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Modifying the Rider Minimize
Recreational Rider to Racer Series:

Modifying the Rider

One of the most over looked and easiest modifications a rider can do is not to their bike but to themselves. Most riders engage in some form of training to help in their pursuit of the championship. The good news is that if you think about it, you will only need a little time per day to do it.  And the better news is that training helps in other areas as well. (An improved sex life is one heck of a bonus.)  Also if you incorporate a fun workout into your daily routine then it becomes second nature.

The Aim.

Off road racing requires a mix of brute strength and endurance. Thus you have to train accordingly. I would suggest improving the endurance aspect first.  Rather than provide a fixed concrete workout for you to follow, I'll suggest that you do anything. When I mean anything, I mean anything than raises your heartbeat. (Excluding watching the strippers.) This provides a cardio workout that helps strengthen your heart.  Don't be afraid to peruse fitness magazines for tips. Magazines such as Men's Health and Men's Fitness provide good articles on general training. (And their articles on improving your sex life is a nice bonus as well.)

With a workout program you have to know several things. First is what are your shortcomings, basically what needs to be worked on. For me it is a serious lack of leg strength due to my knee injuries.  Second find out what kind of workout will help you to overcome your shortcoming. My solution to my leg strength problem is to workout my legs three times a week as well as going mountain biking and hiking.  When deciding on that you workout you should try to find something that is fun.  Also don't be afraid to change the routine every once and a while, to prevent from getting bored.

The Method.

Don't underestimate the value of play riding.  One of my friends was a play rider for sixteen years before he began to race.  We suggested that he join the junior class because the intermediate class would be too much for him.  The result?  He placed 1st overall with 13 of 15 wins. Then he went on and raced the intermediate class winning 7 of 14 events and missing out on the overall championship by four points.

You don't have to do anything crazy just ride.  I mean riding for a while. Push yourself to ride a little longer before needing a break. The advantages of this is threefold. One you get used to riding your bike and become adept at reading terrain. Also your muscles get used to the actions needed to ride. Don't go overboard with this otherwise you'll get seriously sore.  To prevent serious soreness I recommend stretching before and after the ride. (Actually you should stretch before and after all your workouts.)
Also when you play ride you should try to vary your riding, by riding in different areas and get used to the demands that different type of terrain place on you and your bike. I would consider finding your weak points and stomping on them. If your hill climbing technique sucks, then go find a riding area with some good hills and climb away. But don't burn yourself out and remember to have some fun riding.

Mountain biking is another good option.  I personally love it because I can go riding almost anytime I want to and have a blast at the same time. Also terrain reading skills are fairly close although you do have to keep in mind that you're not straddling a 250lbs 40hp beast.  Try to ride for around two hours at a time to mimic the time an average off road race lasts. If you're starting out, start small and work your way up. You can keep the difficulty and time low at first then try to go faster and longer as you get better. I do stress that you wear some serious protection. I've had my fair share of wipeouts with my mountain bike because I was trying some things that I could do on a dirt bike. (Also meeting beautiful women clad in cycling shorts is another bonus as well.)

What you get out of mountain biking, depends on what you put in.  This means that if you work at it you will see more improvement. The chart below illustrates the kind of improvement that a person can see. A level 1 ride is leisurely pedal around.  The level 2 is more of a good long burn involving a lot of trail.  Level 3 is more of a killer sprint.  Off road mountain bike racers often focus on building endurance in the off season with all day rides of up to 100km. Then during the race season, they focus on shorter level 2 efforts for about an hour punctuated with minute long level 3 sprints.

Effort Level % of Max. Effort Beats Per Minute Builds How It Feels
Level 1 Below 40% Below 74 Nothing Easy to Chat
Level 2 50-70% 92-130 Endurance/ Strength Hard but sustainable
Level 3 80-100% 148-185 Strength/ Speed Unsustainable

I will remind you to stretch some more because as the body uses its muscles in a limited range of motion it does become tighter. And when you wipeout you will be doing some serious acrobatics.  So stretch.  Also some studies that people who stretch before and after a workout show more strength gains.  Also do your stretches nice and slowly just up to the point where you can feel the stretch.  Don't bounce because it can do some serious damage.

