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Coach Seiji Talks CrossFit for Motocross

by Racer X Virtual Trainer

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Coach Seiji has Andrew Short in the box during the off-season phase of training.

Virtual Trainer – Okay Coach, tell me the tale of how you ended up getting involved in CrossFit. I know a few years ago you went from hater to lover.

Well, my background is very heavy when it comes to physical therapy and traditional schooling. One of my first jobs was to work with a PT. For some reason, I guess from my education and work background, I am very good at biomechanics. When CrossFit first came out, it was my own fault, but I didn’t go to a box or try to learn anything more about it. I just saw it on TV and from a distance, as a CrossFit group might be working out around town and stuff like that. From my point of view all I could see was that these people were doing very complex Olympic lifts and movements at high intensity and they would often fall out of form. From my physical therapy POV I thought this was really stupid and I dismissed the entire form of training. And I wasn’t afraid to tell people about it. Long story short, it turns out that the guy who developed CrossFit, Greg Glassman is an underground motocross fan. One year when I was out in So-Cal a friend of mine came up to me, Chris Woƒrden, who at the time was working in motocross media and was an avid CrossFitter, came up to me and propositioned me that if CrossFit paid for my certification would I take the course and then form my opinion of CrossFit based on that. I agreed and found out that once I went, contrary to what I fully expected, that CrossFit is wholly based in science. I’m not sure if they do this on purpose but what I found out is everything they do is based in science which really shocked me. CrossFit made total sense to me once it was explained via biomechanics and physics. I totally got it.

We know that you work with a variety of clients from your professional riders Andrew Short, Jason Anderson, and most recently Jimmy Albertson to regular people in the gym. How and where does CrossFit apply to each of these groups?

I don’t use it for my pros very much except in the off-season. I like it for that period because by design it is not specific and that part of the year I want broad and general training. Plus, the programs I build for my personal clients are based on what they need individually to become a better motocross athlete. My professional riders are normally not lacking in high intensity training. They need less of this in my opinion from general sources and their intensity comes from something more specific. I mean, I would never take my riders to the gym after riding all day and hit them with a high intensity workout like CrossFit. In the off-season that is a little different. But I totally think that if you are a regular guy or girl and you want to mountain bike on the weekends or run a 10K and ride your motorcycle, basically involved in a lot of activities but you only have three or four hours to train per week, then I don’t think you can beat CrossFit as a training tool for that.

How do you see CrossFit fitting in for the guy who rides almost every weekend and has limited time during the week to train?

CrossFit is great for that guy. If you are a guy with a regular job and family, odds are you can only ride on the weekends. In motocross, lets say your technique is all there and everything else being equal, essentially it’s the intensity level of the competition that is going to make you slow down. Either you cannot handle the physical intensity so you slow down so you can make the duration or you can’t process your movements at high intensity and your technique falls off and you slow down. Either way you have to slow down. You could trail ride all day without training but once you get on a motocross track it’s the intensity in the big picture that whacks you. And CrossFit at its core is basically doing as much physical work as you possibly can in a certain amount of time. So it’s very intensity oriented. But if done correctly and you have good coaching and are doing what CrossFit was designed to do from the beginning then they are forcing you to do these complex movements with correct form from the core out, under time constraints at high intensity. Which almost fits motocross riding to a tee in another medium. That is why I think it converts to moto really well. You are supposed to be doing these complex movements with correct form and posture, under the gun, in a competitive setting. If you only have a couple of hours per week to train and the rest of the time you are not able to work out and you are only riding on weekends, I don’t think you will have to worry about recovery issues as long as you plan it out right like CrossFit was originally designed to do, that is why I think it works really well for the average guy.

So if it works so well for the average guy why don’t you have your professional athletes doing nothing but Crossfit?

Well first people need to understand that there is a big difference between elite amateur and pro riders vs. the regular guy who rides. Basically pros and elite amateurs have this huge block of time dedicated to not only training but also recovery. The recovery part is the big difference. So if you are a regular guy working with a job, well maybe you can go in on Tuesday and Thursday and riding once per weekend. So you have three days in there where you are active so that guy does not have the volume or intensity to have to worry so much about recovery from training. Odds are the regular guy does not have the amount of time available to train where he would have to really worry about recovery from training. But a pro rider is a totally different story. And I am speaking in totally general terms here but a pro rider generally puts in 20 or more hours per week in training, travels every weekend, and they are not training to be more fit in general terms. They typically have a very specific weakness they are trying to improve. They are looking for that one percent. The pro athlete just does not have the capacity for recovery from such a high intensity workout because they are working at higher volumes as a necessity. Pros are going 38 minutes on the roughest rack imaginable where as the local vet guy is typically racing for 12-minutes on a relatively smooth track with other vet guys. Not with other pros who are also dedicating 20 some odd hours per week to training and is differentiated in speed by a very small margin. So they are two very different things.

