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Interview: Aldon Baker and Ryan Villopoto

by Racer X Virtual Trainer

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Virtual Trainer: Hey guys, I know we are just a few days from A1 and the last thing you probably want to do is sit down for an interview but I really appreciate you giving me a slice of your valuable time.
Aldon: No problem Mate.
RV: Yea, for sure, no problem at all.

Well, Ryan I'm not sure if Aldon filled you in on the type of interview this is going to be but since Virtual Trainer is a training website, this will be about the 411 of your training that hopefully a weekend warrior will be able to learn from and make them a better rider.
RV: Yea for sure, I've seen the articles on Racer X and when you guys pop up on there, I check it out.

Wow, thats cool. Thanks for reading! Coming off such a busy season in 2011 and before that recovering from a severely broken leg how has your off-season been progressing since winning the Monster Energy Cup?
RV: What off-season? No, its been good. I got married and then had to do the Monster Cup and then I took like 12 days off and came back from that and just started riding again and been trying to get back in to a flow.

So your off-season break consisted of 12-days away from training and riding…..that's it!
RV: Yep! Basically after the Monster Cup, I had 12 days give or take but yea, that was about it. But during that time I really didn't do much of anything. I think I ran once or twice on my honeymoon but that was really about it.

I was going to ask if you like to take long breaks or if being away for a while makes you nervous that you might be getting out of shape or losing your skill on the bike but damn, 12 days is not a very long time at all. But then again, since you never really get long breaks maybe 12 days feels like an eternity to you.
RV: No, I wouldn't say it makes me nervous. I treat it like a job and it's not all just fun and games for us. Its just like any other office job that you do everyday. We get to do more with riding and training so its not like its the same thing every day, but just like any job its nice to have a little break and do something else for a change.

I know that you were just married and your wife is a runner. As a matter of fact I follow her Twitter feed since she is always talking about training and running. Do you and she ever train together or are your programs so different that you never get to train together?
RV: No, we don't get to do much training together but some of my training calls for running and we will do that together sometimes. Mainly that is on a Sunday but I'm not a big runner so we don't do too many runs together.


Ryan's preferred mode of cardio. Sorry Greg, I know that has to sting a little.

What is your preferred mode of cardio: running, cycling, or rowing?
RV: Definitely the road bike or mountain bike.

Do you do much rowing?
RV: Yep, all the time.

Thats cool. I'm sure Greg Hammond at Concept 2 will be glad to hear that. It seems like every year more and more riders are using the rower for training.
RV: Yea for sure. We use it at the races for warm up too.

Yea, I noticed last year a few times where you and Chad Reed posted some photos on your Twitter feeds warming up on the rowers at a couple SX rounds.

Its just been over a year now that you and Aldon started working together. Aldon, when you first started working with Ryan, I'm sure as with all your athletes you put him through an initial screening to determine what he needed to improve upon. Was Ryan an easy case to see what needed fixed or was he pretty dialed on the training?
Aldon: Well, in the beginning there was plenty to work on and we were under the gun with so little time. I mean, he was pretty good with all the training and at first my biggest concern was to make sure his leg was okay. My biggest worry last year was that I knew we had a lot of work to do and was his leg healed up enough for the amount of time we had. But looking back, Ryan adapted well and obviously things worked out good.

And Ryan I'll ask you the same question. I know that you have worked with other trainers in the past but was there anything that stood out as completely different when you started working with Aldon?
RV: No, not really. When we first started out I really could't do much since I was just coming off the leg injury. So when we started everything was just real basic. But as the year went on we ramped things up and compared to what I'm doing right now this year, last year wasn't even close. Each year I expect things to get heavier and heavier and harder and harder. What I thought was hard last year I wish I could be doing this year (laughs).

Thats cool, but what I'm getting at is not whether Aldon's program is tough. I think we can all see by the great shape you are in that you definitely work hard. But what I'm after is now that you have been exposed to Aldon's program for a year is it just about hard work or are there things that he does that no other trainer has ever done with you?
RV: Well, every trainer cycles and every trainer goes to the gym. But as far as the structure of how it is all put together like what we do before riding, what we do after riding, and what we do during riding, that is completely different from what I have ever been exposed to before. Once we got into somewhat real training the structure of Aldon's program is a lot different than what I had ever done.

I'm sure the both of you have heard or read the chatter on the internet that once you started working together, Ryan looked too thin and had lost too much weight. Aldon, is making a rider thinner and lighter ever a goal or priority for you or is the riders body composition purely a result of the training?
Aldon: I think it is a byproduct of the training for sure. I don't ever look at my guys and think they need to be thinner or lighter for whatever reason. I mean you can look at a guy and tell if he needs to lose weight or not. But once the rider is in shape and has lost any excess weight the rest of it is just a byproduct of the training and the amount of riding they do.


