Interview: Andrew Short and Coach Seiji
by Racer X Virtual Trainer
Seiji Ishii: Sure no problem.
Andrew Short: Yea, no problem.
Well, Andrew let's start with the obvious question. How is your shoulder and what is your current injury status?
Andrew: Yea, so basically December 3rd I had a crash that resulted in a shoulder injury and broke my collarbone which was basically on top of a plate I had there from an earlier injury so it cracked on one side and also an AC joint injury. It was unfortunate and there is never a good time to get hurt especially in the off season when you want to build a solid base and improve on some of your weaknesses to go into the season strong and try to maintain from there. But unfortunately for me it did not work out that way. It will definitely be a hinderance in the beginning when I come back but I feel like I might be able to stay a little more fresh and rejuvenated throughout the series because I am starting with a little bit of a delay.
Do you have a time table on returning to race?
Andrew: I have no idea. Basically with my knee injury last summer I rushed it and came back a little too early and was still in some pain but when you are getting paid to ride a motorcycle you don’t necessarily have the luxury of coming back when you’re ready. So this time I really want to try to fight that and postpone it and make sure I can do twenty laps at speed and also I want to respect the injury and make sure if I do have another mishap my shoulder won’t be injured because it is not all the way healed. I’m trying to work and get my shoulder as strong as possible and when that time is ready to go racing I’ll do that. I’m expecting that to be around San Diego 2 or Dallas but I have to respect my body and if it’s not ready by then I’ll pump the brakes and return when I can.
Seiji, from a trainer’s perspective how is the treatment of Andrew’s injury similar to a weekend warrior’s and how is it different?
Seiji: Honestly, I think the biggest difference between a weekend guy and a pro, if you look at all the statistics it’s pretty true that the pro athlete more then likely comes back a lot sooner. A couple of factors account for this. The first, like Andrew said, the pro is getting paid to ride so the pressure on him to come back is a lot stronger. The other factor is that a pro rider is not getting up and going to work Monday through Friday. So he can devote however much time his body can handle to getting better. And part of getting better in a lot of those orthopedic injuries is just moving the joint to increase circulation and metabolism. So for regular people if you tell them they are going to have 12 weeks of physical therapy three times per week for one or two hours, usually those people are much too busy to do stuff on their own. If you press them they will tell you they are only doing PT with their therapist even though they are told to do PT at home too. I’m sure there are some really motivated people who do it exactly correct but even they are pressed for time. And when you start getting into later stages of therapy when you are actually creating a little bit of damage to get better in the long term they also don’t have the opportunity to completely recover from a hard therapy session. They are rushing out of the therapy sessions and running home or back to work. Whereas someone like Andrew doesn’t have to deal with that and he can do what he needs to do. His job is to get better so he can devote all of his time to rehabbing the injury.
Andrew, did the injury precipitate your regiment announcement or had you always planned for this to be your last year?
Andrew: No, it was my plan to retire after this year. It’s just unfortunate when it did happen because I wanted to come into the season strong. I know how valuable a good off season is and I feel like last year I benefitted from that and I had a strong supercross season. So I was really banking on doing that again. I actually thought last year was going to be my final year but after I got injured at the end of supercross I knew I didn’t want to end on that note and wanted to try it one more time. So I’ve known for a while that this was going to be it.
Are you doing the outdoors as well?
Andrew: Yes, I will be doing outdoors too.
So what is in the future for Andrew Short after you retire? Have you given it much thought? I mean, are you going to stay in the industry or become a dirt bag like Seiji and go rock climbing every day?
Andrew: (laughs) I’m not sure. I think there will be a lot of different opportunities that will present themselves when I am done racing. I look forward to that and the challenges that lie ahead. I know it is going to be really difficult because for the last 15-16 years I’ve been devoted to one thing. And that is racing motorcycles. It’s been a dream come true for me for sure. I don’t want to say something inside of me will die but it’s going to be weird to have a different passion to wake up and be geared towards something that is completely different then what I have been doing for the majority of my life. So I am going to have to focus that energy into something else and I know I can be successful at whatever I choose to do. But it is a bit scary because I don’t know what is going to happen. But I’ve always had a problem throughout my career of focusing on the future and not necessarily staying in the present and then I loose sight and don’t enjoy some of the good times of riding. So that is my goal for right now to enjoy these last nine months and when that is done I’ll shift gears and try to focus on the next challenge whatever that may be.