Yea and I think this is where a lot of amateurs get confused too. The only thing they ever see training wise on the internet is when a guy is going full tilt, balancing on a ball with flames shooting out his ears. They never see the recovery and lower intensity stuff. But then again this is where I think some of the other trainers in the industry get it wrong. For their riders is 100% all the time.

Yea, and I can’t speak for any one else. I have my way and philosophies of doing things that are backed by years of my personal experience and education. How other trainers approach training for their rider is their business. But for sure, you see a lot of the high intensity stuff on the Internet. That is the fun and interesting stuff to show. Not very exciting to watch a guy do mobility, recovery sessions or a deadlift. The other thing is when you are personal training, the program for one guy is going to look vastly different than it looks for the next guy. Jason Anderson’s program is completely different than Shorty’s. But I do believe one of the biggest differences between a pro rider and weekend warrior during the season is the amount of high intensity training. Sometimes I’ll be talking to someone about training and it’ll be in the heart of the season and they are always shocked at how little high intensity training we actually do. Riding the motorcycle is where we get our intensity in the deep part of those seasons. It’s not coming from the gym. It’s not coming from the bicycle. Maybe that happened in the off season and early to mid season. Maybe that happened during the first month of supercross but the further into the season we get the intensity of off the bike work goes down.

Getting back to CrossFit, is it periodized? We talk an awful lot about periodization and how important it is on the site.

No it is not. Not at all. I guess it could be. I go to the CrossFit Games and I think if that is your job and you are a serious CrossFit competitor I would imagine they do some form of general periodization. Just by manipulating general intensity and general volume and stuff like that. CrossFit by design is not periodized. One of the things CrossFit tries to do is prepare the athlete in the general rather than the specific. They want to be good at a bunch of things and not great at anything. You would think that since I own a CrossFit gym I would do a lot of it myself but I don’t. I am getting older and I need to still be able to train with my guys and one of the things we do a lot of is cycle. And bottom line is I need to be able to keep up with these guys and if I do too much CrossFit it takes all my energy and I would be too tired to ride. I get poked at a bunch at my gym because I don’t do a lot of CrossFit. I have to explain to my members that for motocross, especially during the season we have to be very specific at what we do and CrossFit is anything but specific. In motocross we are trying to be absolutely great at one specific thing. In CrossFit you are trying to be good at a bunch of things.

Yea, and that is where I think CrossFit shines for the general athlete and fits in great with the Premium Training plans we have. The athlete gets the best of both worlds. Periodized workouts and when it comes time to do high intensity, CrossFit fits in very well. Especially on days when the athlete is scheduled to ride and he cannot. CrossFit is great for our Motocross replacement workouts.

Yes and that is especially true for amateur races. Amateur races are typically 10-25 minutes long and that fits in perfect with the typical CrossFit workout. And again remember, CrossFit is all about getting you to do as much work as you possibly can in a fixed amount of time. That is exactly what happens in a race. Lots of times you only have like 3 or 4 laps to do the most amount of work possible. That is what CrossFit is all about. The other element I like about Crossfit especially for the amateur is that it makes you more durable for sure. And this is important when you hit the ground. You want to be able to absorb the impact of a crash and a good way to absorb more energy is through stronger, bigger muscles. The way Crossfit uses Olympic lifts at high speed and velocity is going to prepare you better when something goes wrong. I think the way the training plans are set up on Virtual Trainer the motocross athlete is going to get the best of both worlds. Periodized training where CrossFit can be included during the high intensity periods and year around as replacement type workouts when you cannot ride.

Explain again why you think periodization is so important for the weekend warrior.

In general I thing people think periodization is more qualitative than it is. Periodization even means things like planning recovery cycles for the week and for the month. A simple periodization across a week would be if you know you are going to do CrossFit on Monday you know you will have to do a lower intensity workout on Tuesday so you can maintain some intensity so you can ride the motorcycle on Wednesday or anything over the weekend. If you are doing that in your week and the next week you are adding a little bit more and then the next week adding even more you are in fact periodizing your program. I think if you are trying to get the most from your CrossFit workout and you want to apply a little thought and you are willing to do that, you should be doing that. You should assume that your CrossFit workouts are the most intense workouts of the week so you can then raise the volume of your other workouts gradually over the course of the month and then you have a recovery week if you need it. I think you have to periodize the things around CrossFit because the CrossFit workouts themselves are not periodized. If you do this at least a little, you are periodizing and in my opinion that is the best way to approach training.

