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Avoiding Early Season Burnout

by Robb Beams

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If photos like this no longer get you excited to ride...You may want to check your pulse!
photo - Steve Cox
Have you reached the month of April and noticed that you just don't have the motivation you had back in January? Are you falling asleep earlier in the evening and having to force yourself to get out of bed in the morning? Does it seem that you are no longer the first one to arrive at the track and one of the last to roll onto the track for practice? If these symptoms sound familiar, you are probably facing a case of early-season burnout. As motocross racers, you can withstand a lot of stress and high load levels, but you reach a point where we need take a step back and recover, both mentally and physically. Let's consider the characteristics of burnout and review some strategies to help you overcome this situation:
  1. Evaluate your short, mid, and long-term goals and honestly assess whether they are realistic given your other responsibilities, such as family and work. Do you have enough time to get the necessary ride time and workouts in to meet your goals, or do you find that riding time and workouts are adding another level of stress to your lifestyle? If you find that you are cramming everything in to get it all done, you need to re-evaluate your race goals. Remember, you don't have to drop out of a race just because you couldn't train exactly the way you intended. Instead, realign your expectations in light of the available training time. Don't let the likelihood of failing to meet your expected results rob you of the pleasure and challenge of participation.
  2. Look over your lap times and field-testing results and analyze how far you have come since the beginning of the year. If you haven't improved as much as you would have liked, then you need to look into your training protocols; something is obviously missing. If you currently don't have a coach to develop and analyze your weekly progress, then take your training log to a reputable coach and ask him or her for an analysis. Having an outside opinion of your protocols will help you more readily identify your missing workouts and physical weaknesses.
  3. Take a week off from training and ask yourself what drew you to this sport in the first place. Remember how excited you were about completing your first race? Take each day of your week off and spend it going over old photos and revisiting your most memorable races. Rekindle that feeling by going back to your first race track. Even if there is no longer an race there, relive it on your own and re-create the experience.
  4. Change the tracks you ride and train most often. Change up your workout routine or even gym. The key here is to be creative and break the boredom that leads to burnout. When did you start identifying your riding sessions as "workouts or training" instead of "riding"? Think about it!
  5. Hire a qualified coach to help you improve the productivity of your cross training efforts - make sure that your efforts are specific to your goal: becoming a fast rider who never fades!

MotoE's motto is: "Work smart, not hard."



Making small changes like getting more sleep and eating more can make a huge difference.

Racers tend to train at levels much harder than they perceive them to be. This leads to many long-term deficiencies ranging from blood chemistry values to mental outlook. Each racer needs to know their max heart rate levels for the motorcycle and any form of cross training modalities used during the week Note: these assessments need to be determined by field-testing and not calculated on general formulas. With proper testing, you can establish training zones based on specific HR levels to ensure that you train the appropriate energy systems on any given day. Remember, if you have set realistic goals and you have the appropriate training protocols in place, you only need to increase duration and intensity levels. By training within the correct heart rate zones, you will eliminate the tendency to train too hard and too often. Pushing the envelope for extended periods of time depletes vital nutrients such as creatine and cytochrome C within the blood cells. Chronic neglect of sleep and nutrition only compounds this depletion issue.