You can also workout with weights as well. The fun part about working with weights is the myriad of things you can do. If you want to focus on strength then you can do 3-7 sets of 8 repetitions at 85% of your one rep max.*  You can also focus on endurance by doing 3-4 sets of 15 reps at 65% of your one rep max.* You find yourself barely able to the last exercise of the last set when you have the weights set properly.  If you are working out, alone there are lots of machines that are great for a workout.  They do a great job of isolating the muscle group in question.  If you have a friend to workout with, you can tackle free weights, but do watch your form.  These weights can hurt you if you do the exercises wrong.  Also if your muscles get tired then other muscles will take over and the tired muscles won't get their workout. You don't even need weights to workout. You can improvise a workout with some simple materials, such as a bag of sand.  The trick here is to do it right and make sure that you're working out the opposing muscle groups evenly otherwise your gains in strength will be limited.

Focus % of One Rep Max. Repetitions Sets
Strength 85% 8 3-7
Endurance 65% 15 3-4

*The English translation: A repetition is the amount of time you do one exercise: 10 push-ups is 10 reps. A set is a group of repetitions: 5 sets of push-ups will equal 5 groups of 10 which equals 50 push-ups.  One-rep max refers to the amount of weight that you can do once.

These are not the only ways that you can workout and get healthier.  There are other ways to workout.  But make sure that the workout is fun and helps eliminate your problem area.  Jogging, hiking, or rollerblading can also provide a great way to get active.  They also help build leg endurance and strength.  Swimming also builds endurance and works the heart out as well.

The Fuel

Well I'm going to dive into nutrition. (But before you start moaning and groaning, I’ll try to keep it simple.) First off here's a quick lesson in nutrition.  Carbohydrates are simply glucose, which is a form of complex sugar that the body uses for fuel. Protein is basically amino acids that the body uses as building blocks for muscle. (See it's not that hard.)

Carbohydrates.

You've probably heard of bicycle riders talking about carbo-loading. Even Scott Summers loads up on that stuff. What their referring to is a basic sugar that the body uses for energy.  Now you my think that eating a bowl of chocolate frosted sugar bombs will do the trick since it is sugar, right? Wrong, sugar found in junk food and soft drinks are mainly fructose, which is a simpler form of sugar, which is used up faster. (Giving rise to the term "sugar rush")  Glucose "burns" slower providing energy over a longer period.  Without an adequate supply, you won't be able to think properly, move your muscles or even maintain your alertness. Try riding without any of those attributes.  The stuff can be found in bread, pasta, rice, cereals, sport drinks, bananas, etc.  The best source is pasta, which is why Scott Summers scarfs down several plates before a race.

There's a little more to this than pigging out the night before the race.  Timing is important.  Serious athletes often eat their carbohydrates between half and hour to an hour after strenuous exercise.  They also start their carb loading 48 hours before an event because it takes up to 30 hours for the body to store the stuff.  Riders also will consume carbohydrates during a race in the form of energy bars or fruit to keep their energy stocks up.  The trick here is to keep the carbohydrate level up and to put off the point where the body runs out of carbohydrates.  The best sources of "quick" carbohydrates are usually dried fruit, sultanas, raisins, energy bars, bananas, or moist biscuits.

Liquids

An important lesson here: Drink before you get thirsty.  Remember to keep it fairly light. Water will do in a pinch, but sports drinks are better.  You can even use fruit juice if you water the stuff down.  This is because when you are working hard with a heavy drink in your stomach, there will be a fight for energy. The muscles will need energy to function and your stomach will need energy to digest the drink.  The stomach will lose and being a sore loser it will try to get rid of the drink.  And let me tell you that chucking cookies inside a full face helmet is not fun. Also stuff like pop and beer use the body's water supply to digest.  The wastewater then hits your bladder.  Thus the urge to do something else besides race is created.

