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Interval Training and Group Fitness

by Racer X Virtual Trainer

Sometimes it even snows in Paradise!

It's the middle of winter and getting motivated to train can be difficult. Now is the time when Champions are made, so don't let the winter time blues get you down. I too live in an area where the sun never seems to shine in the winter. Getting motivated to train when its dark and cold outside can be a test to even the most dedicated athlete. I used to find it very difficult to get my butt off the couch and into the gym. Then I discovered an incredible type of workout known as interval training. My workouts used to consist of weight training, and some cardio training when I could muster up the fortitude to plow through 30 to 40 minutes of pure boring hell on the stairmaster or stationary bike. Getting motivated for those workouts was difficult to say the least. And to top it off, I never seemed to reach the level of fitness that I knew I could obtain.

Let Me Tell You a Little Story....
For me the discovery came about 15 years ago when I was an Engineer working in Florida.  My Cubical-mate was a fellow Engineer who knew nothing about motocross but was heavily into Martial Arts, road cycling, running and training in general.  I soon found out that he was also a group fitness instructor at our local YMCA and he taught aerobics, kickboxing, something called training camp and even spinning classes.  He was in incredible shape, as flexible as Gumby and he always seemed to be bright and chipper on Monday mornings even though he had a Martial Arts competition that weekend; whereas my butt was usually dragging from riding.  As we shared war stories pertaining to the weekend events, mine always about racing motocross and his, a competition, I started to see the similarities between his competitions and mine.  The only difference being that what he was doing Monday through Friday seemed to be working for him and what I was doing was not.  At the time, I was not certified in anything except being dangerous in the gym. He on the other hand was certified in just about everything, held a black belt in karate, logged 1000's of miles on his road bike, and had more running shoes in his garage than I had tools.  He too began to recognize the similarities between racing and Martial Arts and suggested I start taking his Aerobics class.  Who me? Aerobics! You have got to be kidding!

The next several months were shameful indeed as I would scrape the barrel for an excuse as to why I wouldn't be in class that night. He and my wife used to poke-n-prod me, but I always resisted. Maybe in the back of my mind I was just too embarrassed to join all the ladies for an hour of step aerobics. But the thing is, what he was doing didn't look like some "girley" step class and he was definitely in incredible shape. I used to look in from my perch high on the stationary bike and be amazed at how many pushups the guy could do. His muscular endurance was incredible and he never seemed to get tired. Finally, after much internal struggle, I went over to the Aerobics room, opened the door and walked in.  I soon learned that there was nothing to be afraid of except the hard work that was to follow.  Nobody seemed to care that I was uncoordinated and everyone left their egos at the door.  It only took one class for me and I felt as if I had discovered the promised land of working out. I rumbled, stumbled and bumbled my way through those first few classes and before I knew it, I figured out what I was missing; interval training. That was 15 years ago and it feels like yesterday.  Now I am the one with all the certifications educating others about the benefits of interval training for motocross!

Tougher sections of the track like the Whoops require the body to use the Anaerobic Energy System

The specific type of aerobics we were doing was called interval aerobics or interval training. Simply put, interval training means varying the intensity within a workout. Interval training involves alternating short bouts of high intensity work with what is called active recovery. Active recovery is usually just a less intense form of the original activity. For example, if you were running you would jog for 3 minutes and sprint for 1 minute, repeating this for the length of your workout.  By training interval style, you can achieve more work over the same period of time than if you just did one constant activity. Because interval training is intense, it is a great method for improving both the aerobic and anaerobic energy systems. Both of which are used in motocross.  Motocross is mostly aerobic; using the anaerobic system is situations where high outputs of energy are required for very short periods of time like whoop sections, muscling the bike through a tough rutted out section, or sitting and standing several times over a short distance.

Get Over it and Join
There are many ways to incorporate interval training into your routine. If you have a gym membership, you really need to consider getting over your inhibitions and joining the ladies for an interval class or two. Ask the aerobics coordinator (most gyms have one), if they offer interval style classes. Intervals can be done in several classes including step aerobics, kickboxing, spinning, boot camp, and circuit to name a few. One great advantage of joining a class is that it will help you maintain a consistent schedule throughout the week. Once you get hooked, you will certainly look forward to the class that day instead of dreading the cold drive to the gym on that bleak winter day. Join the right class and the scenery isn't too bad either. One other thing that may help you to overcome your fear of the aerobics room is to ask if there are any male instructors. It's like going to the Doctor for that turn your head and cough thing; sometimes it's just easier with a guy.

If you have access to a gym here is a list of a few classes you may want to check out.
Kickboxing: My personal favorite and one of the classes I teach regularly. This class is perfect for motocross because it encompasses all the aspects that are important to the MX athlete; muscular endurance, cardiovascular conditioning, strength, flexibility, coordination, and commitment. This is the class that my friend got me involved with after several months of interval aerobics. My kickbox class also incorporates plyometrics which are perfect for motocross. An example of a plyometric would be to squat 5 times and then from the squatted position, explode and jump as high as you can and then return to the squat. Plyometrics train the muscle to be explosive and respond quickly upon demand. Exactly what you need when you are on the bike.

