Coaching credo says to always stress and repeat positives and not negatives. You can look back at mistakes to learn but then it’s time to move forward. In that light, here are the top ten training mistakes that I have observed in my career of training in motorsports. Hopefully you will recognize some things in your program and be able to move forward with positive changes to improve the results of your efforts.
- Training too hard on your easy days making it impossible to train hard enough on your hard days. Not every day can be hard core. Some days need to be recovery/easy days to allow your body to absorb the last hard round of training and recover properly to get the most of the next hard effort. If recovery is not adequate you end up with a string of mediocre days and no progress. Remember the training cycle: stress (breakdown), recover, supercompensate (make gains), repeat. Periodized training is one way to make sure this isn’t an issue in your program.
- Refusing to focus efforts on true limiters. You should be spending the most effort on the issues that are currently limiting your progress. Common example: your corner speed is suffering. Your riding endurance is fine. You should be going to the track and working on almost nothing but corner speed but your buddies are doing motos You go out there ride with them and spend all your energy working on the thing that isn’t critical at the moment. It may not be as fun to focus in on your own personal weaknesses but keep your season goals in mind and fix the most problematic issues so your overall ability improves. Again, periodized training is key.
- Sacrificing riding energy for training energy. This point goes along with the above point. 99% of the time improved riding ability is what will propel your results vs. fitness. It is very rare where riding ability oversteps fitness and when this happens, it is very obvious. Unless you are one of the lucky ones where your riding ability supersedes your level of fitness, the actual motocross days should be your primary energy drain. Plan your week around these efforts and NOT your other training efforts. You want your days at the track to be sharp and on point. You don’t want them to suffer because you spent all your energy cycling, strength training, etc. Riding has priority on your limited energy stores.
- Avoiding drills. There is solid neuroscience behind drills. Drills are repetition of the correct form and this creates “motor engrams” in your brain. Think of them as a computer file. When you need a technique for a particular situation you access and run that file without use of the upper portions of your brain. This is much faster and leaves the upper parts of your brain clear and relaxed. Your riding becomes a series of reactions and not forced movements driven by conscious thought. This is the hallmark of “loose” riding. If you really think about this, drills should be paramount in your program but because they are “boring” I rarely see them get the priority they deserve.
- Not prioritizing starts. Goes along with the drills. How much of the race is the start? How much of your riding time do you spend on starts? Get the picture? Starts are a huge portion of your race outcome, especially in the amateur ranks, so they should receive the same relative priority during your track days.
- Ignoring the mental game. How much of a race outcome is mental? How much training time do you dedicate to mental training? Just like the starts above. Mental skills make up a huge portion of a race result and the higher up you go in ability level, the more difference they make. In the professional ranks, the difference between first and fifth is often totally mental. I find mental training very rare in the amateurs but there is no better time to start than the present!
- Not tapering. As important races grow closer, your total training loads should decrease. The easiest week of training should be the week prior to an important event. You want to spend your energy making the physical and mental changes in reaction to the stress of your training. You want to be on the gate well rested, fresh, sharp and hungry for victory. Due to mistrust of their training programs, riders will actually train harder and harder as the race approaches. This guarantees that they hit the race fatigued, not sharp, and under motivated. Again, periodized training is an answer.
- Ignoring injury prevention. Some parts of your training should be focused on preventing injury. Strength and flexibility training are the two big contributors. All your hard work will immediately go to waste if you injure yourself when it could have been prevented. Training for any sport causes imbalances and restricted range of movement. Correcting these issues and having adequate strength and muscle mass can be the difference between dusting yourself off to race another day and lying on the couch for the rest of the season recovering from surgery. Injury prevention deserves a high priority ranking in your program because the consequences are so huge.
- Static programs. What do I mean by this? It means that one month of training looks just like any other month of training. Your body reacts and changes as your training progresses. Your program should adjust and ebb and flow along with your body’s reaction. Your fitness will go up, reach a peak, decline, go up again to a higher level and there will be times of tapering as noted above. Your training program should embrace and aid the changes in your body. One more time, periodization is an answer.
- Staying in your comfort zone. This is a caveat to #1. At times you have to your push your boundaries or progress will be limited. New training activities may be unfamiliar and uncomfortable. Pushing on the track may be a bit scary and yes, a little risky. I am not saying take bad risks (say trying to push a rhythm section that is at your limit) but take good, intelligent risks (push in turns because more than likely you will just fall to the inside). Be smart! Not every day but on a regular occasion, you want to be at the edge of your fitness and your ability. It shouldn’t be just at the races.
These ten training mistakes are in no particular order but odds are that you are guilty of at least a few of them at times just like me. Make the most of your time and efforts by avoiding these common pitfalls. Regularly review your program as even professionals can trade one training error for another. Think and train smart! Onward!!