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Periodization Training for Motocross

by Robb Beams

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The Training Pyramid of Periodization

In the article, Cardio Training on the Motorcycle, we discussed the importance of aerobic function as it relates to high levels of intensity similar to a typical race. We also discussed how to evaluate and improve this physiological principle. If you haven’t taken the time to read the first article, please do so to fully integrate the following article into your training program and reap the desired racing results.

In the article, Evaluating Strength on and Off the Bike, we discussed the benefits of strength training and how to incorporate into your weekly training regimen. Strength training is imperative for the successful racer at multi-day races like Loretta Lynn’s, Lake Whitney and Oak Hill. Overall body strength will help prevent the effects of cumulative fatigue and allow for proper bike position and efficiency on the bike throughout the entire week of racing. Also, full body strength is a complement to the other elements of a complete performance training program: endurance, flexibility, nutrition and mental preparedness.

In this article we will talk about developing a year round performance motocross program through Periodization.

Who Needs Periodization?
At both the amateur and professional levels, the racing season has increased to the point where the racer is competing nearly year round and actually inhibiting his or her ability to improve physically as a racer. It is unrealistic to think that a racer can be in top form every weekend from January through December. Throughout the year, the body has to be provided the opportunity to develop various energy systems through specific workouts. For long term improvement, a window of time must be provided to rest and recover from the stress loads applied to the muscles and cardiovascular system. This is where Periodization comes into a racers program. Periodization answers how hard, how long and how often a racer should train to reap the benefits of training without burning out or getting injured.

Periodization - What it is and Why it is an Important Component of a Racers Program
As a competitive racer, you need to look at a year as four different seasons of performance development. At Motoendurance.net, we break a year into four training “seasons”: Pre-Season, Pre-Competitive, Competitive and Off-Season. Each season has a different performance objective to optimize the racers training time for maximum results.

With motocross encompassing so many elements of a racers life, it has literally become a lifestyle – sleep, eat, ride, train off the motorcycle, repeat until the next race. However, this lifestyle of training, doesn't allow a racer to systematically decide to begin training seriously for four weeks out and then be ready for the season’s first big race. On the other hand, hitting the open road on your road bike hard the Monday after your big race and riding every day until next years race isn’t productive either. You don’t push the body beyond its normal performance level and you don’t allow enough time for the body to adapt to the stress loads.

At Motoendurance.net we work with four seasons of training - each having a specific physiological purpose (Note: the order of taxing your various types of energy systems - i.e. explosive strength, VO2 Max, anaerobic threshold, distance, etc.). The four seasons include the necessary physiological adaptations:

Do you have the program in place to take you to this Podium?

Pre-Season: Developing maximum aerobic capacity, muscular strength and flexibility; this is also an ideal time to work with your riding coach to help with technique and mechanics.

Pre-Competitive: Continued development of your aerobic engine, final stage of maximum strength development and the implementation of slight lactate tolerance intervals.

Competitive: Specialization is the main component of this season. Your anaerobic threshold and sprint training should make up the high quality workouts during the week. Also during this season is the increased need for rest – ideally one complete day of rest per week to help you recover both mentally and physically.

Off-Season: This is ideally four to six weeks in duration where you deviate away from heavily structured training. This is where you’re back to riding verses training when you are on your motorcycle or any other type of cross training. You don’t want to become so inactive that you begin to lose the conditioning you have worked so hard to achieve throughout the year; you do, however, what to remain active and healthy.

Periodization - Step One: Establishing Goals
This step involves establishing long term goals and developing a plan for achieving each goal. This step needs to be quantified, simple, optimistic and also realistic. Though this sounds like an easy task, it is going to take some real brain storming to narrow this first step down and onto paper. Here is an example of an unrealistic long term goal: “I want to be fast”. There is no way to quantify fast and there is no time line established to complete it. It also doesn’t tell you who you are setting your standards against.

If you say: “I want to be the top local rider in my class by the area qualifier for Loretta’s” – this is quantified, specific and with a little research you are able to determine what it is going to take to surpass the current top riders to achieve the status you are looking for.

