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How to Practice Motocross

by Coach Seiji

Andrew Short has a state of the art training facility in Texas with a complete outdoor track and professional supercross track. Who wants to ride?

Photo: Chris Worden

Training for you, the recreational rider, is actually much more complicated than training for an elite rider: school, career and family take most of your time and energy leaving little left over for training and recovery. Planning and efficiently executing training is a must for 99% of riders striving to remain competitive. The smart rider focuses his time, energy, and effort into the areas that will create the most positive changes to his or her overall motocross racing ability; for most riders this area is usually motocross specific skills and fitness that can only be achieved with actual motocross riding.

Since recreational riders will gain the most by actually riding motocross, plans to allow for as much actual riding is a must. This class of rider tends to only ride on weekends but many of them spend a large amount of time during the week involved in training activities such as going to the gym for strength training. The time spent at the gym, possibly multiple times per week, could be better spent actually riding. Executing an actual ride session is much more complicated than just going to the gym or going cycling but the payoff for getting another practice into the week is realistically much greater than doing any other training activity. It may by nearly impossible for a rider with a career and family to figure out how to add a riding session into the week but every effort should be made to ride as much as energy supplies allow. Something as simple and quick as doing drills after work would pay bigger dividends to most normal riders than another session in the gym or doing more cardiovascular training.

Once at the track the rider must use the valuable on track time as efficiently as possible. Ideally training weeks are organized where the highest energy demands occur early in the week and decrease as the week progresses. Since most riders do not have the luxury of having enough riding days during the week to execute such plans effectively, he or she must divide the energy they have for a single ride day into attacking their personal weaknesses in an order that makes the most sense as far as how the body reacts to expending energy.

The best way to systematically address riding weaknesses (or limiters) is to divide your overall riding ability into specific categories and address the limiter in each. An “average” rider’s categories might look something like this:

Rider Categories - General
1. Riding Specific Fitness
2. Riding Specific Skills
3 Mental Issues

Within these categories you will more than likely have a very specific limiter that you know is holding back your overall motocross performance. The most effective way to use your valuable practice time is to have a training objective that addresses each one of your known limiters and create practice goals. You will then create a plan for the practice session that organizes your efforts in order of decreasing energy demands.

Here is an example of a structured track day for Joe Vet whose self proclaimed limiters in the above categories look like this:

Rider Categories - Specific Limiters
1. Riding Specific Fitness: Every muscle - shoulders to hands - gives out and begins to morph into uncontrollable alien limbs at the 15-minute mark of a race moto.
2. Riding Specific Skills: Starts! Joe Vet gets lackluster starts and continues to lose positions during the first lap; has to play catch up the rest of the moto.
3. Mental Issues: When followed, Joe Vet rides defensively which causes nervousness which leads to the alien limb syndrome in his arms within a lap.

Training time is a valuable commodity for Joe Vet and riding time is even more rare so effective use of the practice time is a must. Joe can make it to the local Wednesday night practice but only has about 2 hours to ride. He wants to train smarter so he creates these goals at the office while he is supposed to be working on a presentation.

Rider Categories - Goals
1. Riding Specific Fitness Goal: Ride two, 17-minute motos at race pace.
2. Riding Specific Skills Goal: Practice starts; work on first lap riding in traffic.
3. Mental Goals: Focus on maintaining loose and relaxed riding under pressure

When Joe Vet gets to the track after work, he realizes that the practices are organized into big bikes and little bikes in 20-minute sessions and it is fairly crowded. While waiting in line to pay up, he creates his specific practice plan to attack the goals he created while at work in the order of decreasing energy demands.

Rider Categories - Execution!
1. Warm-up then ride 2, 17-minute motos at race pace. When fatigue creeps in, focus on
maintaining a loose and relaxed riding style and breathing normally.
2. Do 8 practice starts (he has to use the outside edge of the longest straight to do this) and ride one sprint lap as hard as he can go but using lines that are not part of the main race line to simulate having to pass or defend positions during the first lap of a vet race.
3. Again, work on breathing normally and remaining mentally calm.
Andrew Short never practices without his longtime trainer Coach Seji and mechanic Nate Alexander.

