Riding fast (and for a long period of time) is within your reach—it’s not just for the genetically gifted or factory riders. Many times, the simple things hold you back: quality/quantity of sleep, food, hydration, mental outlook, proper warm up and preparation to name a few. It goes without saying – you must put in quality training (both on and off the track) to develop speed. However, many racers are surprised to learn that what they do off the track makes a big difference regarding how fast they go on the track. Use these six simple training strategies to improve your lap times.
1. Sport Specificity
You won’t become a faster racer by climbing rocks. As a racer, sport specific speed and efficiency requires two elements. First, the pattern of joint and muscle coordination must be specific to your racing. Second, you need to make sure that you are subjecting your body to the exact conditions and effort levels that you will experience on race day. Through a year-long performance program that is based on the scientific overload principle, an athlete will move his or her level of speed and endurance to the next level incrementally from week to week and month to month.
2. Work Smart, Not Hard
Make the most of every workout by working out with a purpose. Before you embark on a training program (both on and off the track), establish 3, 6 and 12-month goals to help keep you focused when the physical training becomes difficult. If necessary, consult with an online program or human performance coach (not an ex-mechanic!) to design a program that includes strength, flexibility, nutrition and mental development elements to maximize your training results in the shortest period of time. Your training plan should focus on quality, rather than quantity. High-quality training is specific to your goals and available amount of time to train. Training beyond what is necessary will wear you down both mentally and physically.
3. Vary Your Lap Times & Training Intensities
Riding the same pace day after day creates a “speed rut”. Vary your riding durations and intensity levels regularly to become a stronger, faster racer. Include skills/drills, negative split intervals, heart rate ladders, long motos and short sprint intervals throughout the week of riding. Your body will adapt to the various demands associated with these workout durations and intensity levels leaving you fresh for key races.
4. Eat Right
The only way your body is going to be handle higher rates of speed is if your body has the necessary fuel to grow and adapt to the stress you submit your body to. The necessary elements are simple: fresh fruits, vegetables and lean sources of protein. The fruits and vegetables provide your body the vitamins and minerals necessary for your overall health; an additional benefit is the high water content – this helps hydrate your body from the inside out. The lean protein provides your body the amino acids necessary to rebuild the muscle tissue that you have torn down in training and racing.
5. Sleep More
When you look at the busy schedules that racers keep, sleep is usually bounced around by either going to bed late or getting up early. This pattern of sleep deprivation eventually leads to a drop in performance, feelings of depression and frustration with training and life in general. Cutting sleep short will eventually undermine all of your fitness and race speed because during sleep, the body releases growth hormones that repair damaged tissue resulting from the stress of training. As you increase the amount of either intensity or duration, the amount of sleep must also increase accordingly to maintain balance within the body. Ideally we are looking for 8 to 10 hours of sleep a night for optimum performance on the track.
6. Warm Up Sufficiently
Riders frequently comment that they feel better at the end of a race than they do at the beginning (ironically lap times validate this feeling). The reason for this is because the body has reached an optimum performance level within both the muscle tissue and the internal systems that deliver oxygen to the working muscles and remove the metabolic waste created in the energy producing cycle (i.e. lactic acid). By warming up for 5-10 minutes with a Concept 2 rower, bicycle or a jump rope will get the blood flowing into your arms and legs along with raise your heart rate and your internal body temperature. This will keep you from using the first few laps of your race to warm the body up.