I recently started taking my motorcycle and doing what is called “track days.” It’s basically taking your motorcycle to a race track and getting to ride it with a group of riders similar to your skill level. There are no restrictions on speed, so you can absolutely fly on a safe, controlled, closed course. The first time I did this sort of thing I quickly realized how important training specifically for this type of riding is. It’s incredibly physically demanding in a way I had not anticipated.
I’m in pretty good shape, workout about 5 days a week at varying intensities including interval training, strength training, and some basic cardio. I’m certainly not an elite athlete, but I was overwhelmingly surprised how difficult track sessions are. Each session is roughly 20 minutes with a 40 minute break before the next session. By the time I was comfortable--going fast and pushing my lap times, I could barely get through a 20 minute session without being physically exhausted. In fact, a couple of times, I came back early or pulled off the track because I found myself making errors and didn’t want to crash my bike.
A couple of my initial observations were....
- This type of riding requires momentary static holds with a lot of repetition.
- The mobility needed for your hips is key to comfort.
- Strong breaking requires a fair bit of upper body strength.
- Having a strong core is key to obtaining the proper body position, which is crucial for going fast safely!
Imagine you’re bent over the tank of a motorcycle going 140mph and you're coming up on a corner that needs to be taken at 60mph. You have to get the motorcycle slowed down to the appropriate corner speed. That’s a difference in speed of 80mph. Sure, you can do this by breaking super far away so there isn’t much pressure on your wrists and hands, but if you want to have a reasonable lap time, faster = breaking hard and late. This means… you’re holding your throttle wide open as late as possible then slamming on your breaks, getting the bike slowed, leaning your body off the side of the bike to provide counter balance, turning through the corner, and smashing the throttle out of the corner as soon as possible.
Here’s what the body goes through
Smashing on the brakes immediately causes you to tighten your core and semi-hold your breath (you shouldn’t, but it happens). Your arms get fatigued from the G-force from breaking. Your knee and hip gain a ton of pressure on the inside leg from trying to get your body position correct for the corner which requires leaning your butt and chest over the side of the bike. Your outside leg is firmly gripping the tank, which, if you’re not use to it, will cause a strain or fatigue. You’ll be tightening your core as you smash on the throttle and hold on tight with your legs.
During my first track day my biggest weaknesses was my inside leg getting totally fatigued from the pressure on my foot pegs. (Seems like one leg will get used more than the other depending on how many turns there are in a particular direction). Second, my hip (on the inside dominant leg) would totally cramp up. For someone who stands all day, being in a crouched position like this for 20minutes under this type of stress totally fatigued my hip. (In talking to others, this doesn’t seem to be an issue which makes me think it may be due to the fact most people’s hips are in a flexed state most of the day). It was hard to relax and my heart rate stayed super high for all 20 minutes on the track. I was literally dripping sweat down my face and totally soaked myself under my leather suit. Getting dehydrated was obviously a concern.
If you’re doing a track day, as a personal trainer, here are a few things I’d recommend:
- Train your aerobic endurance. You need to be used to keeping your heart rate up for a given period of time. Your heart is a muscle and needs to be conditioned just like skeletal muscles. Biking, running, swimming, or other aerobic exercises are great.
- Focus on mobility in your hips, knees and ankles. Find your weakness and work on it. Stretch, stretch, stretch!!! Foam rolling is great too! Reach out to me if you need help with ideas or even help one-on-one. Flexibility and mobility training are a few of our specialties at Body Basics.
- Do a lot of static holds! When you’re on a bike, you’re holding certain positions for short periods of time, but it’s repetitive. You might go into a left hand corner, get a short straight and then another left hander. You’re legs and arms may not fully recover between corners. Planks, wall sits, static lunges, side planks and similar exercises will be useful. Again, reach out to me if you need help with a training program.
Feel free to shoot me a message if you have questions about training for your next track day at firstname.lastname@example.org