Those grim facts aside, you will keep your energy levels up and aid in the chemical processes that take place in your body. Keep drinking, preferably taking a small sip every fifteen or twenty minutes. This will keep your supply up because by the time you feel thirsty it will be too late, because you supply has dipped very low. Also keep away from distilled water since it lacks electrolytes and uses the body supply of water to compensate for the distilled water's lack of nutrition.  So keep drinking, because it avoids the dizzy spells and cramps that can come from dehydration.

Cramps are caused by a lack of potassium in the blood.  Bananas and other unprocessed fruits have lots of potassium and electrolytes, so this should avoid the fun feeling of cramping up.  Also if you do cramp up then massage the body part out while gently pulling on the muscle.

Protein

Meat eaters rejoice. Meat is full of protein, which is the raw material for building the human machine. Protein is made up of amino acids. The trick here is the body needs 20 different type of amino acids to start building with. So you need them at the same time and in the right amounts. (This is why vegetarians have a tough time with their diet because they have to make sure they are getting the right amino acids.) The easiest way is to eat a balanced diet. Other people have used protein supplements and shakes to boost their levels. But make sure that the right amino acids are present otherwise the body will turn them into fat. Also try to keep you calcium and magnesium levels up.  These two minerals help the body amino acids in to the blood. This you can find in milk and broccoli.

The Diet

At the beginning of the week when you're a wreck form all the fun you had on the weekend you should emphasize the protein in order to build you muscle. 80 grams of protein per day is enough.  This you can get from whole wheat bread, low fat milk, potatoes, beans and nuts.  About midweek you should switch to complex carbohydrates so you body can store fuel for the upcoming week of insanity.  The main source for this stuff is whole grain pasta, brown rice, potatoes, and whole wheat bread.  The ideal athlete's diet is about 15% protein, 20% fat, and 65% carbohydrates.*  This can be done easily with a diet of fresh and dry fruits, lots of vegetables, raw unsalted nuts (except peanuts), beans, peas, sprouts, brown rice, fish, chicken and turkey.  The interesting part about this diet is that you lose your craving for junk foods after a while. If this diet doesn't sound appetizing to you try different recipes.  (I personally like to cook Asian and Indian cuisine because they have a lot of vegetables and they taste good too.)

*I’m really being approximate, since different people have different recommendations.

Working out the grey matter

I don't think that any article on improving the rider would be complete without a section on working out the lump of grey stuff between your ears. Racing is as much a mental game as it is physical. There are a few mental traits that you have to work on when you race. One this you have to do on the way to the winners circle is to accept failure. Few of us have the privilege of winning every race we enter. Accepting failure as something that happened opens us to learning about the reasons why we lost. If you beat yourself up everytime that you lost you woudn’t see the possibility of improving your riding. But keep in mind that accepting failure is not the same as liking it. I hate the possibility of DNF’ing. So I work on the bike and try to keep it in top notch shape. I also workout in the gym all year to keep in shape. You have to be reasonable and find out your strengths and weaknesses. Then you have an idea of what you can work on to go faster.

Personally I’d rather get to know the feeling of winning. Knowing the trophy girl is a nice perk too.

Remember that the only failure in losing is failing to learn from mistakes made.

But accepting failure and hating it aren't the only weapons in your mental warchest. Perseverance is another one. Don't get dejected when you get passed. When you're in 12th spot, ride as hard as you would on first. When you get tired, keep the throttle on.

Now I realize that most of you aren't planning to race any world class events soon and that winning a race isn't a really big priority.  But I hope that some of the stuff that I've said here will make winning easier.  Also it will make your non-motorcycle life a little easier too. So try to incorporate some of this new found knowledge and have some fun.

  
 
 

 

 

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