The rower is a training tool Aldon utilizes with most of his athletes. Blake Baggett and RV shown here.....that should make you smile a little, Greg!

So there is never a time when you want your riders to be as thin and light as possible or shoot for a certain percent body fat so that they can have a higher horse power to weight ratio on the bike or anything like that.
Aldon: No, I don't look at that at all. That is never a concern of mine especially once the rider gets on a 450. Now I might take it into consideration a little on the 250 with a bigger rider like Rattray, but even then it's not the goal of the training. And I never consider it with a guy like Bagget. Actually I would like to see Bagget put on a little weight. But generally I don't worry about how much the rider weighs. The size and weight of the rider is all a product of the their training and if the guy is in shape, that is all that matters really.

I think most people have the wrong idea about what a trainer can actually offer a rider of your caliber. To me, its not about making sure you can go for 40 minutes as hard as you can go. I think just about every guy lining up in the main is fit. But what a trainer like Aldon brings to the table is a confidence, a life style, a way of doing things the right way that leads to race wins. With that said, over the past year of working with Aldon, where do you feel you have made the largest gains in your program?
RV: Well for me before I hired Aldon I had won races and won the 250 class and had done pretty well. But like you said its putting the whole package together. Once we started training and I knew I was fit, the whole deal just starts to fall into place. My riding got better, I had more confidence, and Aldon has been through championship runs with Ricky [Carmichael] and James [Stewart] and he has seen a lot of stuff and I trust what we are doing from that. Any trainer can tell you how to be fit but you have to have the confidence that you know you are fit. So for me it comes down to being 100% confident that I am as fit as I can be to race each week.

I am always trying to instill in my amateur riders that training is extremely important. Not just to make sure they are in shape. I think most teenagers who are serious racers are certainly fit enough to race. But I feel the sooner they learn the importance of training and how the process can benefit them the better. Now that you are a multi-time champion and can look at training from a perspective of something that can definitely work given the right combination of trainer and athlete, is that something you felt like you always knew you needed but just didn't quite have or was training something that you didn't give much thought to coming up through the ranks.
RV: No, I mean I didn't really do anything as an amateur except ride my motorcycle. I think most amateurs and younger riders know they need to do something but they just don't know what that something is. I mean, my dad had me ride my road bike but there wasn't any structure. And I hated it back in the day and that was the last thing I was going to do.

A lot of top amateur kids are hiring trainers earlier and earlier in their career. Aldon is working with Adam Cianciarulo and I'm working with Cooper Webb. Do you think this is going to pay big dividends one day for these guys once they hit the pro ranks?
RV: Um, I would't say that right this second it's going to pay off but once Adam hits the big bike it will. I think that at this point for Adam, what will pay off the most is just structured riding. That is what I think a kid on an 80 needs, is structure. Cycling and training is all good but I don't think he is physically mature enough to do too much. But learning the process and what it takes is good for sure.

What do you like most about working with Aldon so far?
RV: None of it, what do you mean! (laughs). No, its just nice having someone in your corner that knows what you should do. It comes back to the confidence thing that I like the most. Playing the guessing game when you are a top ten guy is okay but when you do this to win championships you want to eliminate the guess work. When your goal is to win championships it kind of sucks to guess at what you should be doing. So on days when I don't want to train or don't feel like riding it makes it easier to know that its going to pay off. And now looking back on last year, I came from the bottom to the top and I think it is going to be harder to say at the top than actually getting there.

I'm sure this is a super difficult question for you to put an actual number on, but how much of your success last year do you credit to working with Aldon.
RV: I think that without Aldon I would have done what I did in past years. I would have won some races but going into Vegas I would not have bet on myself to win the championship.

So its safe to say, Aldon will have job security until you retire.
RV: Yes, thats for sure (laughs).
Aldon: Oh good. We are signing a 10 year deal tonight (laughs)!

I posted on Facebook today that I was going to be interviewing the both of you and solicited questions from fans. so I'll ask a few of those if thats okay.
RV: Sure, go ahead.

Billy Goske wants to know who your favorite rider was growing up Ryan and for Aldon he wants to know if you think the sport is more mental or physical?
RV: Well, thats a tough one. I was never a kid who said from the beginning I wanted to race motocross. I wasn't all that good as a kid. I had a PW50 for like 6 months but we were not the typical family who all we did was motocross. I didn't start getting half way decent until I was like 10 or 11 years old. But if I had to pick a rider I would have to say MC was the guy I watched the most.
Aldon: Well, I think the mental and physical parts are about equal. If you don't have the mental side whats the use of having the physical side?

Andrew Whitehead wants to know how much traditional strength exercises like bench press, squats, dead lifts, etc. do you do, Aldon compared to motocross specific exercises.
Aldon: Well it basically comes down to the individual athlete. I think that the basic traditional exercises like you mentioned are only needed if you are really weak and need to build some strength. I tend to do exercises that are more specific to the sport.

