Trainer talk with....Dr. Jeff Spencer, Part 2
By Tim Crytser
In part two of our conversation with Jeff Spencer, Jeff talks about cycling, arm pump and offers some training advice for the weekend warrior. (Check out part 1 of our interview here.)
We did an article a few months ago with Specialized bikes and know that Chad, Nathan, you and even Ricky ride their bikes to train. Can you elaborate on how Chad and Nathan incorporate cycling into their training?
Cycling plays a very important role in Chad and Nathan’s cardiovascular training which translates to more power, endurance and recovery on the motorcycle. Our rides range from 20 minutes to 100 miles depending on where we are in the season. The rides are highly competitive and we have a lot of laughs along with the hard work. On the rides we’re always looking for ways to take advantage of each other especially when other riders come along by drafting trucks, ganging up on each other or doing whatever to get to the finish line first. It’s a blast. Jay Marmot, Ernesto, Langston, Randy Lawrence, Travis and others have ridden with us. There’s a nucleus of Specialized riders including Chad, Nathan, myself, Jay Marmont, John Louch, the Goberts in the Temecula area where Chad and Nathan live. Chad and Nathan are very gifted riders.
Nathan Ramsey, Jeff Spencer, and Chad Reed prepare for a group bike ride
What type of cycling do they prefer; road or mountain bike?
It’s all road for both Chad and Nathan because there’s no real off-road trails by them and with road bikes we can go right from their houses.
Whether a rider is getting ready for a race or getting ready to train, warming up is key. What type of routine do you put Chad and Nathan through before practice and the races?
I can’t give away our entire pre-race program, but generally speaking there should always be some type of warm up before going out to practice or race to ensure the muscles are warmed up and blood circulating efficiently to get the most out of practice and racing. Most riders prefer stationary bikes though jogging and other approaches are acceptable.
Do you incorporate a cool down routine after each race, or is it more of a plop down in the hauler and rest type deal?
Cooling down is an essential element to start the recovery process. If you just stop after a hard physical effort your recovery can be delayed and take much more time than necessary to complete. Light cardio activity and some stretching make for a great cool down.
For the weekend warrior, I always preach to them that they need three separate phases (pre-season, in-season, and post-season) throughout the year to train properly for MX. Do you have Chad and Nathan on a three phase schedule, or is it all in-season since they pretty much race all the time?
A three phase season is ideal but for top pros it’s really a hybrid because the very long racing season allows very little time off because of off season testing and international races. But classically we break the season into three phases each emphasizing different things. Off season is a time for recovery from the past racing season, to let injuries heal and develop a solid conditioning base for the next racing season. The pre season training becomes more sport specific where volumes, times and intensities increase reflecting the demands of the supercross season. Once in the race season you pull back a little so training, racing and traveling stresses are minimized to maintain peak fitness as long as possible.
I am a big proponent of strength training, as long as it is done correctly for MX. I get tired of the excuse that lifting causes arm pump. What is your take on weight lifting/strength training for MX?
I’m a big fan of it and without a doubt everyone should strength train. It’s very important that strength training be done to develop a riders riding capacity not to develop body aesthetic. I’ve seen many riders with rock hard incredibly sculpted bodies from weight training never develop into a good rider because their weight training was more about big pecs than improved riding capacity.
In general, what do you think causes the majority of arm pump issues; riding style or being out of shape?
Improper weight training, poor riding technique, performance anxiety, improperly healed upper extremity injury and lack of a good warm-up all contribute to arm pump. The most common factors probably are poor warm-up and performance anxiety leading to a Vulcan-death-grip-on-the-bars riding style. I believe a big misconception a lot of riders have is that if they warm-up, they are going to use energy they need for racing which isn’t true. For example in the Tour De France, before Lance rides a time trial in the late afternoon he has already ridden on the road in the morning for an hour or two and spent and hour on the trainer warming up for the time trial. So he has already ridden three hours before doing the time trial which opened his body up to run at peak condition so he can put his best effort forward. So regardless of your training philosophies there is always time to do a warm up before a race.
What type of training would you prescribe for the weekend warrior type guy if he has a full time job, family, and not a lot of gym or bike time?
A well balanced regular raining program is the best way to do it. A little bit of everything done daily is much better than too much of one thing done every second or third day. A practical solution is to do everything at home to minimize travel time. In the mornings before work, ride a stationary bike for 20-minutes at a moderate-hard pace and when you get home do 15 or 20 minutes of weights followed by 100 sit-ups and 10-minutes of cardio then stretch at night before bed. When you add that all up, that’s a lot and it doesn’t take much time. All we are talking about is two 15 to 20 minute sessions a day which everybody should be able to fit in their schedule. You can even multitask by getting on your stationary bike in the mornings and eating your breakfast at the same time. Sometimes I ride my stationary bike when I’m talking on the phone or working on my computer as a way of getting fitness time in while working. Bottom line is there’s always time to train if it’s important enough to you.
What is the biggest thing you see guys doing wrong while training for MX?
Laboring under the misconception that killing themselves day in and day out for at least an hour is the only way to get fit. The truth is, that’s probably the fastest way to burn out. A little bit of balanced training everyday is the key.
Everyone always says (at least the MX guys do) that the MX athlete is the best conditioned athlete in the world. Since you also train Lance Armstrong and are around other world class athletes, where do you think MX ranks?
MX is by far the most complex sport. You have to have the flexibility of a gymnast, strength of a power lifter, endurance of a Tour De France cyclist, mindset of a bull rider, composure of a world poker champion and intelligence of an Einstein. You have to have it all. In other sports you don’t have to have all those ingredients so proportioned. You can always get away with something. If you race cars you can have a better car and be a lesser driver. If you are on a bicycle you can have lesser bike and a bigger set of lungs and legs. But in MX you can’t hide from anything and have to be great at everything. It’s hard to compare the individual things in each sport against each other. Take Lance for instance. He has a bigger VO2 than any of the top MX guys, but what does that have to do MX? Not a lot, because a great VO2 by itself won’t win races because racing readiness is about the entire mental and physical package. It’s not possible to compare one thing in one sport against 5 or 6 things in MX and accurately define a rider’s readiness to race. In fact those comparisons can hurt a rider’s confidence if they believe they’re deficient even though the comparison is inaccurate.
That's it for part two. Check out part 3 where Jeff talks about performance enhancing drug use in MX. Until next time, good luck with your training and, as always, VT can be reached anytime at firstname.lastname@example.org
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