I think just the very nature of CrossFit forces people to periodize whether they like it or not. Not everyone likes to go to the gym and hurt every day so naturally you will do some lower intensity work.

Yes, for the people who are smart and listen to their body they will periodize even if they don’t know they are periodizing. But the guy who is the hard core CrossFitter and doesn’t stray from the CrossFit mentality is going to hammer it every time he does a WOD. This is where a good CrosFfit coach comes in and if he is programming correctly at the very least the WOD duration will go down if the intensity goes up and vice versa. I know we do that at our box. Typically Mondays are heavy days with shorter WODs with harder lifts and as the week progresses the WODS typically get longer and the weight decreases until Saturday when it’s a team challenge where the WODS are long and the weights are light. We at least do that.

How do you think CrossFit fits in with the older athlete? Good or bad as you get older?

The scalability of CrossFit is something that doesn’t get advertised or pushed. I think that CrossFit like any activity wholly depends on the quality of your coach. And that coach may in fact be yourself and how well you understand things. My favorite CrossFit client in my box is an upper 50 something year old guy who on day one we had to help him walk from his car to his first bootcamp. He was pretty much dysfunctional when he started. And he started with a PVC pipe squatting half way down. That’s all he could do. Now we are two and a half years in (he did bootcamps before we opened) and I think he is just under a 300 lb. deadlift. He is a changed human being. He is the guy that I think CrossFit does a bad job of advertising the scalability of the workouts. People scale CrossFit all the time by doing lifts with less weight, slower and shorter duration of the WODs. It’s just not pushed from the top at CrossFit for whatever reason. Functional movements like a deadlift apply to everyone no matter what phase of life you are in. You will always have to squat, bend over and pick something up without jacking yourself. So with CrossFit the movements are always the same but the loads and speed of movement are scaled.

It’s funny how in a society with such an obesity problem CrossFit has been met with a fair amount of hatred. I think it’s the way they present themselves as cultish but I also think there is a fair amount of jealousy from trainers like you who spent a good deal of time and money on your education and were like wait a minute, that’s not the way I learned it so it has to be wrong. The popularity of it just rubs some people the wrong way too.

Yes, for sure and I was certainly guilty of that at first. Plus CrossFit has a different edge to their marketing. One thing I want to say about CrossFit and I know people will say that I drank the Kool-Aid and I’m a cult member. That’s not it. Like I said 90% of my work day I am not doing CrossFit. But one thing I do universally across all of my training now, and it’s because of CrossFit, is their definition of fitness. If you are college educated, your definition of fitness is something along the lines of being able to maintain a certain heart rate running for a certain length of time. Or I can do bench press or squat a certain amount. It’s very segmented and that is the definition of fitness you are taught. It’s almost too specific. And health is determined by clinical markers and measures. The CrossFit definition of fitness is about increasing your work capacity. It’s very general and is all about defining how much total work you can do and how much you can do in a certain period of time. For the physics nuts out there it’s all about work capacity in Joules and work rate in watts. How many joules of work can you do in a workout or across a week or a month.  And then you introduce the intensity parameter by determining how quickly you can do that work which is joules over time which is power in watts. Once you see that on a white board or a piece of paper written out and that becomes your definition of fitness, it will totally click and make sense. At least it did for me. Then you tie in the health aspect and start looking at health…good health supports your ability to perform this work. Dude I was that guy at the level one certification thinking there was no way this was going to do anything for me. I went to school for 10 years and thought who are these people and they were just a bunch of muscle heads who want to eat bacon and beef jerky all day. I think it was by design that these two 40 plus women in my level one who were already level one certified murdered me on the run. They left me in the dust and they didn’t say anything until the last day. They were killing me on the lifts and I was just kind of being all humbled. I thought I was this ex badass endurance athlete and these two house wives were murdering me. At the end of the last day we were all talking and I went up to them to tell them how impressed I was and it turns out that one of the ladies had done the iron man eight times and the other lady said she just pr’d her marathon time. That just drove it in to me even further that there was something to this and from that day forward I have been trying to learn as much as I can and apply it to my athletes.

Well thanks for sharing your thoughts and opinions on CrossFit. I too was a bit of a hater and now understand CrossFits place in the fitness world. It’s all good!

Yea for sure. Thanks!

