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Virtual Trainer: Sarah Whitmore, Part 1

Sarah Whitmore is one of the fastest women on the planet when it comes to riding a dirt bike. We know it takes a lot of strength to go fast on a motocross bike, so she must be big, right? Nothing could be further from the truth when it comes to Sarah. She may be taller than most girls at 5 feet 8 inches, but her listed weight of 126 lbs. seems heavy. Although she trains routinely and admits to working hard on her strength, she still maintains her feminine side while achieving the highest accolades as an athlete. Since strength and conditioning are such an integral part of racing, Virtual Trainer decided to call Sarah and find out how she maintains a woman’s physique while competing in such a physical sport.

Richardson's RV Yamaha's Sarah Whitmore
Racer X: Hey, Sarah, what are you up to today?
Sarah Whitmore: Not much, it’s early out here in California. I’m actually getting ready to go ride here in a little while.

That’s cool. I caught your segment on MTV when you were at Pastrana’s. Any backflipping plans for today?
[Laughs] No, not today.

What was it like being on MTV?
It was pretty cool. Like, the other night we were at Outback having dinner and the waitress was like, “You really look familiar,” and asking me if I had ever been in there before. And then she figured it out and said that she recognized me from riding on MTV. So that was kind of cool to get noticed.

Let’s talk a little bit about your background in MX and how you train. First off, how old are you and when did you start riding?

I’m 21 years old, and I started riding when I was about 7. I wanted to ride when I was a little younger, like when I was 4, but I crashed into the house. And I rode a little when I was 5 but got scared. So I really started up when I was 7.

How long have you been racing the WMA series?
Well, I raced one race in 2000 when I was 16. I've been pretty much full-time since then, so about six years now.

Did you train much as an amateur?
As an amateur, I just rode a lot. I used to run some, and then I started going to the gym when I was 15. I didn’t really know what I was doing back then at the gym, so riding was my main source of training.

What were some of the misconceptions regarding training you had as an amateur that you do differently now that you're a professional rider?

Well, when I first started going to the gym when I was younger, I pretty much just did what everyone else was doing. I used to lift weights, not really knowing how much weight to use or how many reps to do and stuff like that. I guess I used to lift using a lot of weight and maybe only one or two reps. I definitely don’t do that anymore, and when I do lift weights, I use really light weights and high reps. But it stinks because I look kind of funny when I’m at the gym lifting five-pound weights and I can barely get them up and stuff. I’m pretty much a weakling!

Do you have a trainer?
Yeah, I train with Kevin Barda out here in California. I just started training with him since I moved to California. He's the first trainer I've ever had. I haven’t been in California for very long, so we're really just starting out.

Does he work with you full-time, or does he have other clients?
I guess he works with me full-time, but he's also a professor at a college. I don’t see him every day or anything like that. He helps set up my training program and guides me through it. He's like my training manager.

I read on your website that you lift weights, run, and do kickboxing. Those are three awesome supplements for MX. Strength training is crucial for women. Do you feel that the strength issue is the main difference between the men and women when it comes to MX?

It's definitely the biggest issue. That and the fact that girls are usually more timid than the guys. Everyone always tries to tell me that you don’t need strength to race and that great form and technique is how you go fast. But these are usually guys that weigh 175 pounds and are way stronger than me. I don’t think that's true at all. It’s really difficult to go fast on a rough track if you're not strong. Guys are just naturally stronger, so they have a definite advantage there. Guys also have more of a tough, can’t-hurt-me-type mentality, where I think girls are naturally more mellow. Guys are usually just more aggressive. As much as we like to think that we're as tough as the guys and just don’t care, all of us have that motherly instinct. Girls are just born with that.

Are any of your female competitors just exceedingly strong compared to the rest of the girls, like the Williams sisters are in tennis?
Well, I don’t know about that, but I do know that all of my competition is stronger than me. Jessica Patterson is pretty strong, and so is my teammate Tarah Gieger. All you have to do is look at them and you can tell they're very strong athletes. I've always been the weakling. I know this because at the races, like, the day before the race when we have free time, my friends and I will do stuff like arm wrestle. Not so much at the WMAs but at the local races, and it just makes me laugh because I’ll get beat by a 14-year-old! They feel all cool and stuff and say, “I just beat Sarah Whitmore at arm wrestling,” but then we go out on the track and I beat them. They may be stronger, but I’m faster [laughs].

Wow, I can’t imagine how fast you're going to be in the future when your trainer gets done with you. Just look how much faster Ricky Carmichael is now than before Aldon Baker got his hands on him!
Yeah, strength is definitely an issue for me. I used to tell the guy that was doing my suspensions that I needed the best setup out there because if the suspension wasn’t just right, then it was really hard for me to control the bike. If I start to swap in the whoops or a rough section, I’m just not strong enough to muscle through it and save it like the guys. I’ll end up on the ground.

Yeah, that can even be a bigger issue now that the four-strokes have taken over, especially since that bike is a little heavier than the two-stroke. I read that you weren’t comfortable on the 250F at first. Is that starting to change?
Yeah, it is now. I'm definitely getting more comfortable on the four-stroke. I've been riding the new bike every day and adapting to it. I think I didn’t like it when I first rode one because the old frames just felt so heavy. But with the aluminum frames, it's so much lighter and feels so much better to ride. They turn really well and handle so much better.

Check back on Monday for Part 2 of our conversation with Sarah Whitmore.

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