One of my trainer friends, Kirk Layfield lives down in the Clermont area near you guys and has actually seen you all at the local gym. He wanted me to ask if you all had noticed the buff looking older guy at the gym who trains harder than you do, lol! Or if he needed to take care of your houses when you all are out of town! But his joking got me thinking; do you prefer to go to the gym to get away from the compound or do you not have the proper equipment installed yet at the facility?
Aldon: No, I haven't noticed any older guys who out work us at the gym (laughs). Well, the compound is still being built so for now we go to the local gym because we have to. But once we get everything built we will use our own facility. But even when we get our own stuff in place we won't have the amount of equipment the local gym has plus its nice for a change of scenery.

Well, I'll make sure I tell Kirk to introduce himself the next time he sees you and show you how it's done (laughs).
Aldon: Yea for sure (laughs).

Joel Younkins, who contributes to the VT site wants to know, "What are the biggest obstacles in training a professional racer like Ryan? Schedule, travel, rest periods etc.."
Aldon: Probably the schedule for sure. That is the toughest part trying to get it all done in the amount of time we have.

Well, guys, I feel like I've taken enough of your time so I'll cut the interview off there. I'll be out at A1 next weekend and just like last year, I have my money on you Ryan, so no pressure but you have to do good!
Aldon: For sure, Tim stop by and say hi.
Ryan: Thanks.

Below is a snippet of an interview ESPN Action Sports did with Ryan one year ago before the start of the 2011 SX season. I thought it was interesting and relavant so I included the "training" part of the interview below.

ESPN: You hired Aldon Baker. Why did you decide to go with Aldon?
Well, finally he was up. He had been with Ricky [Carmichael] for so long and then James [Stewart] scooped him up right after Ricky retired and I knew that [Ryan] Dungey was going to be the next guy to try to get him and I had to get him before he did. My career on a 450 so far hasn't been really that great. It's been pretty rocky, ups and downs, and I knew that I had to turn that around so I could eventually try to win a championship.

What were some of the things he's had you doing that made you think, 'what the heck?'
Ummm... the biggest is that I'll do some stuff before I ride. I'd never done anything other than wake up, take a shower and head out to the track. Now we do some stuff in the morning, training stuff that we do, and that's the biggest thing we do that's like, 'Wow, this is different'.

By January 8, 2011 do you think you'll be as strong as you were that day in St. Louis last April?
I'm way past that already. I'll definitely be way better and I already am. I think it's going to be just that much easier once I get to the races.

You've lost some weight and you're stronger. Is that why you feel better or is it a combination of all that and the bike being better?
I think it's just a combination of everything. Our bike, the team has done a lot of work this year to make it better and that's always a good thing. I'm better and with the whole program we have we're trying to step it up. Everybody wants to win, that's the goal.

If you were to compare yourself now to a year or two years ago, mentally where are you? Where has this new program put you?
That'll come around once I start racing, I think. I haven't raced since St. Louis. It's been a long time. As for my doubts, not that I really doubt, but there's always that question in the back of, you question yourself. Once I start racing I know that my speed is better than it has been and my fitness is way better than it's been so, it's just that thing as an athlete, any athlete runs that through their mind, 'Well, do I still got it?' As for when I'm at practice I feel way farther ahead of where I was even when I got hurt. That'll come when I start racing.

Want even more info on Aldon's training philosophy? Check out this video from Motocrossmag.be

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
    gomes615 January 05, 2012 at 8:40 am

    Good job Tim!

  2. Gravatar
    tommy January 05, 2012 at 5:33 pm

    That was a great interview. I could see from last season and this interview that Aldon has not only improved RV's physical endurance but must have helped him mature faster and his racing shows it. Keep it up!

  3. Gravatar
    Joel Younkins January 05, 2012 at 8:00 pm

    Thanks Tim for using my question! Great interview!!

  4. Gravatar
    Sean Casey January 06, 2012 at 11:37 am

    Awesome interview Tim! I know RV has the drive to win championships, but in every interview he does, it seems like he doesn't enjoy what he is doing as much as other riders. Did you ever get this feeling? Obviously it is a job, but RV mentions that way more than most riders. Just wondering.

  5. Gravatar
    Racer X Virtual Trainer January 07, 2012 at 10:15 am

    No problem Joel.

    Sean, I don't think Ryan hates doing interviews its just that he is so soft spoken its hard to understand him on the phone. That in turn makes it hard to get a flowing conversation going. I'm just happy he agreed to speak to me with the hundreds of media requests he gets!

  6. Gravatar
    ACBR January 10, 2012 at 8:30 am

    Great interview. I really apreciate to read everything Aldon says and I'm a big fan of Ryan since his 85cc times.
    I believe those guys are working so hard, that I keep asking me how is a day in their lifes. Ryan must be doing a lot of strenght training, because he looks really stronger.

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