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
    kris August 22, 2013 at 8:40 am

    I prefer to train for strength and for endurance separate rather than combined like CrossFit does. I give a lot of credit to the competitors in the games who are performing complicated lifts and exercises at high heart rates!

  2. Gravatar
    brian August 22, 2013 at 2:06 pm

    I hate the people who do Crossfit not the principle itself. Many of them are obnoxious lunatics who think Crossfit is the only way. I guarantee a traditionally trained person who separates cardio and strength training could win a Crossfit competition. That being said I think Crossfit is almost ideal for a motocrosser where strength without bulk is needed. I think some(popular) motocross trainers underestimate the need for strength especially pertaining to injury prevention. Strength training not only builds muscle but bone, tendons, and ligaments as well. The emphasis on cardio training leads too injuries. Cycling does little except to make you a better cyclist. Riding an efficient 15lb road racing bike makes you fast on a bike, but makes no sense when trying to achieve fitness. It may not look cool but pedaling a mountain bike over that same course will provide more resistance and therefore better fitness. You don't want to look like Chris Froome as a motocross racer.

  3. Gravatar
    Joe August 22, 2013 at 3:00 pm

    Ooh - let me know when the segmented trainee wins "the games" ...I'm playing the lottery that day!
    There are many different interpretations and applications of/for the crossfit philosophy. Seiji seems to get it and that is refreshing. Good write up.

  4. Gravatar
    Eric August 22, 2013 at 3:32 pm

    As a Crossfit trainer for the past 3 years, a weekend warrior on the Dirtbike and someone who's competed at regional Crossfit and Cycling events, I can attest to what Coach Seiji is saying.

    For general fitness, Crossfit is great. The amount that you do it however, should be weighted against your lifestyle factors such as sleep, stress, diet and other forms of exercise such as MX. Ive seen plenty of athletes at our gym start training two or three a day's (ala Froning) or start coming into the gym a few more days a week, only to quickly burn out within a few weeks. Recovery is individual and you need to figure out what works for YOU. You get stronger by recovering from workouts, not by training more. Adrenal fatigue, chronic overtraining/over-reaching are issues that are often overlooked with CF.

    Personally, for motocross and local MTB racing Ive found 2 strength sessions a week (olympic lifting) sufficient for me during the in-season. Intensity is kept low (70-75%) of my maxes and the volume is low. Olympic lifting is the best bang for the buck for mobility, co-ordination, strength and power. On the bike training is generally a z1-z2 mtb or road ride 3 days a week, a 1-2 days a week with short duration/high intensity workout (hills, tempo, sprints). My off-season will be where I introduce intensity/volume back into the equation.

    I loved this article as it exposes a lot of truths that a typical Crossfit gym owner would fail to address. Good for you for having the balls to tell it like it is.

  5. Gravatar
    Lance August 22, 2013 at 5:24 pm

    This was an interesting article for sure and reading Seji's comments were great. Having coaches attentive like him are what will continue to make Cross-fit successful and I wish all boxes had guys like him there to help the athletes.

    Two race seasons ago I jumped on the Cross-fit bandwagon believing the coaches of a newly formed box were watching all the newbies a little closer than others. I was prepping for off/preseason training and was quickly introduced to Rhabdo that pretty much erased all the previous conditioning I had done and prevented me from competing at levels previously done. Even with this happening I knew it was not a "Crossfit" problem but rather a gym/trainer/coach issue.

    To all that are looking into cross fit please research the gyms and ask lots of questions. I know Coach Seji will speak to how important a good coach/trainer is when training at this level of intensity as seen in cross fit. As racers the competitive side of us comes out in places other than just at the track and putting yourself in an environment like cross fit when competition can be easily found can lead to negative affects like Rhabdo. I find this is rarely ever mentioned when I read about crossfit.

    Maybe if Coach Seji reads this he can speak to the importance of a good coach at a crossfit gym. I'm only posting this so others don't have to walk down the same road I did.