And what about you, Seiji. What does the future hold for you once Andrew retires?
Seiji: I’ve been thinking and working on that a lot since I’ve been off. Basically when Andrew, well actually his wife, announced that it was his last year I did get some requests about what I was going to do and they were all motocross related. I didn’t absolutely say no to anybody, I just don’t want to commit when I’m not absolutely certain what I want to do. I would like to stay in the sport, definitely do things like we have going on the Virtual Trainer website. I have a couple of part time athletes and a few riders I train online and all that. But as far as following one or two riders around and that is my only circle of concern, it would have to be the right situation with the right rider. I don’t know for sure. When I knew Andrew was going to retire, I guess I’m not normal but I had a funny reaction of ‘okay, well that’s it!’ It’s weird for me because I don’t want people to think I am quitting. Once I got around to telling people I hang out with that I think I’m done full time training Shorty after this year, opportunities have come up. The true answer is, at this point I don’t know what I’m going to do.
Let’s go back and talk a little about how the two of you started working together. Andrew, when you first came into the sport were you like most riders who just trained on their own or did you work with other trainers?
Andrew: Well initially when I started racing I was riding for Motoworld. I had a pretty small salary so I didn’t have the financial means to hire anyone to help with that aspect. I didn’t really understand training and was straight out of high school and was really clueless. I was basically doing what my team mates were doing. David Pingree was a team mate and he was an older veteran on the team. He was awesome to be around because he was well educated on not only training but all aspects of racing professionally from dealing with the team manager to mechanics, contracts, and practicing at the track. I learned a lot from him from just visually watching him and how he handled himself. He worked with Eddie Casillas who is one of the trainers who works as a medic at the races (ed note: The Asterisk Mobile Medic Unit). I worked with Eddie as my career went on with Motoworld just going to the gym every once in a while. He would show me the basics of training at the gym and what not. So that was a great starting point. So I worked with him through the beginning of my first year at Honda. While I was at Honda I was introduced to another guy, Michael Johnson. He worked with Ernesto and McGrath a little bit at the same time so we were all kind of working with him. I worked with Michael for a few years and I learned quite a bit. That is when I first started riding a bicycle and maybe got a little too into it and lost focus on riding the motorcycle and what I was actually getting paid to do. But I learned quite a bit for him. From there I worked with Jeff Spencer. Jeff is a very good person and I respect him quite a bit. Jeff has a very different outlook on life. One that I had never been exposed to. I think that opened my eyes to different ways of approaching racing. Not necessarily training. It was more the mental side and how to handle myself in different situations. I think when I first started working with Jeff I was fried from riding my bicycle too much. My volume was too high before I got to him. So it helped because he was big on recovery. So those are some of the things I benefitted from Jeff. Throughout that I think I put my body through so much that I almost damaged myself. That is when I met Seiji. He was really knowledgable on a lot of different things which kind of blew my mind because when you initially talk to Seiji he doesn’t come across as very educated but the guy really knows his stuff. I thought he was pretty weird and crazy and I’m sure he thought the same thing about me (laughs).
Yea, I can see that. Don’t you call him the smartest dummy you know?
Andrew: Yea, the smartest idiot I know (laughs). When I first met him I was like, ‘I’ll never work with that guy. He’s a kook.’ But the more I hung out with him the more I liked him and laughed. We drive each other crazy because we are so different but I definitely respect him and have learned a lot since we started in 2011.
Oakley is at the specialty vet awaiting another surgery. They will remove the mass again and send it off to a different lab. They don't believe the original multi lobular bone cancer diagnosis, they think it is a malignancy, just not sure what type. The way I hear it is after the labs come back again in 5-7 days, I will know we have two months or a year. Again, fully gutted but thankful for all the years she did have and that she isn't in major suffering mode now. Man I love this dog.
Coach Seiji and his best friend, Oakley.
I’ve known Seiji for several years now and consider him one of my best friends. I’ve also met you (Andrew) on several occasions and feel I know you pretty well from Seiji’s stories. I think what makes the both of you such a powerful team is the fact that you are so unbelievably different.
Seiji: Yea it’s like a safety check to me. It’s like the government with checks and balances. I might think one way and he thinks the other and as long as we are not thinking the same we will surely meet in the middle.
