In an effort to bring Racer X Online readers the best information available regarding MX fitness, postings on this website are open to anyone with a specific and proven expertise in the fitness field. I came across one such person, as I was surfing the net one day for MX-related fitness articles. According to Steven Bubel’s bio page, he has more degrees than a thermometer. That’s nothing new, but what is new and refreshing is that Steve is good at getting his thoughts from his head to the paper—a rare gift. His training expertise is based not only on real-world experience but, more importantly, on cutting-edge scientific research. Virtual Trainer contacted Steve and he agreed to work on a few articles with us. Look for more articles from Steve in the future, but until then be sure and check out his website, mxconditioning.com.
Evolution of the Female Athlete
Not to be outdone by their male counterparts, female athletes have also acknowledged the benefit of off-the-track supplemental training with on-the-track performance. Unfortunately, myths, misconceptions, and a general misunderstanding still abound and the bulk of most women’s programs still include a heavy dose of low-intensity cardio and light weight, high-repetition weight training. The fear of leaving their “fat-burning zone” and of getting “big and bulky” has biased women against high-intensity cardio and lifting “heavy” weights, respectively. This weight lifting myth is also perpetuated in the male athlete. Sadly, as we shall see, these unfounded fears have precluded men and women alike from achieving their full athletic potential.
Destroying the Dogma – The “Fat-Burning Zone”
(*To determine your age-predicted maximal heart rate (MHR) simply subtract your age from 220. A 25-year-old athlete would have an estimated MHR of 195 beats per minute (bpm), for example.)
While certainly not incorrect, prescribing exercise based upon this information is a bit misleading. To do so assumes that the number of calories expended during exercise and the source of those calories is vital to improving long-term body composition. Current research, however, suggests that this may not be the case. In comparing a 20-week “endurance” training protocol with a 15-week high-intensity intermittent-training (HIIT) program (i.e. interval training), one study found that, even though the endurance-trained group expended more than twice as many calories (28,800 vs. 13,800) over the course of the study, the HIIT group lost significantly more fat. Yes, you read that correctly. Cycling uninterrupted for 30 to 40 minutes 4 or 5 times a week resulted in LESS fat lost than performing 10 to 15 short (15-30 seconds), all-out sprints. At first glance, this appears to contradict perhaps the most widely accepted principle of exercise prescription yet, subsequent research has supported these original findings. So the question is, how does brief, high-intensity exercise, which burns predominantly carbohydrate for fuel, lead to greater long-term fat loss? The answer lies in what happens after you stop exercising.
Now that you are fully aware of the benefits and necessity of high-intensity training (not only for performance but body composition as well), it’s time to learn how to apply it in the real world. The simplest solution is to convert your existing cardio workout into an interval-training program. Interval training, for those not familiar, is simply alternating periods of “maximal” effort (>80% MHR) with periods of recovery and consists of six basic elements:
1. Number of repetitions [4-6]
2. Number of sets [2-5]
3. Duration of work intervals [30-90 Seconds]
4. Intensity of work intervals [Maximum Effort]
5. Duration of recovery periods between intense work intervals and between sets [30 sec to 2 min.]
6. Intensity of recovery periods [Easy]
In conclusion, women have certainly made tremendous strides and they should be applauded for their efforts. But, if they ever hope to compete head-to-head with the boys, or rise above their female competition, their training programs need to evolve. Interval training must become an integral part of those programs. In Part II we will look at an even more powerful (and misapplied) weapon in the woman’s arsenal - strength training.
Good luck with your training and as always, VT can be reached anytime at firstname.lastname@example.org. In addition, be sure and check out the Racer X archives section, your complete one-stop information zone for motocross fitness. Archives before November, 2005 can be found here.