Trainer Talk with......Trainer Randy Lawrence - Part 1 (12/26/06)

By Tim Crytser


Randy Lawrence has been around the professional MX scene for many years. A long time wrench for top riders like Jeremy McGrath, Doug Dubach, and David Pingree, Randy now spends his time as the exclusive trainer for 450F veteran Nick Wey and 250F Champion Ryan Villopoto. I had the chance to meet Randy and his riders a few weeks ago as they were preparing to go on a training run from Nick’s house in the Southern California hills just outside Murrieta. A week later I called Randy up to get his view on the state of training in MX, how he transitioned from a mechanic to trainer, and where he thinks the future of MX is headed. This is what he had to say.
Virtual Trainer: Hey Randy, what are you up to today?

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Former Factory Wrench turned Factory Trainer, Randy Lawrence

Randy Lawrence: Well, actually, I’m on my way to Nick’s [Wey] track to watch him ride. It’s the first time he has been back on the bike since his injury, so I want to get out there and make sure everything is ok.

That’s cool. To start off, I know that you started out in the business as a mechanic. Tell me a little bit about how you went from being a factory mechanic to a trainer.
Well, I guess I got into training around February ’05. But it is something that I have wanted to do since maybe, 2002 or 2003. It all came about because I saw a little bit of a void in the MX industry with trainers. There are a few trainers around, and they do a pretty good job, but a lot of them didn’t come from a MX background. They learned their training from somewhere else, training for a different discipline, and that is where I thought I would be able to fill that little bit of a void because of my training experience racing mountain bikes. I raced mountain bikes for 5 years, and learned quit a bit about training doing that. I learned about diet, intervals, weight training, and stuff like that for cycling. So, what I thought I could do was take that knowledge of cycling and apply it to what MX riders need. And obviously, from being in the MX industry since about 1989, I have a pretty good idea of what the difference is. I’m not trying to get my guys ready for a triathlon, or road races, or cross country mountain bike races, I’m trying to prepare them to race supercross and motocross. And obviously there are differences in the way to do that. I’m really comfortable using the bicycle to train with whereas other trainers might be more comfortable with swimming, or running, or kayaking, or different types of training depending on what their background is. I’m just really comfortable with the bicycle and using it as a tool to prepare for MX. And that’s what I use it for, a tool.

Do you primarily train with the mountain bike or road bike?
I use the road bike the most, because you can be a little more specific with the road bike. You can sustain a higher heart rate better, you can have longer, easier rides and it’s hard to find long rides on a mountain bike, and if you do there are a lot of hills. There are just way more inconsistencies with a mountain bike.

You said that you have been in the sport since 1989. From 1989 to 2005 what was your job in the industry?
I was working as a mechanic. My brother raced professionally and I started working with him just as he turned pro, I worked for team Yamaha for three years in 91’, 92’, and 93’ for Doug Dubach. I left there, went to work with David Pingree for a couple of years and then it was after 95’ that I actually left the industry, and started racing downhill professionally myself. Later, I came back to the industry because an opportunity came up to work with [Jeremy] McGrath when he went to Yamaha. So what I did at that point was come back working as his mechanic, and our trainers like Cory Worf, from Schwinn, I talked to them quite a bit about training and brought him from the mountain bike industry to start training Jeremy. He knew a lot about training and what it took to be physically fit and the mental side of things, but he knew it for bicycles. I knew what it took for MX, so we sort-of worked together on Jeremy’s program. He did all the training stuff with him and I just kind-of guided it along and helped him learn the MX side of things. That worked out pretty well, but I just never jumped into it. I just stayed with what I knew and what I was secure with and that was being a mechanic until just recently in 04’-05’. At that point, I set up 4 or 5 amateur riders who were willing to work with me and helped them reach their goals, and one day I just went into Kawasaki and put in my two-week notice. I just told them that I was going to start my own business as a trainer. I think it was a shock to them and definitely a big step for me. It’s been about two years now and things are going pretty well.
Who are you currently working with and how long have you been with each rider?
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Randy with his exclusive 450F client, Nick Wey

Photo: Simon Cudby

I have an exclusive MX/SX deal with Ryan [Villopoto], and Nick [Wey]. I have been working with Nick for about a year now and I started with Ryan in June 05’.

What do you mean by exclusive deal?
Nick is the only 450 guy and I can work with and Ryan is the only Lites guy. That way there isn’t a conflict of interest. Those two work really well together. Nick is a veteran of racing and training and with Ryan just coming into it all, he sometimes doesn’t always understand why he has to do certain things. Nick is a great motivator for Ryan and Ryan is the young hungry kid that is super fast and really good at sprints, some of the stuff that Nick may have lost over the last six or seven years. So the balance seems to be working really well so far.

How did you end up working with each one of them?
I have known Nick for a long time, since he was a 125 rider. When I started working as a trainer, I was working with Amateur riders and at the tracks all the time. So, I saw Nick around here and there and I would call him up and we would go on road rides or whatever and he knew me more as a mechanic at that time. He had actually approached me before about being someone who could help set his bikes up and do that kind-of thing. He went away to Michigan that summer but when he came back it was right around the US Open and he wanted to try something out as a trainer. So it works out both ways because I am always there to help with bike setup and I’m also with him during the week to work with him as his trainer. With Ryan, I knew his mechanic he had for his amateur stuff and talked to him a bit. Ryan had just signed a deal with Pro Circuit and he was still doing a couple of amateur races but they new they were going to need a trainer when he went pro. They knew my background and decided to do a trial run for about three months to get him through his amateur career and his first three Nationals that he did at the end of 05’. We were going to re-access after that and if things were going well we would continue through 06’. Otherwise, we would just go our own ways. Things obviously went well for him in his first three Nationals and he won 4 of the 6 amateur titles he raced for and Pro Circuit thought things were going well so we just all decided to keep going and went through 06’ and ended up winning the Championship. So, that’s how it came to the point where I’m more exclusive with Ryan and Nick.