Andrew: I think at different times in my career I’ve needed different things from Seiji. In 2011 I was dealing with a lot of issues with too much volume and my outlook was completely different then it is today. Today I feel like I know what my body needs to be at my best for racing but Seiji offers a lot of other things. Like him being at the track if I get hurt. There are a lot of things he can do to help me in those situations. Also traveling week in and week out. If I do get hurt he is so well educated on how to get me to my best. Or if I tweak my ankle or what have you on race day, having him there and able to race at a high level even though I am injured is a big benefit to me. In 2011, I wasn’t so much worried about those things as I was just being fit and trying to get my body and health back to normal. I think all riders go through different phases and that is what is so cool about Seiji. He is not so one dimensional like a lot of the other trainers in the industry. He is very well educated on a lot of different areas.
Seiji, you’ve worked with a lot of different riders from top pros to weekend warriors. What is it about Andrew that makes him such a good rider to train?
Seiji: The one thing about Andrew that is definitely different from the other pros that I’ve trained is that he is, I guess holistic is the word. He is actually concerned about his wellbeing and health beyond racing. I don’t know if that is new or if he has always been like that but I definitely know that over the last couple of years through his questions and the things he is wondering about are not always related to making him better on the track. A lot of it nowadays is related to making him healthy so he can live a long time. I hardly ever get questions like that from riders about their long term health. Most riders would be willing to take five years off of their lives for one regional championship if given the choice. Andrew is not like that any more. I think he may have been like that when he was younger but not any more. It’s very unique that he is interested in his health outside of racing. The other thing that makes him so unique for me is the fact that he is one of the only riders I have worked for who has a family. I have actually learned a lot from that because in the beginning I just didn’t get it. He would tell me that something was going on within his family and it was just wrecking his world and I never really got it. But I got to spend a lot of time around his family and staying with them in California and now I see how family things can wreck your world. I remember one time driving in the car with Jackie (Andrew’s wife) and the kids were having a melt down in the backseat. I was tired after we got to where we were going so I started to totally get it. And that wasn’t even my kid!
So the other side of that question for you Seiji, is what is it about Andrew that just drives you crazy.
Seiji: Well, at first it was a lot worse and from my point of view it has gotten a lot better but he is super orderly. Everything has to be planned out, shoes have to be lined up, socks go on one side of the drawer, bolts have their own little container, tools are all organized in the tool box. Everything is super organized, super planned and controlled. Most sports and especially in motocross so many things are not in your control. And in classical education the theory is if you are of that personality you have these expectations that the results are a direct reflection of the planning or organization. Or executing the plan that you dreamed of a long time ago. I’ve had some athletes who were that way and quickly got over it. Andrew did not quickly get over that. I’m not going to say it affected his physical performance but think it affected his mental attitude a lot. The inability for reality to fit your plan in a sport is a difficult thing. And I am probably too far the other way in saying that whatever happens happens and you just have to roll with it. Like I said I don’t think it affected him race to race as much as it would affect him between races or in the off season. It would just sort of steal the joy out of the fortunate circumstances that you freaking ride a motorcycle for a living. It was super upsetting for me to see from the outside. Especially if you care about someone and you totally operate in the other direction. You are like, ‘Hey man. Bottom line is you ride a motorcycle for a living. That’s bad ass. Sorry your shoes didn’t line up or whatever. It’s not that big of a deal.’ So I used to get really frustrated about that.
Do you think that carried over to how he raced?
Seiji: I think it carried over to the execution of a race day. Pro race days just by design from the TV schedule are pretty much identical each weekend. The actual schedule on paper is identical. In the beginning in working with Andrew I think he was looking for that repetition. He was looking for and expecting the execution of each race weekend to be identical because the schedules were identical. So if something dropped out of line it would send him into a mental spiral of worrying about, ‘oh no, this isn’t the plan. Now what is going to happen.’
So Andrew, I’ll hand this back to you. Same questions. You already covered some of the good about Seiji but what are some of the things he does that drives you crazy. And where do you rank training in the importance of the overall success of your career?
