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Trainer Talk With....David Bailey

by Racer X Virtual Trainer


David Bailey hangin' out in his garage back in the day. Check the amount the checks on the wall were written for. Times sure have changed!

Photo Courtesy David Bailey

Virtual Trainer: Hey David. First off, I just want to thank you up front for doing an interview for the readers of Virtual Trainer. You are without a doubt one of the most knowledgeable and skilled people around when it comes to motocross and training. I think it is safe to say that you and a few of your old school racing buddies set the bar when it comes to training. So to start with let’s get caught up on your health. I know that you have been through a rough patch lately. I heard that all of your recent problems have stemmed from the day that you rode your motorcycle for the first time since your accident. Is that true and how are you doing?
David Bailey: I want to clear that up. I was just asked that yesterday and here we are again today (laughs). I had been nursing a pressure sore for about 6 months prior to riding with Ricky [James]. I was in bed all week except for at the races with WBR. Right around the San Diego round I thought I was healed. On the outside everything looked good but on the inside was a volcano. I didn’t realize it until I road with Ricky and stirred everything up and got pretty sick afterwards. That was the first indication that something wasn’t right. Making it even more confusing, I broke my tailbone while I was out there. The doctors didn’t detect that until months later. It took me from that day, Valentines Day, until April to figure out what was wrong. There were all kinds of rumors going around that I broke my ribs and had internal injuries, but all I did was break my tailbone. I had a great time riding that day and it felt good to be out there. Actually, it was a good thing because my symptoms indicated that I still had a major problem with this pressure sore that was under the surface. If I hadn’t of detected the infection that soon I may have ended up with having a lot more tissue cut out or worse, having something cut off. The bike actually helped me find the problem earlier.

Have the Doctors cleared you to ride again if you want to?
I don’t really care what Doctors say. If I want to ride, I’ll ride.

Well, ok how about the Wife-Doctor?
Well obviously she doesn’t want to see me go through anything else. She knows I will push the limits because I always have. If I would have proven her wrong over the years, I don’t think she would have anything to say about it. But she knows I’ll probably do too much and then end up paying for it which ends up having an effect on me long term and my family. I listen to my wife!

Man, I can’t even begin to imagine what you went through and what you go through each day. The “video” came out almost a year ago and you called out a bunch of top name riders for not using the Leatt Brace. Did you ever get any feedback from those guys and do you think you motivated them to “stand for something” as you said in the video?
Well, I think they are all a little disappointed and irritated. I wasn’t trying to call anyone out but I wasn’t going to get all those guys phone numbers together and have individual conversations with everyone. I saw an opportunity to put it out there so that’s what I did. I just wanted them to consider it. Villopoto and Millsaps were already wearing doughnuts. Injuries were popping up all over the place and I probably hear about them more than anyone else. I realize the unaffected riders don’t need that stuff on their mind, but when is a good time? I tried to do it in a way that was bold and I was hoping that 80 to 90 percent of the people who heard it would think, ‘well that was pretty strong, but…he’s got a good point!’

DB was one of the all time greats in our sport with unparalleled smoothness on the track and a heralded work ethic off the track.

Well, I was at Loretta’s this year and you would be hard pressed to find a rider who wasn’t wearing a brace.
That video wasn’t meant to get in riders faces or give them crap and make them look bad in the public eye. It was more like, ‘hey guys, if one more of you gets hurt, I don’t think I can stomach it!’ I was speaking from my heart and experience in a chair for 20 years. I didn’t even get a phone call from Chris Leatt. Really it was more like, ‘thanks, David, but we had it under control and now we can’t fill these orders fast enough and we are getting investigated by the SEC.' [see what they are saying now!] So they weren’t happy with me either. They did say thank you eventually, but I got some attitude over the fact that I caused a rush and they couldn’t fill the orders. I could tell from the riders attitudes that they weren’t thrilled I mentioned their names. But it didn’t matter if those guys were upset with me, it was more what the sport thinks as a whole. I’m not trying to be friends with the top riders, just maybe keep them from a neck injury. I tried to be as tactful as possible but also as strong as possible in the video and I think that if I would have beat around the bush the message would not have been as powerful. I just know my life has been more difficult and I hated seeing anyone else, unprotected, go lawn dart themselves and end up a quadriplegic.