As their full time, exclusive trainer what exactly is your job each day?
You know my job changes all the time. I set up the schedules for each rider at the beginning of the week. I set up a guide for what we are going through that week and it also depends on the time of year. If we are racing, we may take it a little easier on cross training. Basically, what they do on their motorcycle, their bicycle, and at the gym including swimming and running, or any of that stuff, is dictated by the schedule that I set up for them. Because they trust my judgment on making sure they are going to be rested for the race or if we have a few weeks before a race where I can just push them super hard and break their bodies down so they can rebuild stronger and have a bigger base. We just talk about all that stuff and I explain it the best I can. So we set that all up and I go on the bike rides with them, and I’m at the track with them about 80% of the time, I’m at the gym with them 80% of the time. So, that’s basically it. I try to set Ryan and Nick up to do a lot of the stuff at the same time, like riding the same track together. If their schedules don’t work out, then one will ride early and one later or I’ll just spend the day with one of them. Things really vary from day-to-day.

What about on race day? Are you still involved with them at the track helping them prepare for the race?
Oh, for sure. I make sure they eat at the right times so that they are in good shape for the practice and their motos. I try to balance what they eat during the race day so that they aren’t too hungry before a moto, but also I don’t want them too full either. Sometimes they might be a little nervous and they don’t want to eat, so I have to work with them on that. But I am with them all day at the races just making sure they get whatever they need before or after a race.

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Randy and Ryan Villopoto checking out game film

Photo: Simon Cudby

Are you a hands-on trainer? Meaning do you train alongside your riders?
Oh for sure. I don’t do so much of riding the motorcycle, but I go on all of the road rides with them. Since that is my background, I like to ride with them and push them when I need to since I’m a little bit stronger than either of them on the bicycle. It’s easier for me to gauge them and know where they are if I ride with them.

Being a professional MX athlete, these guys are in tremendous shape even if they never trained outside of riding the bike. I have always wondered how that translated to other sports that require extreme endurance. How do these guys stack up when they strap on their running shoes or suit up for a road ride?
Well, Nick is a veteran at training and he has really trained hard for the last six or seven years. He has used a couple of different trainers and done some things on his own and has a good idea of what to do, but doesn’t really know when and where to do it. If you understand training and have done it for a while, you know that you can over train and actually get to a flat spot in your conditioning. What I’ve told Nick is that he has trained himself to where he has a governor. I think he has this max that is a little bit under where his max should be just because of how he has been training for so long. He has plateaued. So, what we are trying to do is break through that plateau and get him to the next level. We do this by throwing different things at his body that he isn’t used to and getting his heart rate up higher and stuff like that. We are trying to retrain his body to get that fast twitch muscle fiber going again.
With Ryan, he has just never trained before. He has ridden a lot of motos and is very good at putting in time on the bike, but on the bicycle, he isn’t where Nick is and lifting weights, he isn’t where Nick is. He isn’t super motivated to do that stuff all the time, but that is where my job comes in to motivate him to train. It’s their job to race MX and my job to make sure they are doing the things off the bike to be successful at racing. That’s why they hired me.

In terms of training, how far do you push your riders and when do know they have had enough?
A lot of that has to do with the time of year. During the season, I really don’t push them that hard except for when they are on the motorcycle. Right now in the off-season, I push them pretty hard to break their bodies down and find what their true potential is. One thing that does happen is that some guys over train and I think that is another advantage of me being able to ride the bicycle with them. I can see when they are getting to that level. I can tell when they are flat or feeling tired. When that happens, we back things off a little and recover.

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Joel Wheeler, Ed Chavez, Randy, Ryan Villopoto, Rylee Lawrence, Tyler Kalisiak

photo: Courtesy Randy Lawrence

How and when do you strength train your riders?
Again, that is a time specific thing. During the season, we definitely work out less and with lighter weights. We just try to maintain what they have through the season. It’s really hard with travel and how much these guys work each weekend at the race to do much else at the gym. Right now in the off-season, we are trying to get to the gym more and work on strength while we have time. We use the bicycle so much and they ride so much that I don’t really do much else at the gym for their legs. I try to concentrate more on the back and shoulders and try to stay away from things like their biceps. What I have learned in MX is that the guys that lift heavy weights and do things like bicep curls, they definitely get arm pump quicker than the guys that don’t. So basically we do most of our strength training in the off-season and very little with the weights during the season.

What type of cardio based exercises do you prefer?
Well, like said earlier we use the bicycle a lot because that is what I know. I am just really comfortable with the bicycle. We have also been trying to implement a little bit of swimming. Swimming is really tough for me so it’s a new thing for all of us. Nick is probably a better swimmer and runner than either me or Ryan. So we are trying to implement some of that stuff because it throws a little bit of a different mix at your body and uses different muscles in different ways. So it’s always something new for the body to adapt too.  
In  Part 2 , Randy talks about his personal achievements as a trainer, the stress of training two high profile riders, and his view on Performance Enhancing drug use in MX.  Until then, good luck with your training and, as always, VT can be reached anytime at . In addition, be sure and check out the Racer X Virtual Trainer archive section , your complete one-stop information zone for motocross fitness.

Part Two of the Interview is Here !

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