Andrew: Well, I think training is really important just because of the mental aspect. I think the mental aspect is way more important in racing supercross than it is motocross. Motocross you have to be fit. But the mental aspect is really important and often times overlooked. By myself as well. I feel like it’s hard to stay consistent with it whereas with the training it’s easy. Like Seiji said, I like to be really organized so I like to do everything the same way and know where I am at. It’s easier to judge. Also the technical side I feel like often times I get so caught up in training that I lose track of practicing actual technique on how I’m going to race whether it’s starts or cornering or whatever. There are a bunch of different techniques you can practice. It’s like what Seiji just said for the last five minutes. He and I are completely different on those outlooks on being organized in life and approaching racing. I respectfully disagree with a lot of the things he says but I know where he stands and he knows where I stand. Like he said, being overly organized he thinks is one of my weaknesses. But like if the bike breaks during practice and I get stressed out about it, he is like, ‘Oh don’t worry about it. It will get fixed. That is someone else’s problem.’ He thinks I should prepare and ride the same way no matter what else is going on around me or if the situation changes. But that is where I don’t think he completely understands because the racing kind of snowballs through out the day. He is only looking at my fitness and overall wellbeing and a little bit of the results. But for me, racing and being on the track I know how it works. Like going to pick my starting gate, he doesn’t go down there and try to pick a starting gate out of 20 different people. When you have pick 14 it is completely different. If you don’t get a start then you are fighting through the pack and risking a crash. Those are the things I’m thinking about when qualifying does’t go well and he is just thinking, ‘Well, it can only get better.’ The rider’s perspective and the trainer’s perspective are a lot different and I think that is where my organization pays off. I am really good at specializing in one thing. I am pretty one dimensional. That may not be very good for life but it is good when you get paid to ride a motorcycle. But what happens when it does rain or the schedule is different or something random is out of your control. That’s what Seiji was saying is one of my weaknesses but I feel like I have gotten much better at that over my career. He always makes it sound like my shoes are out of order and that pisses me off (laughs). That doesn’t matter to me, I guess it’s the way he describes me (laughs). But the things that matter to me, those are the things that I want organized. Whether it’s riding or training, those are the things that I want to be perfect to maximize each and every time I am on the track. If my bike breaks and I don’t get my full 40-minute moto in and I only got 20, then I had to go back and fill up gas, then eat, then get in another 20. I feel like I short sighted myself and the next time we have to be more prepared so the bike doesn’t break and what have you. So that is where I feel like I am focused on trying to control a situation and maximize each and everything I am working on.
Again, that is what makes you guys so good together. You are completely opposite so that provides a good balance. If the both of you have the exact same opinion and point of view on things and you are both wrong, then bad things happen. But if you’re on opposite sides of the spectrum then you are forced to listen to the other point of view. That is the part of being a trainer that I don’t think people completely understand. It’s so much more than counting reps or going on bike rides. You have to really get to know the person and figure out what makes them tick. It’s a lot like a marriage.
Andrew: Yes, that’s life, right? I mean you have to be able to reflect and see things from a different point of view to be able to be your best and continue to get better.
Seiji, you wrote the programs that we offer on the Virtual Trainer website. How close is something like that to what you deliver to Andrew?
Seiji: The general philosophies are the same for sure. It’s interesting you ask me that because what we are trying to do with the premium training plans is to appeal to the biggest audience available. I’ve always felt like a training plan needs to fit a particular person. People probably would not believe it but a lot of those weekend warrior type training plans, let’s say for a guy with 10 hours per week to train, those work loads are probably higher than what Andrew does for sure. But you have to remember this is a skill sport. I was asked the other day what percentage of the outcome do I believe is skill versus fitness and I think that ratio is 75/25. Meaning that if you are not practicing your skill 75% of the time you are expending your energy then it is not going to go well. So that is why Andrew has a lot of free time to go out to his track and work on his skill, say 75% of the time. Whereas the training plans that we offer on Virtual Trainer, normally that is not the case for the weekend warrior who can only ride on the weekends and has to go to a job everyday. So the training to riding ratio gets skewed. We are trying to make the most out of the time they have available. In the Virtual Trainer training plans the physical training part as a percentage is higher than what Andrew does as a percentage simply because Andrew has the time and resources to practice his skill the majority of the time. So that is the biggest difference. Andrew’s training overall has a higher proportion of time focused on skill. I would tell any weekend warrior to do the same thing but unfortunately they do not have the time and resources to do ride all week. So we take a lot of that time and put it towards the physical training only because that’s all the guy can do after work Monday through Friday. For a pro, he get’s the majority of his fitness from riding the motorcycle. For the weekend warrior, he has to get the majority of his fitness from the gym and that is what the Virtual Trainer plans do.