Interval Aerobics: This is a great class for the beginner aerobics participant. Admittedly, aerobics can take some getting used to with all of the choreography and dance steps to learn. Interval aerobics is great because during the intervals, when most of the work is being done, you don't have to worry about which foot is where or whether you are in step with the rest of the class. Just put your head down and blast the interval out.

Spinning: Spinning is also a class that I regularly teach. In a Spinning class, participants are led on a "virtual" outdoor road race complete with hills, valleys, straight-aways and finish lines. The workout is made difficult by changing the pedal resistance on the bike and also by sitting and standing while pedaling. This class is great because it can also be performed interval style and requires lower body strength, endurance, and fortitude. Yep: fortitude. You will understand what I mean after you take the class for the first time. Get those large muscles in the quads burning and see how long you can last. If you don't have access to a Spinning class, try the techniques on your own stationary bike (Check out this article on Spinning).

Boot Camp: I also teach this class, and it is great because no choreography is involved. For us older guys, it is like going to football or basketball practice back in-the-day. Basically, the class is just a bunch of drills all put together using intervals. There are so many combinations of drills to do that you never have to worry about getting bored. I actually take my class outdoors when the weather allows adding even more versatility. This class is called different things at different gyms, so ask the aerobics coordinator what they call the class at your gym. Again, this is a great way to cross train for MX.

Circuit Training: Your gym may or may not offer circuit training classes. In some locations, this class is fairly new, so check with your gym. Circuit training is an excellent way of building both muscular strength and endurance. The format of a circuit class utilizes nautilus type equipment to perform exercises that are performed sequentially. Basically, an instructor times you and directs you through the exercises. The class participants move from one machine to the next, usually alternating between cardio and weight machines. Each exercise is performed either for a certain number of repetitions or a prescribed amount of time before moving onto the next exercise. The exercises within each circuit are separated by timed rest periods and the circuits themselves are separated by slightly longer rest periods. Usually, 2 to 3 sets are performed per machine (or circuit). Circuit training is great for MX because the total number of machines and exertion level can be varied throughout the season to match the riders' goals. In the pre-season, the circuit can be set up to build more strength, and during the season the circuit can emphasize endurance.

Running: Instead of going outside and pounding out 5 or 10 miles in a normal run, try adding intervals. After you have warmed-up for 10 minutes or so, add a sprint to the mix. I like to spot an object off in the distance and sprint to it. Once I reach the object, I'll jog (active rest) until I feel I have recovered and then sprint again. By running this way I can actually reduce the total number of miles run and add more work to the training session. Incorporating intervals can also be done on a treadmill or stationary bike.

Rowing: I have talked at length as to the benefits of rowing with the Concept2 Rower. No other piece of equipment provides a better total body workout with the proper amount of cardio, muscular endurance, and explosive strength as the rowing machine. Coupled with the TransforMx Moto Endurance Training System and you have all that a Weekend Warrior needs to get ready for your local races this spring. Some gyms even have a class similar to Spinning with a rower and is called Rowbics. Rowbics is the next big thing so ask about it at your gym.

Now Put the Computer Down and Get Out There!
If you have never interval trained, the end of the off-season or the beginning of the pre-season is a great time to start.  If you are familiar with this type of training start increasing the intensity of your intervals as you plow through the end of the off-season and transition to the pre-season.  One word of caution: during your speed intervals, listen to your body. You want to increase your rate of exertion, but not to the point of injury. The key is to go past your comfort zone, pushing yourself a little farther each time. I find that the people in my class will work harder when they know the end is in sight. By timing your intervals, or even picking a visual goal, say "I'll run to the next mail box", you can be sure to complete your interval without giving up and cheating at the end. The other great thing about joining a class is that they are all taught by certified instructors who will be able to help you out personally with your training goals. They may not know a lot about MX, but they will certainly be able to answer your questions when it comes to fitness. So the next time you go to the gym and pause a little longer than you should at the water fountain (that just happens to be next to the aerobics room), ask yourself why you aren't in there sweating it up with the ladies. They may just be onto something.

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
    RMF August 29, 2011 at 10:35 am

    Hey, you do not need to put the computer down. Get on a stationary bike. If you get bored fast, consider interfacing the bike to a computer. It makes a huge difference. There is a number of virtual bikes out there, however I am on a budget and did not want to spend a fortune.

    I wanted to upgrade my old bike. The kits for this are not very common for some reason (I guess bike manufacturers want to sell you a new bike, this is how they make their money). I found one that looked reasonable see <A HREF="">Cyber ExerCycle</A>.

    The update was quite easy. I really like Burnout Paradise (it is an older driving game for a PC, but it is just amaizing). You actually find yourself pedaling faster when you are in the middle of a race. Anything to get through the next winter.


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