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Racer X/Moto XXX Virtual Trainer

In Part One, Aldon Baker told us about his background and his job as RC’s trainer and shared his views on strength training for MX. In today’s second part, Aldon discusses RC’s diet, cycling, performance-enhancing drugs, and more….

Baker watches RC's weight closely: ";He can just look at a McDonald's sign and put on a pound!";
photo: Simon Cudby
Racer X: You said in the beginning that one of the first things you did with RC was change his diet. Do you continue to shape RC’s diet, or do you just guide him in the right direction?
Now all I have to do is guide him. The whole first year was explaining to him and getting him to understand which foods were better. Everyone has a different genetic makeup and metabolism; it’s just how you were born. Unfortunately, Ricky does not have the best metabolism. I mean, Ricky can just look at a McDonald’s sign and put on a pound! Weight control is probably the hardest thing for him. But now he understands all that and we know what a good weight for him is. I call it his “fighting weight.” I also like to give him a little leeway with that too, to try and preserve him and keep his motivation. It’s not like he is trying to win a championship that he has never won before. So he definitely has some leeway, but we also weigh three times a week, and if there is a problem, then we discuss it and do something about it. I mean, he is married now too, so I can’t always be there at breakfast or dinner to see what he kind of meals he’s having, but he and Ursula understand what a good diet does for you, not only in how you feel, but also how you recover. We try to eat low saturated fat and really just a good, healthy balance. We don’t do any of this no-carb, all-protein stuff. You have to have a balance.

We did an article a while ago with Specialized bikes and know that RC uses their bikes to train. Can you elaborate on how RC incorporates cycling into his training?
The bicycle part of it is good because he has had knee injuries and knee repairs, so the bike is good for training with that. I think that cycling—for at least the MX guys—is the best cardio training out there.
     The way I look at it, there are three ways to train for cardio: running, cycling, or swimming. We used to do a lot more running, but since the last knee injury, we had to back off a lot on that and I can’t get out of him what I need with the limited running we do. Cycling is definitely the way to go, and that’s how I started to incorporate a lot more cycling. He has really started to get into it because of the improvements he has seen. He has always admired Lance Armstrong, and he can get an idea of the type of suffering he goes through and therefore has a huge respect for that profession. When he starts to think he is really suffering, I can always pull out one of my training logs from ‘98 and ‘99 and show him there is a whole other dimension to suffering.
     Specialized has been a great part of Ricky’s program. They have the most impressive bikes, and the technology they use is unreal. Ricky is all about only having the best equipment, and we are pumped to have them as partners.

Carmichael's strength is his durability. In nine seasons, he has never missed a national.
photo: Simon Cudby
Is he better than you on the bike yet?
[Laughs] No! I said to him when I first started that I am trying to train him to kick my butt on the bicycle. When that happens, I will know that I have done my job. But I have always told him I will never make it easy. 

What is the biggest thing you see guys doing wrong while training for MX?
The first thing that comes to mind is improper weight training. I have seen guys that I know ride and then see them in the gym doing strange things like using a lot of weight for arm curls, trying to build their biceps, and then getting those little things that you squeeze to build their forearms. That kind of stuff is definitely wrong.
     The other thing that I see a lot of is with guys when they practice ride, they don’t have a plan for the day. They don’t say to themselves, Can I make five good, smooth laps, or am I having a problem just doing 30 minutes out there? They just go out and ride without a real plan for the day. And I see lot of guys that don’t have a clock on them. If you want to get better, you have to have something to aim for, so you need to have a clock.
     Going to the track without a plan is just crazy. And it doesn’t have to be a complicated plan. It can be very simple, like saying, “First I’m going to do a five-lapper and then another five-lapper and then maybe a 10-lapper.” But it has to be linked to how they race. I mean, an amateur may say, “I hear that Ricky trains a lot, so the other morning I got up and I went running.” Well, I would say, “What did you do that for?” And they might say, “Well, I heard you need to do some cardio, so I went running.” And usually a guy like that will have no idea what’s the point of running—if you don’t know why you are running or what you are doing it for or where it is going to help you, you are really just guessing. So you need a plan for training. Just don’t do something because you heard Ricky does it. 

Let’s talk a little about drug use in MX. Everyone is very familiar with doping in cycling. Since cycling and MX seem to be closely connected both in trainers that are involved in both sports and the fact that so many guys use cycling as a cross-trainer, do you think there are MX guys that are using performance-enhancing drugs?
You know, a couple of times we have spoken about this and said I wouldn’t be surprised if there were guys using drugs like that. I’ve always said that you are going to get people who look for the shortcut. Plus there is so much money involved in the sport now, and the pressure to succeed is great. I certainly hope there isn’t. But I hope people realize that even that will only get you so far, because you still have to be able to ride the bike. Hopefully that is the equalizing factor. I mean, you could put me on whatever drug there is out there and I still can’t ride the dang thing! I hope that is what prevents anyone from messing with that, and also thinking of the future, because the long-term damage of drugs is what people don’t think about. Many athletes have retired and then, when they should be enjoying their lives, they have major health problems.

Aldon and Jeannie Carmichael are two of RC's main resources for success.
photo: TFS
Do you think there should be mandatory drug testing in professional MX?
Yes, I do. Definitely. I think they should test the top three riders of both classes after every race at every round. I think it is just something that needs to be done. The sport has big money—there is a lot at stake—and I’m all for the guy that puts in all the hard work to succeed. There needs to be testing because there is always going to be the guy out there looking for the easy way out.

Why do you think there isn’t more of a push from the top guys like Ricky and Chad to require drug testing for performance-enhancing drugs?
Well, who would you push to do that? One difficult thing about drug testing is who governs it and who would ultimately have control. Another problem with this for guys like Ricky and Chad is that they already have so much on their plates to deal with. The AMA, as the ruling body, they should have this in place. I mean, they test the bikes but nothing on the rider?

This could even turn out to be bigger in a few years when you have a guy like Ricky maybe on the way down from his career and some new hotshoe shows up and decides to take the easy road.
Yeah, for sure that would be an unfair advantage. That is why I am for mandatory testing, with huge penalties.

My last question: What advice on training would you give the weekend warrior if he has a full-time job, doesn’t get ride during the week, and only has three one-hour sessions at the gym during the week?
Hmm, that’s a good one. You definitely need to balance things out. On the physical side at the gym, you really shouldn’t need more than 45 minutes; if you aren’t walking away from the weights in 45 minutes, you are either talking too much or having too much of a break in between exercises. I think what you really need to train adequately is 45 minutes of weights and 45 minutes of cardio. That would be a good starting point for the average guy. 

Thanks, Aldon, I really appreciate your time.
Yeah, sure, no problem. Thanks for letting me share my views on training.

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