What to do in order to avoid the associated negative effects of burn out

  1. Have your blood chemistry evaluated for any deficiencies. You need to identify any deficiencies that may inhibit performance, and more importantly, your overall health. Some common deficiencies we frequently see with our racers are low iron and CoQ10 levels. With some adjustments to your diet and eating nutritional meals on a regular basis, your blood chemistry will return to normal. Keep in mind that it takes six months to completely replace all of your muscle tissue; the body you have today is literally a reflection of what you have been consuming over the last six months.
  2. Eat more food and more often. The most common scenario seen with our riders is that due to such a full schedule, they are often too busy to eat. To get a better idea of your caloric intake, keep a food log for four days (preferably two weekend days and two week days) and then evaluate the total grams of carbohydrates, protein, and fat that you have consumed for each day. There are many different theories as to which combinations work the best. However, each athlete responds to foods differently-carbohydrate sensitivity, slow metabolism, etc. Don't take on one diet or another; instead, document and evaluate to make sure that you are doing what is right for you. Having your blood tested at regular intervals will help determine if you are getting enough of the necessary macro and micronutrients to fill the indicated voids. The most consistent finding we have seen has been that athletes do not consume enough calories. This not only leads to fatigue and hinder performance, but more importantly your overall health because the necessary nutrients to rebuild muscle and immune system are inadequate.
  3. Drink plenty of fluids (several studies suggest a half an ounce of water per pound of body weight per day), particularly water When you realize that the average human body contains ninety-six pints of water and that sixty-four of these are intracellular, you quickly see the importance of hydration to the survival of an endurance athlete. When a muscle becomes dehydrated by only three percent, that muscle can lose between 10-20 percent of its contractile strength and also incurs an eight percent loss of speed. Imagine undermining all of your hard work by starting your workout under hydrated and then making the situation worse by not consuming adequate fluids and electrolytes (to facilitate the absorption of the water). Most athletes don't pay attention to how much body weight they lose in a regular workout, so they are not able to determine their hydration needs in an important hard workout or race. Remember, knowledge is power. Know what your typical losses are and how to replenish them.
  4. Complete a Max HR assessment and establish specific HR training zones. Racers don't have problems "going hard," but rather "going easy." To many racers, this would seem counterproductive, given all of the hard work of a weekly schedule. However, active recovery days are just as beneficial as hard training days because they help get fresh blood flow into broken-down muscle tissue and also help loosen muscles for slow, passive stretching. What is the highest heart rate (HR) at which you can exercise and still get the benefits of active recovery? This training zone is a combination of your true max heart rate and your resting heart rate levels. Determining all of your training zones (from easiest to the hardest) requires capturing your resting heart rate for a minimum of four weeks to establish an up-to-date average and completing a max heart rate test every eight to ten weeks. Here is a complete article on the topic.
  5. Add one hour a night to your sleep and add a nap on the weekends. Though this is the tip that costs nothing (other than your time) and is the most comfortable (if you can calm your mind), it is the most overlooked and understandably difficult to get the time. Rest is your body's opportunity to rebuild and repair muscle tissue (which is the purpose of training in the first place) and replenish the blood chemistry with foods you have consumed. If you break down a typical twenty-four hour day, you immediately lose 8-10 hours a day for work, an hour for traveling to and from work, four hours to family and friends and you have nine hours left (ideally). However, nothing is perfect in the world and things come up that shift the above numbers, so be flexible! Striving to get the necessary sleep is step number one; arranging your schedule to allow for more of it can be difficult. I would challenge you to set your day up around your sleep versus fitting it in around your activities.
  6. Take one day off per week. Don't be afraid to take a day off from riding and cross-training. This means no riding or training whatsoever, no short 20 minute rides or short gym workouts. If at all possible, don't wake up to an alarm. Start your day off with a good-sized breakfast full of low glycemic carbohydrates, clean and lean proteins, and healthy fats. If you have been consistent with your weekly and monthly workouts, you have nothing to fear. If you can, arrange to get a massage or a session of facilitated stretching from an experienced trainer at least once a month. This will help you relax and decrease your chances of a pulled muscle.

By implementing these enegry creating concepts, you will see your body produce all new levels of speed, delay the onset of fatigue (i.e. late moto fatigue) and have the necessary strength to move that motorcycle around like it is a toy!

About the Author: Robb Beams is the founder of the Complete Racing Solutions Programâ„¢. Visit CompleteRacingSolutions.com for specific training programs for riders of all ability levels, resources such as the two MotoE Performance Training Facilities in Florida, eBooks on various human performance elements and online instructional video series. To discuss your current program or have a new one developed for you; feel free to contact Robb Beams at robb3@earthlink.net or 407.701.7586 directly.

That's it for now, until next time, good luck with your training and remember, if you have a question, log on to the Virtual Trainer Expert Forum and have your question answered by a panel of experts. In addition, be sure and check out the Racer X Virtual Trainer archive section. Your complete one-stop information zone for motocross fitness. VT Signature

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Discussion

  1. Gravatar
    SY529 September 22, 2010 at 12:58 pm

    I have heard that watching videos is really good to get you pumped to ride, but i have ha hard time finding a "good" video that is worth watching. Any suggestions?

  2. Gravatar
    Robb Beams September 23, 2010 at 3:30 am

    Watching good bar to bar racing will always get a core racer pumped! There are numerous DVD's out there so check out what your local dealer has in stock. I would suggest that you watch videos that are relevant to your racing. For example, if you are looking to qualify for LL-pick up a copy of last years race. The flavor of the race will effect you the most because you are striving to be "there". Good luck!

  3. Gravatar
    Kevin April 14, 2011 at 10:48 am

    I've got a stack of mx vids that I watch while on the spin bike. They help me keep motivated. Check out the Bar to Bar Supercross videos, The Great Outdoors (TGO) series, MX of Nations videos, GP vids from Europe. I saw some smokin deals on videos at locox.com the other day.

    The free ride / free style vides to check out are the Terrafirma series, On The Pipe series, Crusty Demons... there are tons of them.

    Hope that helps some.

  4. Gravatar
    Milan April 14, 2011 at 4:50 pm

    G'day,

    Seriously love your articles but this one is hitting home for me at the moment especially point when. When doing 13 hour days at the office trying to train and maintain the bike it leaves me sleeping minimal and now the stress from work and stress from trying to keep my equipment to the high standard I sent has me over it.

    Thank you for the hints, Keep them coming!

    Kind Regards,

    Milan

  5. Gravatar
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