How to Train in the Off-Season
by Racer X Virtual Trainer
Another great season of motocross is drawing to a close, as the leaves will soon turn their brilliant colors of red, orange, and yellow. This is always a tell-tale sign that another season of motocross is complete and the time to reflect on our successes and failures has arrived. Hopefully, you had more successes than failures and are able to look back on your recent season as a memorable experience. Whether you failed or succeeded actually makes no difference; what you do from this point forward is what's important. Now is the time to review your program and decide how you are either going to improve on it or make sweeping changes and finally get into the type of condition that you have always aimed for. This look back should happen whether you are an aspiring pro, mid level B rider, or a weekend warrior want-a-be. What you do over the next few months will determine how you perform next spring when it's time to line for the first race of the season.
A Time for Reflection
In order to prepare for the future, you must first start by looking into the past. Determining your strengths and weaknesses from the recently completed season will guide you in laying out a plan for the upcoming season. Everyone is racing for different reasons and everyone aspires to differing levels of success. But no matter what your level, the off-season is the time to determine where you want to be when it's time to line up for another season. If your desire is to qualify for Loretta Lynne's, then you need a serious plan and that planning starts in the off-season. Even if your goals are a little less ambitious and you just want to be able to make 3 laps without feeling like you just went 15 rounds with Mike Tyson, you need to start your conditioning right now. Remember, it doesn't matter what class you ride, training year-round is an important element to insure against injury and to keep your body in the best condition possible.
The winter time blues along with the hectic holiday season are still a few weeks away, so my advice would be to not wait any longer.
Reflecting on last season's results is a very important part of the off-season program. If you didn't have quite the season you had hoped for, be brutally honest with yourself when evaluating last season's performance as only you will know the real reasons why you may have failed. Think about what may have either kept you from reaching your full potential and also keep in mind the factors that may have helped you succeed. Make a list of the things that were both helpful and a hinderance and try to eliminate the bad while expanding on the good. This list can include anything ranging from an unsupportive girl friend, lack of money or time, hanging out with the wrong friends, or just flat out being too lazy. If conditioning was a factor that kept you from reaching your goals, now is the time to put a plan in motion to ensure the same poor results do not happen again.
The Bike is Put Away….Now What?
The first thing you should consider after the bike is put into hibernation is your state of injury. If you made it through the season relatively unscathed, then after a short mental break you should be good-to-go. If you weren't so lucky and maybe had an injury of two, then your main focus should be on fully recovering before starting your off-season training. Once you have evaluated where you stand and taken the appropriate break, the focus of your off-season training should be on strength/endurance training, along with aerobic-based cardiovascular training. Strength training is the nucleus for all other conditioning, and higher levels of strength will ultimately yield higher levels of cardiovascular and muscular endurance in the pre-season. Since the upcoming winter weather will most likely prevent you from venturing outside or maybe even using your garage as makeshift gym, it is a good idea to join a gym if you don't already belong to one. One of the easiest ways to fail next spring is to let the winter time blues grab you by the throat and choke the life out of you. One way to prevent this is to start a routine now while the weather is relatively nice. The winter time blues along with the hectic holiday season is still a few weeks away, so my advice would be to not wait any longer. Get moving before the excuses start to pile up.
Time to Dust off the Weight Bench
The off-season is a time for max strength training. That means going against the grain and lifting heavy weights. It's a relatively short period so don't worry about "bulking up" and ignore the folklore that lifting weights causes armpump. This type of lifting is extremely important as it allows the muscles and joints to recover and prepare for the next season by increasing your base level of strength. This will help decrease the chance of in-season injuries by strengthening the musculoskeletal structure. This training, although not as sport specific as pre or in-season training, is a necessary segment of a good year-round physical conditioning program for motocross.
Strength training should be set up according to the rules of periodization. For a complete explanation on periodization and how it applies to motocross, click here. But in general for the off-season, you want to start with low to medium weight with high repetitions and gradually shift to heavier weight with lower repetitions as the off-season training progresses. The emphasis is on strength, not mass or size.
Adjust Your Cardio
The off-season is also a time to make adjustments to your cardio program. If you typically take each training session to the limit with high intensity training, now is the time to rethink that strategy. The off-season is the time for building a base of cardio and to do that you must work on your aerobic energy system with longer, less intense cardio workouts. Think of this type of training as the foundation to a pyramid. The broader the base of the pyramid, the taller the pyramid can be built, which is equivalent to how long and hard you can go. Without a wide base the pyramid cannot be very tall which is equivalent to being gassed after a few laps. By increasing your anaerobic threshold (through base training), you'll be able to race at a higher intensity and for longer periods of time with less fatigue. For complete details on cardio training for motocross, click here.
Focus on your Core
The core chain of muscles is the foundation for all things in motocross. Without a strong core you can forget about being good on a motorcycle. If your idea of a core workout is doing a few crunches and maybe some planks, you're missing the boat completely. Not all core exercises are created equal and if you chose the wrong exercise you could be wasting your time. Thankfully the American Council on Exercise (or ACE) has looked through the research and determined the top three ab exercises to be the Bicycle crunch, Captains Chair, and Crunches on a balance ball. In all, 13 different exercises were ranked. Check out the complete article to see where your favorite exercise landed on the list. Want to learn more? This article goes into detail and demonstrates several other exercises perfect for motocross.
Off-Season Training Program Details
No doubt, off-season training is one of the most important periods in the MX athlete's season. It's during this time of the year when great gains can be made for all levels and types of riders. In no other period of the season is the athlete able to devote large chunks of time to developing key systems like the aerobic, muscular and nervous systems. Once into the pre and in-season phases the athlete becomes totally focused on race-specific fitness, which is as it should be. Unfortunately, many MX athletes short change their off-season training by jumping ahead and making it sort of a mini pre-season period by doing anaerobic intervals and generally race-type workouts. What a shame. Most never realize what they are missing in their seasonal preparation and could be so much more fit if they took advantage of the gains that could be made by developing a good aerobic base, increasing their overall strength through strength training and of course evaluating the previous years program and planning for the upcoming year.
Too Important to be Left to Chance
The off-season phase of training is arguably the most important for any rider who demands the most from his riding. For this reason, Virtual Trainer has teamed up with Coach Seiji to deliver the industries most comprehensive online training programs in the industry. For 20 bucks a month (first month free), let Virtual Trainer take all the guess work out of your program. Everything discussed above is incorporated into every day, week, and month of training. Simply put it's the greatest value in motocross. Check it out and see for yourself.
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.