by Coach Seiji
You are a dedicated motocross racer and you have the drive to put all your motos in at the track and miles on your bicycle. You work hard and you expect dividends. You know exactly what to do at the track but do you know what to do on the bicycle? You know the pros ride bicycles but is that the extent of your knowledge? The purpose of this article is to make your cycling or other aerobic training as effective as it can be – to train smarter, not just harder.
There are three fundamental elements to all athletic training:
- Frequency - simply how many times per week you do an activity.
- Duration - how long an activity lasts for each session.
- Intensity – how "hard" you are going; at what percentage of your maximum effort are you expending in that exercise session.
Coach Seiji puts Andrew Short through a lactate threshold test on a stationary bike.
Photo: Coach Seiji
All three of these variables are manipulated to create a single workout and then again to form a training plan. The last variable, intensity, is the one that gives seasoned cycling pros and motocross athletes the most problems and is the least understood. This article will lay a foundation so you can measure intensity and know what systems in your body are stressed for each intensity level. This will give you the knowledge to build your cycling or other aerobic workouts and help you start to create a training plan. It will also give you a physiological goal for each workout, which will help keep you motivated to complete the workout correctly.
Intensity and Body Fuel Systems:
The main reason for modulating your intensity level is to be able to stress your body’s different fuel systems. At the lowest levels of exercise intensity most of your energy is derived from utilizing the oxygen you breathe and metabolizing fat. Fat is the most efficient fuel source in your body; it yields more energy per molecule than your body’s other choices for fuel and has no harmful by-products. As the exercise intensity increases a smaller portion of your energy demand is met by processing fat and a larger portion is met by processing carbohydrates, still utilizing oxygen. As exercise intensity increases even further eventually, all of your energy comes from carbohydrates.
At a certain point, you cannot provide all the energy from the carbohydrate by utilizing oxygen alone and you start producing energy from carbohydrates in the absence of oxygen. The downside of this is you produce a harmful by-product in your muscles called lactic acid, which will degrade your performance radically if allowed to accumulate. Lactate Threshold is the level where you are accumulating lactic acid at the same rate you are neutralizing it and it is an important physiological marker. Measuring your intensity level during exercise and controlling this level will allow you to stress each fuel system for the correct amounts during the correct periods in your training plan.
Establishing Heart Rate Training Zones:
The first step in the process of making your training smarter is to establish your personal training zones based on intensity. This is done with a field test to measure Lactate Threshold Heart Rate (heart rate at which Lactate Threshold is reached) in whatever cross-training activity you have chosen for aerobic conditioning. You need to utilize a heart rate monitor that has the capacity to calculate and average heart rate for the time period being measured. The test is simple but requires you to be well rested, hydrated, and fed as it involves a maximum effort!
Remove the Guesswork with Premium Training
At Virtual Trainer, we believe there is a right way to train for motocross. It starts with having a clear goal, finding expert instruction, performing structured training and receiving immediate feedback throughout the process. Get your custom training plan now!
Lactate Threshold Heart Rate (LTHR) Test – Warm up for about 10-minutes. Start a 30-minute all-out effort. You should strive to hit an effort level that will allow you to complete the 30 minutes at as high an intensity level as possible for the entire test. You don’t want to fade towards the end of the test but you don’t want anything left when you are done. When you are 10 minutes into your 30-minute all-out effort, start your heart rate monitor recording function and stop it when you hit the 30-minute mark. Cool down for 5 minutes. The number you need from this test is the average heart rate for the last 20 minutes of your effort. This is your LTHR.
Now that you have your magic LTHR number, you need to calculate your five heart rate training zones:
Add one beat to each zone starting number beginning with zone 2 to get the correct zone range numbers, i.e. add one beat to 89% (high zone 2 number) of the LTHR to get the low heart rate number for zone 3.
Let’s say your average heart rate was 155 BPM from your heart rate monitor.
Zone 1 would be anything less than 129 BPM (155 x 0.83 = 129)
Zone 2 would be 130 to 138 BPM
Zone 3 would be 139 to 144 BPM
Zone 4 would be 145 to 155 BPM
Zone 5 is anything above 155 BPM
||% of LTHR|
|2||Aerobic conditioning||Mostly fat, some carbohydrate||83-89%|
|3||High level aerobic conditioning||Fat and carbohydrate||89-93%|
|4||Aerobic/anaerobic threshold||Predominantly carbohydrate||93-100%|
|5||Anaerobic conditioning||All carbohydrate||100%<|
OK, Now What?
Now that you have your 5 heart rate training zones established, what do you do with them? This is where the task of creating an actual training program starts. In general:
- As intensity goes up, duration comes down. This applies to how you do one workout as well as how you plan for an entire week. For example, you may do one hour of cycling in zones 1 and 2 but you may only do 3 intervals of 4 minutes each in zone 4 for a total of 12 minutes in zone 4. It also means that weeks that have only lower zone workouts in them will have more total weekly volume of training than weeks that include work in the higher zones.
- You progressively work from lower zone workouts to higher zone workouts. In January, you may be only using zones 1 and 2 but in April, you have workouts that include zones 4 and 5. You cannot gain the advantages of working in the higher zones until you have done enough work in the lower zones.
- The higher the zone, the less total weeks you work in that zone. You may be able to work for 12 weeks in zone 1 and 2 but only use zones 4 and 5 for four weeks total.
- The closer you get to your important race, the more you add higher zone work but the less total volume you do. The few weeks before your important event are the least in total volume but have the most bouts of higher zone work.
- View any work above zone 3 like a pill: the proper dosage at the proper time will yield excellent results but take it at the wrong time or take an overdose and it can ruin your season.
- You should always be doing some zone 1 and zone 2 work. These are the pure aerobic, fat metabolizing zones and you always need the ability to do this efficiently. As the season progresses and higher zone work begins, you do it less and less but you should always be doing some of the lower zone work.
These are just general pointers on how you create workouts and training plans. There is a mix of art and science to creating workouts, training weeks, and annual training plans. This is beyond the scope of this article but it will be covered in future installments of the Racer X Virtual Trainer.
Now that you have some basic knowledge about exercise intensity, body fuel systems, heart rate training zones and general rules for creating workouts and training plans, you are well on your way to smarter training. Any racer can just train harder and harder but the ones that continually gain fitness and speed, season after season, are also training smarter. Do what you can to train as smart as you can so that the effort you apply to training produces the most rewards!
About the Author: Seiji Ishii is the head coach of www.coachseiji.com. Coachseiji.com provides online coaching and personal training services to motorsports athletes. Coach Seiji has worked with both pros and elite amateurs including: Heath Voss, Ryan Clark, Austin Stroupe, PJ Larsen, Hunter Hewitt, Drew Yenerch, Rusty Potter, Jason Anderson, and Andrew Short. Learn more at coachseiji.com 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.