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Periodization 101

In the last few issues of Holeshot magazine we have discussed limiters, goal setting and commitment. These are all important factors in a methodology of training called periodization. Periodization has been successfully used in other sports such as running, cycling, weight lifting, and triathlon just to name a few. It has been very well researched and proven but has yet to make a big impact in the sport of motocross. I truly believe that periodization is a big key in motocross training that can unlock the next level of performance. Understanding periodization and implementing it into your own training program will put you one step ahead of your competition and lead you into the future of motocross training!

Periodization centers itself around this philosophy: the athlete should do the least amount of the most specific training that brings continual improvement.

Going hand in hand with this very important central philosophy are ten rules to training:

TRAIN MODERATELY: There are bodily limits of how hard you can go. Just like the rev limiter on your engine, you rarely want to hit your body’s physical limits in training. The most common error in motocross training is going too hard on your easy days (if there are any at all) which prevents you from going hard enough on your hard days (where real gains in speed can be made). Being tough and applying willpower cannot overcome nature; your body adapts best when stresses are slightly and progressively increased.

Sticking to a consistent training pattern from week to week that incorporates gradual and progressive changes is the way to guarantee a season of continual improvements. Your fitness level is always changing; you are either gaining in fitness or losing fitness at all times. Continually and gradually increasing stresses will guarantee that your fitness is moving forward. Overdoing it, getting sick, trying too hard and crashing and other ways of “stalling” your training program will make your fitness go backwards. Gradual gains over a long time period are the way to continually have your fitness and speed improving and not going in reverse.

This is the most widely ignored rule. You have to understand this to understand this rule: you get faster while you are resting, not while you are training. The adaptations your body goes through (cellular growth and repair) happen while you are resting, not while you are training. You are actually getting slower while you train because you are breaking your systems down (hence the slower lap times as the day progresses). So again, you are getting faster while you rest, not while you train!! Training is exactly half of the equation – rest is the other half. Until you understand this and plan rest, you are not really on a training program, you are just riding around!!

How are you going to get to your destination without a map? Fail to plan then plan to fail is the old saying. You have to have a plan and stick to it or else you are bouncing around from point to point in your level of fitness. You may eventually end up at the same spot but it’s going to take you a lot longer and way more effort. Most racers will get faster if they follow a plan, any plan. It can be a bad plan but if they stick to it they will still improve. So imagine how fast you will be if you have a good plan AND stick to it.

There are lots of advantages to riding with others: you can practice race tactics, others can motivate you to go faster, you can practice riding in close quarters just like in a race, it can be more entertaining and we are all social creatures after all. The problem is that riding with others may cause you to ride faster when on that particular day you would be better served by riding slower and working on fundamental techniques or the group may ride longer than what is good for you and your program. Group riding often morphs into an impromptu race and it may not be the best thing for you at that time in your program. This is not saying go to the track alone, it is saying when you do go out on the track that you stick to your plan and do the laps, drills, etc. that you had planned on doing vs. going for a 5 lap unofficial world practice championship with your buddies.

As stated before, you are either gaining fitness and speed or losing it. Smart racers plan their season so that their fitness and speed gradually and continually increase until they peak at the most important races. You can peak for important events 2 to 3 times per year. You have to plan these peaks and valleys of your fitness and speed.

…and race your strengths. To win in motocross you have to be good at a lot of things at the same time: you have to have great conditioning, great cornering technique, be able to jump, be able to handle mental pressure, the list goes on and on. Racers who consistently win are good at all the abilities required to race motocross. This requires that you work on your weaknesses (limiters; discussed in a previous issue of Holeshot) to bring them up to the level of your strengths so that your abilities across the board become more equal. If you are good at cornering but weak in the conditioning department but did nothing but practice cornering, guess what? You would get faster in the corners for sure but you still would not be able to win a race because you would slow in the later stages of a moto. If you brought your conditioning up to the level of your cornering, then you could race, stuff people in the corners and continue to do so late in the moto and have a better chance of winning.

Simple as it sounds but difficult to actually do consistently. Lots of racers stick to their training plan but get nervous right before a big event and try to train really hard right before the event because they lacked trust in the program. It takes 10 days to 21 of reduced training load (called a taper) to get your body ready for a big event. Trust the taper and your training and perform better.

Listen to your body, pay attention to what it is saying, and adjust your training to fit. This is smart training. This is respecting your body, the training plan, and all the hard work you have done. The smart MX’er will beat the tough MX’er seven days a week. When you feel like you need to rest then do so because this is your body telling you it needs more recovery to rebuild from the training stress and thus become faster. Remember you get faster when you rest, not when you train. Rest when your body says rest: train smarter, not harder!

Bascially: PUT UP OR SHUT UP. Ok, this may be the one time to be tough. If you want to race faster, you have to commit to this and be willing to change things in your lifestyle to help you achieve this goal. You have to make adjustments to support the training program and thus your ultimate goal of racing better. If you need more sleep to recover properly then you HAVE TO go to bed earlier. If you need to improve your nutrition to ensure gains from training, you HAVE TO change your diet. Again one of those things that is easier to say than to do but it is ESSENTIAL to commit to your goals and do what you have to do to get there. This was discussed in the last issue of Holeshot!

OK, now you are armed with the central principle of periodization; do the least amount of the most specific training that brings continual improvement. You also know the ten rules of motocross training. You are well on your way to training smarter instead of just harder. This knowledge gives you and advantage over your competition and helps you enter the future of motocross training. This article is just a hint of the knowledge that you can gain to improve your training and racing and we will continue to learn more about periodization in future issues of Holeshot. Stay tuned! 


Andrew Short

#29 | Pro SX/MX

Justin Boyd

#91 | Amatuer MX
mt. carrol area pic

Jamison Duclos

#23 | Amateur MX