Well, I think you made a huge difference and your stand was fantastic. This is a training based interview, so let’s talk a little about that. What do you think is one of the most important aspects of training for Motocross?
Well, one thing I believe is neglected is video. Over the past year I had a lot of people asking me for help with training and riding, but I was just concerned with surviving and having something left if I could ever get out of that bed! Eventually I thought, if riders sent me some video of riding I could look at that and get on the phone and send them an email to follow up on what we talked about and that worked well. I did that with a couple of people across the country and then I went ahead and put that on my website to let people know I could still help out. 100 bucks, you send me a video and I’ll analyze it and get it back to you. The people I worked with already seem real happy about it and it makes a big difference. I think training is way overrated. I think about when I won everything in 83’. I never trained because I had broken feet and a bad ankle all year. Until 84' I never trained. McGrath, Lechein, Bradshaw, Huffman, Matiasevich, Marty Tripes….none of these guys really trained hard and they have all won championships and were all fast. Carmichael was fast before he got into shape too. I think the most important factor to be addressed is the person’s ability to ride the motorcycle. It is important to have the fitness to ride to your ability and not get tired, but a lot of that comes from riding. Guys like Aldon [Baker] and Todd Jacobs are able to develop a plan for you to be able to last at full speed, but if your full speed isn’t good enough, all you’re going to be is fit while you’re posing for a picture with your Racer X gas card. What Ricky did when he got fit was maybe more powerful than the Leatt video I did. He completely shifted the industry over to thinking you gotta be fit! I think most riders overlook working on their riding ability as a result.

You are right as far as the video analysis is concerned. I have always been amazed that teams aren’t videoing races for review like they do in almost every other professional sport. Heck even middle school football teams have film study.
Your right. It’s amazing. The other thing that really surprises me about training is the general lack of knowledge. Just like with your last article with Aldon where he talked about base training in the off-season. When I taught some schools, It blew my mind how little people knew about putting together a simple weekly schedule. That is why a site like yours is beneficial. It’s nice to see that out there. I didn’t have anything like that back when I was training. I agree with Aldon in that last article about keeping training logs. As soon as I started training and running with Johnny [O’Mara] towards the end of 83', I got one. He had a stack of them up in his closet from 4 or 5 years previous where he made it a goal to run 1000 miles a year. So I started righting down how many miles I was running and it became much more than that. I actually made a training log back in 89'. I have some of them left over because by the time they caught on, 89’ was over and they were obsolete. I still keep a log to this day. It was REALLY important during my Ironman training.

David excels in other sports as well.  Shown here competing in the Ironman in 2000 with 6 miles to go in the marathon. The race started at sunrise and it's setting over his shoulder.

When you were racing and training, what was your primary concern with training during the off-season and did your program evolve over the years or did you have a set program that you stuck with?
I never kept anything set but I did have certain standards that I stuck with. I had running loops and quite a few other things I did for exercise. I used to chop wood and carry and stack the logs between two trees. Then I would move them from one spot to the other and time how fast I could do it. I did all this different stuff and would compare my times and if I wasn’t improving I wasn’t satisfied. So I used my training logs to make sure I was improving every year by doing things faster. I remember one year I didn’t have a good off-season for various reasons and I went into the 85' season with some doubt and struggled with arm pump. I really believe that arm pump and doubt go hand in hand. At least it did for me and it took me a while to get going that season. I had a good sense of where I needed to be on the bike speed wise and what I needed to do off the bike to maintain that pace. I didn’t understand all the base training and everything back then; I just went hard. If I could do it over again I would have taken it easy more and then when I did go hard it would have been with a lot more intensity. I was training at 90% percent all the time when I probably needed some longer, easier days mixed in. But it seemed to work pretty good for me because I didn’t know any better.

Yea, that was going to be my next question. Have you learned some things over the years that you would have done differently back in the day.
Oh for sure. A lot of what I learned was when I was training for triathlons. I learned that there aren’t any short cuts in a triathlon. You can’t change lines and go to the other side of the road and make up time. If you haven’t done your homework, there isn’t any place to hide. I learned that by going out and going hard all the time you end up flat. And when it’s time for a race and you need to surge up a hill to keep up, if you went too hard in training you probably won’t have that snap. That’s what is impressive about Ricky and James. They have that ability to increase the pace by as much as a couple seconds a lap when they need to. You can’t do that by training at 90% percent all the time. Johnny and I just ran, rode our bicycles, and rode our motorcycles and while it probably wasn’t specific enough it was more than anyone else was doing and we drew a lot of confidence from that. Confidence is another thing that factors in and we thought we were in shape so we raced like we were in shape.