  6. Gravatar
    Coach Seiji August 22, 2013 at 6:53 pm

    Lance, sorry for your experience...you aren't the only one..I will say this the only way I really know how...I own a box, I love CrossFit...I think it's so great for so many people. But..being an affiliate, being a box, having a cert..doesn't at all equate to good CrossFit. The actual sport or methodology of CrossFit is not to blame IMO. It boils down to the coaches just like you said. Remember, I own a box.....I believe a lot of the problems that do happen in CrossFit are due to the explosive growth, the QC has suffered for lack of a better term. How do you become a coach? You go to a weekend seminar, pay attention, be relatively intelligent, study a bit and BAM you are a certified coach. How do you open an affiliate? You apply, wait and spend some money, BAM you have a box. The barriers to entry are relatively low IMO and that's by design IMO because the founders want coaches to be their own boss, to be independent, not be in a franchise, etc. so I get that part but again QC suffers. There are bad coaches, bad boxes, etc for sure but that's not because it is CrossFit, it's because of the coaches, just like any other coaching...anyone can make a business card that says "coach" in any sport..bad coaches = bad results no matter the sport or method but the popularity and hype surrounding CrossFit I think makes it easier to get away wiht it. There are stellar coaches in CrossFit, they produce stellar results. They have the experience, they understand the science, maybe they coached in different sports before and went to college (which again, by itself, doesn't make you a good coach), they have the art side of coaching, and they truly care about the athletes and take pride in their responsibility to these athletes.. all the things that will get you a good result. I am NOT bashing CrossFit at all, I am saying just like anything else, there are bad coaches. Don't hate the game, hate the player. I see bad coaching in CrossFit... but I see great coaching too...buyer beware I say. Just because someone is certified doesn't make them a good coach..do your homework, ask athletes, heck go right up to the coach and drill them...watch a WOD, pay attention, especially the classes with new athletes, but ask the experienced ones their opinion as well. Again, it's not the fact that it is CrossFit, it's the coaches...

  7. Gravatar
    Racer X Virtual Trainer August 22, 2013 at 9:21 pm

    Consider this when bashing CrossFit for having a few bad coaches and boxes. Last I check when I join a Gold's a YMCA or any other gym, I do NOT have to train with a coach. I don't have to meet any type of minimum requirement and I can pretty much do any type of exercise/lift I want.......unsupervised and with zero instruction! I pay them a membership fee and bam, I can go do whatever I want. Olympic lifts...go for it. Take a Spin class until you puke.....go for it. Do aerobics or any of the other 20 classes on the schedule....you got it pal see you at 5. At least with Crossfit you have to meet minimum requirements to open a box. And as a person off the street you have to meet certain criteria to start doing WODs. You don't just jump in on day one and start doing power cleans. You are always supervised by a coach (good or bad) and you have to train at certain times most likely in a group (built in peer supervision). I also get tired of hearing that CrossFit is too hard for the general public. Take a look around. I think the general public needs to get off there ass and actually do some hard work. And like everything else in this world it is up to the individual to set his/her personal limits to avoid someone pushing them too hard or far. If you are not smart enough to know when to stop to avoid injury, well your just not smart enough.

    As far as the cult-like attitude of CrossFitters (I HATE the term CrossFitter), yea I freakin' hate that but that is the people not the modality.

  8. Gravatar
    Pelotrain August 23, 2013 at 12:27 am

    This is another great article, there is so much more truth and information in this article with regards to motocross training in general and not just crossfit that people can use to their benefit.

    Nicely done guys.

  9. Gravatar
    Lance August 23, 2013 at 8:01 am

    Coach Seji,

    Thank you for the reply. You hit on all the points I was hoping you would. I actually visited with you a few years back about this same thing and much of what you said then is what you reiterated in your writing here. I was just hoping others interesting in cross fit could read you comments like I did then and be aware of some of the possible things to consider.

    Racer X Virtual Trainer,

    Is that actually you writing this Tim? Some of your comments seem uncharacteristic .

    "If you are not smart enough to know when to stop to avoid injury, well your just not smart enough."

    You having an off night???

    I hope you didn't take my post as a bash on crossfit because it wasn't even close to being intended that way. I just wanted to give Seji props that he is a true coach and for people looking at crossfit to be aware that not all boxes have their own Seji in house.

    Thanks for all the great articles.

    Take care,

  10. Gravatar
    Racer X Virtual Trainer August 23, 2013 at 10:51 am

    Yes, this is me. All I meant by that comment (and it was not directed at anyone in particular....I was talking in a general sense) is that I get tired of hearing people say that they got hurt doing CrossFit because it was "too hard". Not you specifically, just in general. I am all about personal responsibility and believe that if you let someone push you to the point of injury in the gym then ultimately it is your fault. Perhaps I could have said it in a more eloquent way, but that is what I meant.

  11. Gravatar
    Kris August 27, 2013 at 12:12 pm

    Recovery and scaling workouts are key to having fun with CrossFit. Check your ego at the door because you will be humbled!


    BTW.. I know Coach Seiji is very respectful, but I have seen some of the most arrogant and disrespectful comments which come from Crossfitters on sites in discussions on training.

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