that position for 6 to 8 seconds. Then relax a moment and repeat 5 times. You can also purchase inexpensive aids such as Medicine Balls, Power balls for your forearms, Resistance Bands etc. Stress is something we discuss in our physcological section. The art of Tai Chai has a number of Isometric exercises and also can help reduce stress for the motocrosser and therefore, it is something you may consider.
Isotonic exercises— These are the ones you love. Free weights, dumbells, bar bells, or fixed equipment like Nautilus etc.

So, if you live in Ontario you would probably exercise 6 days a week from November thru March and 4 days a week April thru October. Running, bicycling etc. one day and doing your Isometric and Isotonic exercises the other. ALWAYS REMEMBER TO WARM UP & STRETCH PRIOR TO EXERCISING OR RIDING AND COOL DOWN PRIOR TO HITTING THE SHOWERS OR RESUMING YOUR REGULAR ACTIVITY.

Diet is also a factor to help the pain and fatigue caused by the lactate buildup by increasing the level of glycogen in the muscles. See our section on “Motocrosser’s diet”. Drink lots on race day and when exercising. Water, real fruit juices, high energy drinks—SoBe, Powerade, Gatorade etc.
You can easily develop your own exercise program based on the above information. Make yourself a little chart and keep track of when and how much you exercise. It’s neat to follow your progress over the months and years, you will see a difference. Those of you who have access to a Gym, and can afford it, should join. Explain your need to develop a program specific to the sport based on the above information and the staff will design you a program to follow.