Well, you were certainly in shape for the period you raced. Do you think that as the sport has progressed with the speeds being faster and the jumps bigger and the overall pace quicker, would your training methods hold up today or would you have had to adapt to keep up?
I think that what we did back then was pretty good, but, yes, it would have needed to improve and be more specific. We had a lot of free time and just filled it with training. It can be hard to hold yourself back at times. You feel better and look in the mirror and like how your body is changing and it becomes a lifestyle and sort of an addiction. Sometimes the couch is the best training tool, but you feel like you’re losing it when you sit there. I actually got to the point where I was more into training than I was into racing and my mechanic and my dad had to sit me down one day and say, ‘hey, are you going to be a triathlete or are you going to be a motocross racer?’ It’s a balance and it takes discipline to find.

DB at Southwick. Check out how much thinner he looked compared to today's riders. According to David, that physique wouldn't cut it these days!

Were you guys into strength training back then?
Yes, but it was real basic. I did a lot of pushups, pull-ups; toe raises, squats, sat against the wall and worked out on a Total Gym. I think it is really important to have strong legs. I played racquetball and cross-trained so that I would have that ability to be explosive. There really isn’t any movement on the motorcycle that is slow and lethargic. The faster you go the quicker your movements have to be. I was starting to figure out that It had to be explosive otherwise it wasn’t really going to serve me in a race. Just look at the guys that are the most successful and lasted the longest; Lorocco, Ricky, Ward, and Villopoto even though he is young, when those guys take their shirts off they look like little body builders. Sprinters are usually if not always bigger. The sport has definitely changed to where you have to be ready to go flat out as soon as the gate drops. When I raced our motos were 45 minutes and had a little more pacing and endurance. Now you have to be explosive and have a lot of strength to maintain that pace mistake free. I think it takes more of a body builder physique to be successful in motocross and I’m starting to see that show up more and more in the riders’ bodies these days.

And on to my favorite question; performance enhancing drug use in motocross. Do you think performance enhancing drugs are being used?
Well. (pause) Let’s just look at what there is to gain. There is no testing, so what do you think? (pause)
I would like to say to the young riders out there; when you are young you are producing a lot of growth hormone and testosterone. As you get older that production slows down. And when I say older I mean in your 30’s. At that age you start to reach your aerobic peak, but strength and recovery wise you are starting to go downhill. It’s not beneficial for a 16 or 18-year-old kid to take anything. That’s not going to make you fast and will probably put your boys on vacation and shut you down earlier which is the opposite of what you’re after. Physically there is always some hell to pay for short cuts like that and they’ll bite you later in life somehow. Mentally it can mess with you too. When you are older and have a Doctor and are trying to squeeze a little bit more out of your career with a million or more dollars to gain, then it is up to the individual to weigh it out. But for the young kids that want to take something because they heard this and that. Don’t!

Well, let’s close this out with one last question. What training advice would you give the weekend warriors out there who wants to get into a little better shape to go bang bars with their buddies on Sunday?
I think they need to ride and/or train three days a week. Take a day and work on skills. Take another day to work on speed and the other day for endurance. If you can incorporate those into a week, then you will be covering as many bases as you can with the time you have. If you have to make a choice between riding or going to the gym, go riding.

Johnny O'Mara and DB were a couple of the first riders to take training and developing their skills on the bike to another level

That’s good for the people who live in the south or out in California, but what about the rest of the people who live where it’s too cold to ride right now?
Well, they can work on balance with one of those swiss balls. When they are in the gym working out, kneel, sit or lay on a balance ball while lifting. Incorporate some balance, and concentration while you’re building fitness and strength. Indoor go-kart tracks are great too. Anything to keep you competitive and sharp. Even video games are good for helping with concentration. Get a pogo stick, or learn to ride a unicycle! I used to do this crazy thing to help with my concentration. When I had a life cycle at home I would make myself stare at a spot on the wall for 20 minutes and never loose concentration. I figured if I couldn’t stay at my pace and stare at that spot, then I didn’t want to win bad enough. There are a lot of little tricks and games that you can use to try and get a leg up on the competition. That one may sound a little extreme, but it paid off for me. It’s really boring when you are in the act of it, but when you are out in a main event and you’re trying to hold a position with four laps to go and two guys are catching you and your feeling tired, that’s when your concentration starts to fade and you make mistakes. Someone who has been willing to concentrate like that is definitely going to have an advantage. The key to training is being creative. Don’t just look to motocross to get your answers. If you can’t ride, then find something else to do and don’t be afraid to look to other sports for clues and ideas. If you can make a program unique to you and find something challenging you enjoy, then you are probably going to have a good time at the races.

For sure mental toughness and mental training are very important. Well, David, I really appreciate your time. Sitting down and sharing your thoughts and ideas on training has been awesome. I have always been a big fan of yours. Thanks!
No problem, Tim it’s my pleasure. It’s a waste to know what I know and not be able to share that with people.

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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