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Race Faster by Learning How to Deal with Pain

Coach Robb

The mindset of “No Pain, No Gain” is frequently found with athletes and racers who train too hard and/or too long and find themselves actually getting slower, frequently injured and experience feeling of burn out (tired, not interested in riding, suppressed appetite, etc.).  By breaking down the year into specific training “cycles”, the body is provided the correct combination of work and rest which creates a faster and stronger racer.  Once this delicate balance is obtained, and speeds are improving on the track, racers now have to endure something called “Pain or discomfort” to break through to new levels of speed consistently. 

Humans by nature will take the pass of least resistance when it comes to survival; however, when you look at past champions (at any level of racing), they have learned how to deal with pain and discomfort as they address any physical limitations keeping them from being dominate.  For example, many people think that Adam Cianciarulo is fast because of his motors and suspension; however, I can tell you that when I was working with Adam Cianciarulo (Note: I lost working with him due to his professional contract with Pro Circuit) he is one of the most dedicated and hardest working racers I have ever had the privilege of working with. 

During my time with AC, he had Zack Freeburg living & training with him and AC would literally look at Zack and tell him “you might as well quit, because I won’t” and guess what, he didn’t.  Ten years later, AC’s hard work, dedication and acclimation to pain and discomfort is what makes him the future of our sport (not that the bike Mitch has built for him is slowing him down at all!). 

In addition to developing your strength, endurance & sprint speed, you must be able to handle though times in racing when racing simply hurt, it is the single limiting factor on race day.  It is what happens within your mind when you face pain and your body begins to rebel and your mind wanders into the area of self doubt and insecurity that will dictate just how fast and how well you will race.  Let’s take a look at a few things you can do to improve your “pain tolerance”.

Here are 7 Rules for an improving your pain tolerance:

Rule #1: Identify your Goals & Objectives

When the training and racing becomes difficult it is easy to become mentally distracted by the pain and ultimately become afraid or intimidated to continue.  With all of our riders, we have them establish 3, 6 and 12-month goals, and then outline 3-5 objectives that must be completed to make the overall goal a reality.  The most difficult part of this exercise is that many people say that they want to be successful, but fail to identify what work needs to be done to make the goal a reality.  For example, a goal like “I want to be fast” is not measureable.  Saying that you want to “Increase my consistency to 1 second over a 10-lap race” is measurable and trainable.  If you haven’t received my MotoE Goals & Objectives module, please email me directly. 

Rule #2: Identify your Physical Limiters by testing yourself every 5 to 6 weeks

The best athletes & racers test themselves regularly to evaluate what their physical & mental weaknesses are (both on and off of the track).  If you are not good at opening lap sprinting (i.e. you come on strong the second half of the moto) you probably don’t complete many interval workouts on the Concept 2 Rower or 2 lap sprints at the track.  Why: because you don’t like them!  However, the quickest way to improve your sprint speed is to train the energy system specific to sprinting (i.e. lactate tolerance).  By testing yourself every 5 – 6 weeks (depending on the time of the season), both on and off the track, you are able to evaluate if what you have been doing over the last four to five weeks is actually moving you closer to your overall goals (see above).  Though this sounds obvious, think about when you last tested your sprint speed, muscular endurance, strength levels, flexibility and sweat rate?  If you would like a testing assessment (both on and off of the track) for all of these performance variables, please email me directly.

Rule #3: Train to remove your Physical Limiters

After you identify your physical limiters (see Rule #2), each workout needs to address your physical limiter.  As mentioned in Rule #1, as humans, we train what we are good at and avoid what we don’t like (and not good at).  Too frequently I see dedicated riders heading to the track, gym, jumping on a Concept 2 rower or the open road on their road bike without any focus; if you don’t begin a workout with a specific mental focus on the physical change associated with the workout (i.e. improved sprint speed, enhanced endurance or consistency); you miss the opportunity to eliminate the gap between your mental goals and your physical ability. 

Rule #4: Build Pain Tolerance with Difficult Workouts

When building workouts for my clients, every 10 days I introduce a workout that is not only difficult, but also, scary!  These key workouts are designed to be more difficult than an actual race (both in duration and intensity).  By learning how to adapt and overcome pain and discomfort translates into race day confidence knowing that the race is actually “easier” than training during the week.  For example, with our riders I will ask them what kind of conditions do they hate riding in: dry and blue groove or wet and sloppy?  If they say that they hate dry and blue groove, we go out of our way to find tracks to ride that force the rider to “learn to adapt” to the skills necessary to ride dry, blue groove tracks.  Though it isn’t always convenient, it built both the physical skill set along with the mental confidence knowing that there isn’t a condition that the rider can’t ride well in.     

Rule #5: Create Race Day Simulation

Again, this rule is a little difficult to implement, but yields huge dividends on race day.  By identifying the specific aspects of the race that are mentally and physically demanding, you will become more familiar of what you need to put in place to address an distressing situations (upset stomach, riding tight, etc.).  As you begin to eliminate the negative effects with a specific plan, you have a “blueprint” that you can implement the morning of high priority races to race to your fullest potential.  Within our MotoE Mental Blueprint Program, we refer to this as the familiarity principle where your race day strategy has been tried and proven to create the desired results on race day - this eliminates the situation where one race goes well and another goes less than ideal.

Rule #6: Train & Race Prepared

In addition to starting each workout understanding the purpose of the workout and the physical limiter that is being addressed, maximize your training efforts by being well hydrated, fed, and rested (as indicated by your resting heart rate).  When you bring all of these elements into a workout, you are now in a position to elevate your intensity, push your duration and the mental focus to implement the skills and drills to handle higher rates of speed.  Think about the first time you were able to clear an intimidating double or blitz the whoops in third gear, completing the challenge the first time was intimidating, but trying it a second time is even more intimidating.  If you are tired, hungry and thirsty, your chances of success are minimal.  If you are still struggling with what to eat and how much to drink, please email me directly.  and I will send you some tools to eliminate the guess work. 

Rule #7: Learn From Every Race

After a high-quality training session or race, sit down with a blank piece of paper and outline the race in three steps.

Step 1: What went well and why?

Step 2: What didn’t go well and why?

Step 3: Of the elements that didn’t go well, what can you control, what can’t you control?

Reviewing step three is where you have the opportunity to “learn” from your weekend.  For example, you may note that it wasn’t a good race because it rained.  You can’t control the rain; however, you can train in wet and muddy conditions to improve both your skills and confidence.  If you didn’t like a particular element of the track, say deep ruts, you now realize what you should be working on the next time you head to the track – deep ruts.  By improving your skills associated with deep ruts, eliminates the self-inflicted pain and intimidation of deep ruts which results in faster lap times.  Though it may sound like a cliché, I preach to my riders all the time – Work Smart, Not Hard!

If you have any questions or need anything clarified, please feel free to email me directly at Robb@CoachRobb.com. 


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