At Motoendurance.net we have our clients establish three sets of goals – 3 months, 6 months and 12 months. If you would like a copy of this Motoendurance.net Goal Profile, please contact me for your personal copy. If you have established goals in past seasons and have had trouble obtaining your goals, feel free to forward your Motoendurance.net Goal Profile to me and I will be happy to review and help you develop some training objectives to help you achieve your personal goals for 2008. The most important thing to remember when you are sitting down to establish your goals is that they need to be specific and each should have a date applied. Without specific goals, you will quickly lose your motivation to stick to the homework, especially when it becomes difficult (due to either the duration or intensity levels required).

Periodization - Step Two: Determining a Starting Point With your Training
If you are starting at a minimum fitness level, you will have to increase your overall strength and endurance before your dive into a comprehensive performance program. As a general rule of thumb, don’t increase your duration of your overall workouts by more than 5-8% every other week. Once you have been consistent with some level of training for six to eight weeks without any physical set backs, it is time to determine exactly where your fitness levels are – this will identify your strengths and weaknesses and what to address with daily training to maximize your training time.

The main concept to keep in mind when it comes to training is to strengthen weaknesses which have been specifically identified through field testing. Racers, like any athletes, have a tendency to complete workouts focusing only on the elements where strength already exists. For example, in the gym, you rarely see racers working their legs due to the high levels of lactic acid and associated increased heart rate levels. Instead they avoid these uncomfortable exercises and complete lower intensity exercises which do not address their physical limiters. If you use riding a road bicycle as a form of cross training, and you are not a strong climber, how often do you go out and complete hill repeats to increase your strength and lactate tolerance? It is not that you are soft as an athlete; it is simply human nature to do the activities where we feel strong and confident.

With this in mind, it is imperative for racers to capture three key testing data points in field testing (no matter what time of year the testing is completed): aerobic capacity, muscular strength and lactate tolerance. There are numerous debates about which form of training (off of the motorcycle) are the most effective measures of your aerobic capacity, muscular strength and lactate tolerance. At Motoendurance.net, we are more interested in testing these three variables within the training modalities that you have been using over the last six to twelve months. The important thing to keep in mind with establishing base line assessment numbers is to be consistent with your testing protocols. For example, if you use the road bike for your cardio training, it would not be a wise choice to use a running test for your lactate tolerance and aerobic capacity testing due to the different muscle groups and demands on the cardiovascular system – ultimately your testing data would be inaccurate. If you would like Motoendurance.net to provide some suggestions on how to determine your aerobic capacity, muscular strength and lactate tolerance given your current training methods, feel free to contact me directly (please be sure to indicate what you are currently doing in the way of training to help me determine what is most productive for you and your program).

Periodization - Step Three: Establishing a Training Program Based on Your Field Testing Results
This is where a human performance specialist can be an asset to a racers development program – identifying where the most progress can be achieved in the shortest amount of time. As an illustration, as it relates to riding the bike, a racer gets a riding coach to help work on problem areas around the track. A racer may be fast through the whoops, but if he or she can not get in and out of the corners fast, the time gained in the whoops is immediately lost in the next corner. The same applies to developing the training protocols that are going to maximize the appropriate energy systems to enhance the elements of aerobic capacity, muscular strength and lactate tolerance. As mentioned earlier, at Motoendurance.net we break the year up into the four seasons of Pre-Season, Pre-Competitive, Competitive and Off-Season. During each season of training there are two key elements that have to be factored into the development of a racers training program: the energy system(s) being enhanced and the order in which they are put into place within a workout. For example, implementing muscular endurance protocols prior to explosive power protocols may actually be counter productive based on the training season (based on race goals and the physiological adaptations needed) and the field testing results – remember, we need to constantly work on your physiological weaknesses due to the fact that you are only as strong as your weakest link in your racing program.

About the Author: Motoendurance.net is a premium resource center for motocross, supercross and GNCC riders of all abilities and ages. The website outlines the MotoE Performance Training programs available to racers for 2010 - such as those used with great success by X-Games and 2 time WMA Champion Ashley Fiolek, Mini O's 2009 Champion Ian Trettel & Loretta Lynn National Champion Adam Cianciarulo and numerous off road racers.

Additional resources available include the MotoE Performance Training Facility in Haines City, Florida, eBooks on various human performance elements and online instructional videos. To discuss your current program or have a new one developed for you; feel free to contact Robb Beams at
Motoendurance.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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