Ok. Prediction time for Andrew. Who is your favorite for the 450 title.
Andrew: I think Dungey is the guy to beat. He hasn’t been hurt, has a lot of momentum and he has a great team around him. I would put Tomac up there but I think he is coming off of a big injury. I don’t think he has ever been off the bike that long and he is also switching teams so I don’t think he is going to be as consistent as Ryan. I think he will be faster at times but I don’t think he is going to be there for the championship compared to Dungey. I think Reed will be good and we will see the same flashes of brilliance from James Stewart. It’s going to be cool. There is a lot of depth in the class and a lot of people are going out there to try and prove something. That is going to create some good racing for sure but I think there will be a lot of mistakes in the beginning and that could be dangerous for a lot of riders. It will be interesting to see how everyone’s ego holds up because I don’t think their expectations are going to necessarily meet what they have in their head. It has been a long time since the series has been this deep in terms of talent.
And speaking of the 450 class and James Stewart, I can’t let you go without asking your opinion on James’ drug test punishment and reinstatement. Did you think the punishment fit the crime?
Andrew: Well, I feel like, who am I to judge? There are other people who’s job it is to do that but if you educate yourself and on other sports, especially cycling which is a sport I follow closely. If you’re outside the industry you think he got off light. If you are in the motocross industry you feel like he got the hammer put to him. I think there are just different perspectives on how you look at it and for me to judge and say whether he was right or wrong is not my place. But in general I think it is a good thing that drug testing is in our sport and in this case it was a shame it had to be James who was caught. I mean it would have been a shame for who ever but I think it is good to know that the presence is there and you can’t get away with it no matter who you are. I don’t think it was necessarily a good thing but the precedence that it sets is good. For me I’ve been on that whereabouts program all year and I wish more people in the 450 class had to be subject to the same regulations. Currently, I think there are two people who have to deal with that. I think it should at least be the top ten.
Seiji: I think it was fair. The rules were written down and everyone should have known it or had the opportunity to know what the punishment is for a certain violation. I think he got what was written down in the rules as the punishment. It’s not like someone out of know where levied a punishment that wasn’t expected. As a human and fan of the sport I was bummed and felt sympathy for James. But as a fellow competitor who has to play under the same rules I would expect the full punishment for my rider if we broke a rule. I also think there is something to be learned from all the publicity and problems in pro cycling. Lance Armstrong was the King of cycling and when the King got taken down for breaking the rules the entire landscape changed. You could look at James getting caught as something similar. Certainly James was not doing anything remotely as bad as Lance but they are similar in that they are and were the biggest names in their sport. In the end I think we all agree that we want motocross to be looked at as a legitimate sport. Not one where people taking PEDs or breaking rules are the only riders who are successful. People have to know that for a fact it is a legitimate, clean sport. In my opinion drug testing will only help the sport.
Andrew: It’s also important for the health of the young kids in the sport. It’s that same philosophy that Seiji said early about a rider willing to give five years of their life for a championship. If a young kid is presented with something that they are told will quickly take them to the next level but could potentially harm their health down the road, that kid is not going to think about that. The main percentage of our paddock is very young and I feel that group of rider is willing to take bigger risks with their health. So drug testing is definitely important.
Last couple of questions for Andrew. First what is you most memorable moment of your career?
Andrew: In terms of racing it would be the des Nations and Colorado. That was unreal. Something I will never forget. That and when I won Seattle on a 450 but the des Nations was way cool.
Andrew: Well, I think you always learn from your mistakes but I’ve always regretted when I lost the 2006 west coast supercross championship that, after the race, I just left. I should have stayed and thanked the team who sacrificed and put in a lot of hard work. I also regret not going over and shaking Grant Langston and Mitch Peyton’s hand and congratulating them. That was a bad decision on my part. Something I wish I would have handled differently.
Well, I think you have definitely redeemed yourself for any wrong doing over the course of your career. You are a fan favorite and champion in a lot of people’s eyes. Thanks for the time fellas!
Seiji: No problem.
Andrew: Yea, thanks, Tim!
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.