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An in-depth interview with the British rider about his training methods for the 125cc World Championship season.
With preseason and the season itself we're talking about ten months of intense activity. Do you have a long-term training plan?
In preseason I do basic training, in other words long but intense continuous sessions with a low but progressive heart rate. Normally when we start competing in April or March I'm still not at 100%. It is a long season and you have to find a level that won't leave you too tired over the final races, which are demanding because of the travelling and the conditions. So basically I step up the intensity through the season up to August. Then I have a rest to make sure I look after myself and make it to the end of the season in the best shape possible. June, July and August are the months where I hit my peak and I maintain that to the end of the season.
Do you do any kind of specific training during a Grand Prix weekend?
To be honest no, although I usually train the same for the first three days of a Grand Prix week as I do in a normal week. For example on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday I do swimming, cycling and running and then when I get to a circuit on a Thursday I do a few laps of the track either on my pushbike or on foot. Obviously the intensity is much lower because you're trying to save energy for the weekend but I don't stop training altogether. Once the Grand Prix gets started, I spend fifteen minutes maximum warming up on a stationary bike before each practice and the race. I also do ten minutes as a warm down after the race to loosen and stretch the muscles. I also eat recovery food and hydrate a lot. It is very important to recover quickly, especially when you have back-to-back races, and to keep your immune system strong to avoid any kind of illness or infection that could affect performance.
Do you need a special diet to go along with your training programme?
My personal trainer takes charge of everything to do with training, nutrition and of course rest. I also have a sponsor that provides me with all the supplements I need for my programme. At home I have quite a strange diet because on one hand I need enough energy to train but at the same time I have to be careful not to get too heavy for a 125. I don't eat any junk food and not much red meat - it's mainly white meat, fish and salads as well as carbohydrates like pasta. I rarely take in more than 2500 calories a day.
How and when did you meet your personal trainer?
We met at the end of 2007. It was the end of my time with the Repsol team and a friend recommended that I go and see Mark and after talking to him for five minutes I knew he had to train me. He has the experience and knowledge to turn me into a true athlete. He competes in a lot of triathlons and Ironman contests, which is a long-distance triathlon. It was a little bit tricky at the start for him to understand the dynamics of a motorcycle racer. Basically his training method is based around the prevention of illness and injury. If you train too hard you can tire yourself out and you have to stop, which hinders your development. If you train constantly at 80% your physical fitness will constantly increase. Personally I think every rider should have a personal trainer to organise their training, nutrition, etc. As a rider this is my job and I have to work constantly on achieving the maximum I can - it is my responsibility to my sponsors and to myself.
It sounds like the triathlon forms the basis of your training.
Yes, I love all three disciplines and it's also a good way to completely disconnect from MotoGP. Between January and November I spend a lot of time riding motorcycles and even though we're not racing every weekend it is a long season. Triathlon is kind of an escape route for me and it came into my life thanks to Mark. It's wonderful sport, full of optimism, where everybody enjoys themselves a lot in the races and where you can be competitive at any level. To race in 125s the only training I do other than cycling, running and swimming is core training and stretching. When you're on the bike you need a strong core and arms to put up with the stress and the weight transfer. I spend an hour, two or three times a week, using a basic gym ball. Working with Mark we try to replicate the positions I get into on the bike. Occasionally I ride motocross or supermoto but during the season I do enough riding at the GPs.
I suppose the British weather has an effect on your training.
This year was the first time I spent a long time out of England to train and I think it worked out really well. At the beginning of winter I spent six weeks in Barcelona and in all that time it rained three or four times, whilst in England if you're lucky you get three or four days of sunshine! We get wind, snow and even hail and it is difficult to train, as well as being dangerous, whilst in Barcelona I was able to make the most of those six weeks and train in safety. Next winter I'll be back in Spain for my preseason training but I'd also like to try cross-country skiing - we just have to work out where.
Do you ever take time out for a break?
Yeah of course - usually once a week or every fortnight I take a day out to completely relax, recover and recharge my batteries. But I don't like to be doing nothing - I like to be busy all the time.
What about holidays?
Not during the season. If I go on holiday it's at the end of the year with the family, in November or December. I take a week off over Christmas doing absolutely nothing and allowing myself some of the 'sins' I miss out on the rest of the year. But I still spend 50 or 51 weeks of the year concentrating on my training and absolutely dedicated to racing motorcycles.
Do you think so much preparation is necessary or is it just part of your winning character?
I always want to be at the maximum level that my body and mind will allow, I am a very competitive person. As far as racing is concerned, I don't want my body to ever get in the way of me winning. I don't ever want to feel like I could have done better in a race if only I was a bit fitter. In 125 perhaps so much training isn't necessary but my attitude is to do everything I can to win. Suffering through training is fundamental for me and I think you need to suffer to maintain your hunger and a winning mentality.
How do you deal with the jetlag in Australia, the heat in Malaysia and racing at night in Qatar?
For Qatar I started incorporating training sessions at 8pm for a couple of weeks before the race, so I am used to being active at a time that is normally reserved for rest. For Malaysia I train inside a cabin that has heat and humidity control. It is a bit like a sauna but not as hot and you can regulate the temperature. As far as jetlag is concerned there's not much you can do about it - if you start to feel it I think the best option is not to worry about it and just sit up in bed reading or watching television. If I get tired during the day I try and have a little nap if I can. Jetlag is something you can't predict so I suppose the only way to fight it is to stay awake and get tired!
Interview courtesy of Bancaja Aspar
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