Photo: Todd Gutierrez

Joe Vet takes 20-minutes to get unloaded and geared up. His two lap warm-up and first moto eats up the first 20-minute practice session. In between his practice sessions he mentally reiterates his goals for the day. He goes out for his second moto and comes in before the practice session is over. One more rest period while the little bikes are out and then he does his starts and one lap sprints. He gets undressed and loads up within his available two hours!

Trading cross training time for riding time or figuring out the logistics to add more riding time will help every rider immensely. Using the system of categorizing components of riding performance, identifying limiters and creating practice goals eliminates “just riding around” and “wasting” this precious riding time. You will be specifically working on the things that will make the most difference in your overall riding ability. You aren’t getting any younger so get faster by training smarter! Do some thinking and some planning to make the most out of every minute you do get to ride and train. Be smarter, be efficient; GET FASTER!

Remove the Guesswork

At Virtual Trainer, we believe there is a right way to train for motocross. It starts with having a clear goal, finding expert instruction (on and off the bike), performing structured training and receiving immediate feedback throughout the process. Coach Seiji (Andrew Short's longtime trainer) has teamed up with Virtual Trainer to offer our audience an exclusive motocross community geared towards improving your performance on and off the track. The community offers motocross specific training plans designed by one of the best – to help you achieve your best performance. This is literally a one-of-a-kind training and conditioning experience for you, the motocross athlete.

About the Author: Seiji Ishii is the head coach of 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, Jason Anderson, and Andrew Short. 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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  1. Gravatar
    Sean Kiernan May 23, 2015 at 2:21 am

    1. Riding Specific Fitness: Every muscle - shoulders to hands - gives out and begins to morph into uncontrollable alien limbs at the 15-minute mark of a race moto.

    This explains it perfectly. But it's more like 3 minutes !! Haha

  2. Gravatar
    Anthony May 24, 2015 at 7:18 pm

    3 minutes....agreed!

  3. Gravatar
    Petter May 27, 2015 at 8:37 am

    How much time resting between motos?

  4. Gravatar
    Racer X Virtual Trainer May 28, 2015 at 3:26 am

    Rest until fully recovered or as long as time will allow.

  5. Gravatar
    Jamie September 25, 2015 at 7:50 pm

    I came across this site because I'm a vet novice who is exhausted after the first lap. I should go to the gym. I should ride more. I should ..... I know, I know. But if, for many reasons / excuses, I can't .... what can I do on race day to have better results? I'm thinking more rest and less stress. I do not relax due to nerves. I do not sit between motos due to nerves. I'm wondering if I should try resting when not riding (by sitting in the bleachers watching motos so I actually do sit still) and should try not to look at the other riders on the gate as I just start thinking about how I'll be out of the moto after the 1st lap because of exhaustion and because those other guys on the line look so much faster than me. Thanks for listening.

  6. Gravatar
    Racer X Virtual Trainer October 01, 2015 at 10:02 am

    Jamie, please don't take this the wrong way but to me the obvious reason you get tired is b/c you are out of shape. All the relaxation, less stress, mental prep in the world is not going to fix that. The only way to get in shape is to ride and/or exercise. No one can be expected to show up at track (having trained very little) and be expect to not get tired. Being tired on the motorcycle without training and asking what you can do to not get tired is (at least to me) like saying that you are hungry and want to solve your hunger without eating. If you are hungry, you eat. If you are getting tired while riding, you train. Like I said, I am not trying to be a smart ass but to me the answer to your question is very simple. least a little during the week. There is not a person alive who cannot spare 30 minutes to exercise each day. NOT A SINGLE PERSON. If exercise becomes a priority in your life, it will happen.

  7. Gravatar
    Jennifer November 07, 2017 at 6:12 pm

    I am 14 and i want to start racing motocross. I have a Honda cr85 , and all the gear . But I don't know how to start practicing. I just don't know what to do. I don't know if what i'm doing is right or wrong or even what to practice . I really don't want to look stupid when i go out for my first moto race because i don't know what to do because i didn't know what to practice.

  8. Gravatar
    Racer X Virtual Trainer November 09, 2017 at 4:27 pm

    Just practice the basics. Starts, turns, small jumps, stuff like that. Watch the other kids in your class and talk to other rider's at the races. Just keep it simple and enjoy riding your dirt bike!

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