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The Training Vacuum

by John Wakefield


In motocross and pretty much all other motorsports being 3/10th a lap better than your opponent means having the upper hand giving you extra confidence while leaving your competition scratching their head. Once your machinery is in tip top condition and you are happy with the set up, the last piece of the puzzle is your body. Unlike your bike where you can hire a good mechanic to keep it in top shape, you are the only person responsible for keeping your body in perfect shape. Often top riders have trainers who will help towards their overall fitness and training program but even with the help of a trainer it is up to you to know your body and know what does and does not work. Only then can you take this info and relay it back to the trainer.

If you have always done the same form of training volume and load over the years and yielded the same result fitness-wise year after year then it is more than likely you are in a training vacuum.

I am writing this because I believed I was there with an athlete of mine whose 6-year working relationship was in a rut. Although he never expressed to me about having bad form and fitness throughout the previous season(s) and was happy with his training, to be honest, I wasn’t and I wanted to make a change. I believed I could get more out of him and when I changed all his training during the off-season and the changes took effect, he came out swinging 2.5 months later.

The darkest side is the athlete turns to performance enhancing drugs in order to reach the form he thinks he needs. All of these things can be avoided.

For any athlete who has trained seriously and kept an accurate training log they will have a good understanding of a certain pattern or cycle of specific training, volume and intensity that yielded results. For that same athlete to make effective gains he will need to experience more training in order to make significant changes and as a result end up increasing his training volume and intensity. But often times the end result is no change in form. This often leads to loss of form and has a negative effect and the athlete goes into panic mode which leads to a number of scenarios that often snowballs. He feels the need to make drastic changes like a change in trainers, coaches, different sponsors, classes, less training, more training and worst case scenario he calls it a day with his chosen sporting discipline and is forced into retirement. The darkest side is the athlete turns to performance enhancing drugs in order to reach the form he thinks he needs. All of these things can be avoided.

What the athlete should do in this situation is take a deep breath, sit down and evaluate all the factors of his current training principles. If you have never followed a proper training program and just did what you believe worked for you, then anything you did would result in an improvement in overall fitness. But as time goes on this scenario will indeed lead to the plateaus mentioned above. The athlete must now go back and look at all the basic training principles they have done and realize that they may have done all the right things but now they need to look at different and more sophisticated training methods in order to make forward progress in their fitness.

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It was mentioned earlier in the article that long hard sessions are not needed to make improvements; this is both incorrect and correct. They are beneficial to evaluate how a athlete functions under stress and to create mental and physical strength to allow an athlete to deliver performances when already fatigued (such as 2-week mesocycles that are purely intensity based). However, the scientific literature is very conclusive when it comes to comparing polarized training (very short, high intensity training combined with longer, very low intensity training) versus longer, harder training. Polarized training is more beneficial and delivers better performance outcomes. If you want to adapt and increase your training status, you will have to be able to produce a high enough stress and overload on the interval sessions prescribed right now. This requires you to be adequately recovered so that you can reach the required targets. Failing to do so will result in lack of progress and this is the mistake that so many professionals make because they think harder and longer is better.

I hope this helps you and gives you some insight into your training and allows you to make the correct changes to your program in order to become a better athlete. Remember, change is often very good and you mustn’t be afraid to try.

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
    Nick August 29, 2019 at 7:35 pm

    Isn't the key point about high intensity short duration with low intensity that the validity of this method is with large volume low intensity and mod-low volume of high intensity? Further this is done with endurance specific athletes with some studies showing poor validity in more mixed quality sports (depending on a host of factors). So how would argue the specific relevance of this to motocross and methods of application given the movement and energetic demands of the sport?

  2. Gravatar
    Nick August 29, 2019 at 7:51 pm

    Should qualify that time of year, season and based on periodization. The other qualifying factor is that chronic high training load (can debate the semantics of high) is protective against injury. So given all factors then this above recommendation makes sense when the goal is building strong base endurance or something similar to GPP. Then SPP comes into play etc and on and on. Therefore our training load should be searching for optimal load based on phase, time of season and paradigm.

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