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Race Weeks and Warm-ups

by Coach Seiji

Coach Seiji is responsible for the health and well being of many of the elite amateur riders on the Monster Energy/Kawasaki Xtreme Team

Some of the most confusing of training subjects are what to do during the week before a race and what to do an hour before a race. This week before the event is called the race week and the number of questions I receive about this pivotal time is astounding. Do I train more? Do I train less? What do I eat? Do I eat more? Do I eat less? You get it. What to do as a warm-up also generates the same amount of confusion and questions. The focus of this article is to identify the goals of the race week and warm-up routine and give you some general guidelines so you can formulate your own plans.

The Race Week:
Avoid Common Pitfalls During This Most Important Week

Race week goals (remember, this is the week before the race):
1. Rest and recover so you can arrive at the race at a peak in fitness, well rested and with high energy stores. Remember that recovery is when you actually become faster and stronger.
2. Reduce mental and emotional stress so that you can arrive at the race mentally hungry and sharp. Physically resting will take care of some of this but you also have to actively reduce other forms of possible stress.
3. Ensure you arrive at the race healthy and injury free.
Race week rules:
1. Training volume should be much less: A good place to start is 50% of your usual weekly and daily training volume. The extra available energy drives the recovery processes.
2. Training intensity should go from low to high as you get closer to the start of the race. Conversely, training duration goes from high to low as the race week progresses. The most intense but shortest training day will be the last day of your race week.
3. If you are not training, you should be resting! Resting means physically and mentally relaxing. This may sound boring but it is all about energy conservation. You want as much energy as possible to go to recovery processes in your body. You are training less so you have energy left over for your body to replenish muscle energy stores, build new tissues, etc. Why ruin this effort by not resting and stealing this energy away from your body’s recovery efforts? You should employ active recovery as well as total resting. Active recovery raises metabolism just a bit to speed recovery processes in the body; activities include stretching and very light cycling or even just taking walks.
4. In keeping with the above rule, you should still eat the same quantity and quality of food that you would during a normal training week. Remember, you need the same amount of energy that you normally would so that you have the extra energy for recovery processes. The only energy input is food! Don’t skimp on this part!
5. Take naps! The only time your brain releases growth hormone is during the deep dreaming cycle of your sleep. Taking a nap grants you an extra shot of this growth hormone and thus aiding your recovery.
6. Avoid all other forms of stress. All forms of stress (physical, mental, emotional, etc.) end up hormonally affecting your body in the same way (raising cortisol levels). You are reducing physical stress by lowering your training loads to conserve energy. You should do the same for all the other forms of stress. Avoid and remove anything that can cause these other forms of stress. Example: Get all your errands done early in the week or the week prior (like bike prep and supply purchasing) so that you are not rushing around at the last minute.
7. Practice good hygiene. Wash your hands often and always before you eat. Try touching things like doors with only one hand and then only using the other hand to touch anything on your face or to eat. Race week is not the week to expose your body to possible forms of infection or illness. If you get sick right as the race starts, you probably contracted it the week before or even earlier. Practicing good hygiene is important all the time but especially the week prior to the race. You made it this far; don’t sabotage yourself during the last week!
8. Avoid other risky activities. Motocross is risky enough already. You have successfully made it to the last week before the event injury free. Avoid throwing all this good fortune out the door by taking part of risky activities like drifting the rental car. What a shame it would be to make it to race week after all the practices and training activities only to miss the race because you injure yourself in some stupid accident during the last week!

Trainers and riders at the Millsaps Training Facility use the Concept2 Rower for warm-ups at the track and training at the gym!

Okay, so now you are armed with the basic goals and the general “rules” of the race week. If you have not followed these guidelines in the past you will be very surprised at how good you feel when they are employed. It can be mentally difficult to reduce your training loads during this week if you are not familiar with the race week concept but trust it and the training you have done. Remember this last credo: There is not much you can do the week before a race to improve your results but there sure is a lot you can do to mess them up! Trust your training and your race week plan. You will reap the rewards and then you will understand.

The Race Warm-up:
What to Do and When to Do it

The second confusing training subject we will cover is the race warm-up process. What to do and when to do is critical if you want to be at the gate 100% prepared both physically and mentally. This portion of the article will outline the goals of a race warm-up and present an example of a warm-up procedure designed to meet these goals. This should arm you with the required knowledge to formulate a warm-up sequence that you can execute before every single race.

Warm-up goals:
1. Touch (or “prime”) each one of the five heart rate zones used for aerobic conditioning. Establishing these zones is covered in detail in this article. The goal is to get your body prepared to use all five heart rate zones and their corresponding energy pathways by “priming” all the body’s processes that are required to use all the zones. You want to do this without depleting energy stores.
2. Alleviate any muscular tension while simultaneously preparing both the muscular and neural components for the required muscle activity. Again, achieving this without draining energy stores.
3. Mentally enter the “race zone.” This is a mental state where you are both relaxed and excited. You are relaxed enough to be able to ride mentally loose and avoid the mistakes caused by nervousness but you are also in an excited state so that you are aggressive. Mental focus is also achieved during the warm-up.
4. Ensure proper hydration levels and blood sugar levels.

