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Training Lessons Learned - SX 2014

by Coach Seiji


The 2014 Supercross season was a great success for all of us in the Coach Seiji compound. Andrew Short earned a 6th overall in the point standings with a season’s best 4th place finish and Jason Anderson won the 250 SX West Coast title in dramatic fashion. Most importantly, everyone is safe and healthy as we get prepared for the 2014 Outdoor Motocross Championship.

Some time has passed since the Vegas SX final; of course I look back at fond memories but I also consider it my job to also review low points, mistakes, errors in judgment and bad decisions. Prevention is the best cure they say and this review process is done to hopefully avoid repeating such errors.

Although both Andrew and Jason had stellar seasons, there are a few observations I have tallied that are at the top of my list of things to look out for not only in preparation for the outdoors but also for future seasons. These things are not exclusive to the elite ranks; to me they seem universal to motocross training in general, no matter your goals or ambitions. My wish is that they provide insight for any athlete embarking on planned training to achieve their goals. Read on for the top five observations and lessons learned…

go easy on your easy days so your hard days can

actually be hard.

#1 Mental training or lack thereof
How much of your race performance do you think is related to mental status? Whatever number that is, do you spend that much relative time out of your total training time in mental training? Most of the time, even at the highest levels in motocross, the answer to the first question is high and the answer to the follow up question is zero.

You can have impeccable technique and spot on fitness, but if you are mentally off on race day, those things you work so hard to master won’t matter. Preparation doesn’t stand a chance against execution and a LOT of execution is directly related to mental status.

One more time…how much of your race result was mental and how much time do spend in mental training? I sound like a broken record but so does “I rode tight” and “I just didn’t have it mentally.” Think about it. Better your odds of executing the race day as it should go…get that mental training in so that the hard physical work has an opportunity to pay off. (this website has an entire section devoted to mental training. Check it out!)

#2 Easy means easy
Any good training program has easy days built in for recovery and building or maintaining base fitness. I have found in motocross the underlying mentality has been “go harder, do more” especially as a high priority race looms on the horizon. This in a way is human nature, put in the effort, get the result and more effort equates to a better result. I have done it, you have done it, and every athlete I know has done it. Did we learn a lesson or do we give in to “human nature?”

I heard from a master coach and often repeat “go easy on your easy days so your hard days can actually be hard.” This a cornerstone of any periodized training program. Training load that actually causes adaptation has to be very hard at times, an overload of what you have already adapted to. That is only half the training equation. You have to have easy days so that the energy you normally would have spent going hard can be directed towards making those prized adaptations. This has to be done systemically and consistently.

Again, even seasoned pros can and do forget/overlook/ignore this caveat and they always pay for it. Maybe not immediately but eventually it catches up. Trust your program, trust your physiology and know the logic you know in your head does hold true. Let your hard work, your hard efforts produce what you plan…EASY means EASY.

#3 Rest means TOTAL rest
This is related to #2 and again, even seasoned pros succumb to human or athlete nature and can fail to really rest. Most athletes understand and practice physical rest. What is often overlooked is mental rest, emotional rest, all the “soft and fuzzy” aspects that many feel they are too “tough” or “hardcore” to affect their game. Let me put it to you this way – hormonally, physical stress, emotional stress and mental stress all do the same things. You are resting so that your body can recover from the physical stresses of training and thus adapting to those loads. Getting mentally stressed or emotionally riled up sabotages this by at least causing some of the same hormonal reactions as physical training. You are just trading emotional or mental stress for the physical stress you just removed. Net result can be zero.

To fully reap the benefits give your body the absolute best chance to adapt (that means allowing recovery processes to happen unencumbered) avoid sabotaging what your body is valiantly struggling to do by actively planning your rest. I know life happens; some things cannot be avoided but try to control the things that you can, even if it’s only for a few hours. Put yourself in a place where you can mentally rest and stay emotionally calm at least for a few hours on your rest day to REALLY make it a rest day.

#4 Trust your base
Life happens. Sh!t happens. The best laid plans can be changed in a heartbeat by almost anything. Your bike breaks. It rains and the track is closed. Your kids get sick and thus you get sick. Your dog runs away and you HAVE to go find him (of course.) Despite everything you try, no matter who you are, you are going to miss some planned training. DO NOT PANIC. Do not hit the eject button. Do not stay up until 2 am just to complete your scheduled workout.

If you have been training for a bit, say 12 weeks, fairly consistently, you have a base of fitness to rely upon. You have a much, much bigger base if you have been consistently following a periodized program for a few seasons. Trust this base. You can weather a few days off, even a week off, and have very little negative effect on your overall fitness.

If circumstances dictate, what you need to attempt to prioritize is the maintenance of skill. Say you are sick and you are recovered enough to just do 30 minutes of something low intensity. What should you do? Trust your base and forget about riding your bicycle or hitting the weights, better to maintain your skills. Even if you unload your bike, fire off a few starts, maybe run one lap sprints just that will do more to maintain your overall performance than any ancillary training will do. Trust your base! Do not panic!

A prime example of this is Jason Anderson partially deflated a lung 10 days prior to the Vegas SX final this season. He took the weekend off per medical orders then did exactly the above. He had to trust his base and do the little things he could do on the track. We all know the end result….

#5 Eat to fuel training AND recovery
Athletes seem to understand that they have to eat enough total calories to fuel their training activities and at times they underestimate this amount, leading to “bonking” while training. What some don’t realize, and I think this is more important, is that the recovery processes demand energy as well. It’s natural to “eat to train” but many people end it there and unknowingly shortchange what is possibly more critical, the body’s activities that drive adaptations. It is VERY costly to manufacture new proteins and tissues. People in burn units often die of starvation, not of infection as they cannot consume enough calories in their state to fuel the massively costly act of building new skin. It is also costly to digest, transport and deposit the fuel needed to replenish the muscle and liver glycogen stores used in training.

Just like going easy on easy days and really resting on rest days, failing to fuel your recovery “wastes” the effort, pain and time you put into the actual training. Avoid ripping yourself off! Eating to fuel the training is only half the battle just like actual training is only half the battle. Be a complete athlete by putting as much effort into your recovery and eating for recovery…and enjoy the rewards.

Those of you who have followed my writing in the past will notice I am repeating some things…that’s  because these things still happen even with the best pros! Athletes that have executed an almost perfect periodized training and racing season will “fall off the wagon” and need a reminder…some of it is just human nature...but carry on with the best intentions and be safe out there! Best of luck!!!

About the Author: Seiji Ishii is the head coach of provides online coaching and personal training services to motorsports athletes. Coach Seiji is currently working with 2104 250SX West Coast Champion Jason Anderson of Rockstar Energy Racing and BTO/KTM rider Andrew Short as well as Rock River Racing amateur Jamison Duclos. He has worked with other pros and elite amateurs including Heath Voss, Ryan Clark, Austin Stroupe, PJ Larsen, Hunter Hewitt, Drew Yenerich and Rusty Potter. Learn more at or contact Coach Seiji 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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