Warm-up example: This is only an example to show how you might achieve the above goals. Every athlete must find out what is best for them personally. Once a warm-up routine is established, it is best to do the warm-up exactly the same every time and at the exact same time relative to the moto start. This allows the mind to more easily enter the “race zone” as your mind will be in a familiar place doing familiar things which can reduce distractions and nervousness.

  • 1.0 to 1.5 hours before race start: hydrate and eat last “real food” comprised mostly of both simple and complex carbohydrates. Get geared up and mentally eliminate non-race related thoughts.
  • 45 to 60-minutes before race start: 10-minutes easy rowing in lower heart rate zones 1 and 2 on a Concept2 rower (running or a stationary bike could also be used). Get off rower and stretch major muscle groups and forearms/hands/fingers. Breathe rhythmically to aid in relaxation. Visualize riding relaxed and loose.
  • 30 to 45-minutes before start of Moto: Back on the rower.
    • Row for 2-minutes in heart rate zone 3
    • Row for 1-minute zone 1
    • Row for 2-minutes in heart rate zone 3
    • Row for 2-minutes in zones 1 and 2
    • Row for 1-minute in zone 4
    • Row for 1-minute in zone 1
    • Row for 1-minute in zone 4
    • Row for 1-minute zones 1 and 2
    • Row for 20-seconds at an all out sprint
    • Row 1-minute zone 1
    • Row for 20-seconds at an all out sprint
  • Mentally visualize riding aggressive attacking corners and passing riders quickly. Visualize looking ahead and reacting correctly to any circumstance without having to think about it.
  • 15 to 30-minutes before moto start: Some amateur national venues have a jetting area. Ideally you could go to this jetting area and do a few practice starts and a few turns. Again, ideally you could do this and just before the start of your moto, ride up to the line. Since this is not usually possible you will have to improvise and do the best you can to continue the warm-up process in staging: calisthenics, jumping or running in place, squats, etc. I have even seen Mike Alessi bring a spin bike to staging for this purpose. You may look goofy but so does having a bad jump off the gate! While in this final portion of the warm-up process you can intake 100 calories or so in a gel or similar. Also drink your final splash of fluids.

During this time visualize getting an ultra quick jump off the gate and aggressively attacking the first turn. Visualization actually reinforces the proper motor patterns similar to practicing the skill. Feel your throttle and clutch hands react with lightning speed. Feel your rear tire dig in for traction as you rocket in the lead to the first turn. Feel the aggression as you hold and protect your holeshot line.

In an ideal world the warm-up would conclude just prior to lining up at the gate and you would have just finished with the sprints on the rower and gotten off your bike in the jetting area. I know this is not reality but try to get as close to this as you possibly can. Riding the actual motorcycle just prior to your moto may not be possible but if there is a jetting area at least try to do a few starts sometime before your moto. Ending your rower sprints just prior to your moto may also not be possible but the closer to the race start you do this, the better.

Race weeks and the warm-up process are the very final stages of your training period and overall they take up the least amount of time but they are no less important in contributing to your race result. Formulate and execute your own race week and warm-up plans and make them a routine. These routines can turn a normally nerve wracking time into a period where your body and mind get exactly what they need to transform all your hard training into winning results.

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
    ACBR March 29, 2011 at 4:27 pm

    Really good! Thanks

  2. Gravatar
    Dylan March 24, 2013 at 10:33 am

    Hey, great article!
    I'm just a bit confused with the difference between in-season and race week periods of training. If you're racing the pro nationals where you're racing for 12 weeks in a row, when should you be doing the in-season routine and when should you do the race week routine? Is the race week idea more geared for amateurs who have one or two major races?
    Also just wondering when to transition from pre-season to in-season training. Does this happen once you can get on the bike regularly or once you're actually racing weekend to weekend?


  3. Gravatar
    Racer X Virtual Trainer March 25, 2013 at 3:38 pm

    Dylan, not sure what you mean by the difference between In-season and Race Week periods of training. To me they are both the same. Point #2 talks in general about how your training should look during the in-season. "Training intensity should go from low to high as you get closer to the start of the race. Conversely, training duration goes from high to low as the race week progresses. The most intense but shortest training day will be the last day of your race week."

    If you are racing the outdoor nationals I highly recommend you get on our premium training program ASAP. For $20 bucks per month it is a no-brainer and it takes all the guess work out of your training.

    Check out this article on pre-season training.

  4. Gravatar
    Ben Dover March 25, 2014 at 2:21 pm

    What would be the ideal length of training for friday if your race is sunday? For offroad there is no practice, the only available chance to see the track is to walk or mtn. bike it saturday. With that in consideration, what would be the best way to handle a "race weekend"?

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