The Four Pillars of BMX Racing
5 Minute Read...
When it comes to the highest demands of performance BMX racing there are four key pillars that constantly need to be addressed, rebalanced, maintained or improved…
When I think of these four pillars I think of how a typical table that has four legs and these four pillars help keep the table level and if one leg were to somehow get shorter or longer, the table would not be level and in fact would be off balance. Being off balance is not a bad thing, the table is still usable, just watch out for the table teetering, knocking your drink on to it’s side….
Now, what does this mean for the pillars of a high performance BMX racer?
To me it means that as pillars get longer in growth, that you also aim to keep all the pillars growing in sync…
And that’s the challenge when it comes to being a well rounded BMX racer, and to view this concept even more abstract, that’s the part of our lives. What good is it if you get physically healthy but your relationship, financial and joy are not growing with it?
In BMX, the four pillars are (in no particular order)
• Physical Strength
• Mental and Emotional Fitness
• Character Traits
And depending where you are at with your development and path in BMX, you could easily be high in any of these areas because you feel it’s important to you, and there is nothing wrong with that. More on that in a minute.
Let’s review the importance of each of these pillars…
BMX Skills could have many more pillars within itself and it’s constantly being challenged and exposed. From gate start technique, jumping skills, manualing skills, turning, passing, etc. It could be said that BMX skills are probably the most important pillar, again, that depends on who you talk to, because I’ve had some ridiculous talented professionals that have spent ten years mastering their skills and have reached a point where it’s truly automatic, and, they could afford to spend time working on other areas that could balance the table.
For example, I remember on of my Olympic athletes would rather spend more time doing gym and getting stronger because his bike handling skills were easily the best in the world, his skill pillar was sky high. We’re not going to bring the skills down to get the table balanced, we’re going to raise everything else up to it.
On the other hand, if you’re new or newer to BMX (less than three years) then you’re still exploring and developing each skill, working on this pillar should be a priority of frequency and volume. And you should consider investing time into the other pillars because they will help your BMX Skill development. Sometimes we refuse to hear it, and just like owning and maintaining a vehicle, what would happen if we only put gas into it and never addressing the wear and tear on the tires, brakes, fluids, windshield wipers, etc.?
BMX is a physically demanding sport, and luckily through riding the bike you do develop some sport specific strength, whether that means power to sprint out of the gate, spin at a high cadence down the first straight, develop the key muscles to perform a manual, the racers that get to the next level of growth, address the physical body alternatively away from the track and bike in an effort to enhance their BMX racing skills and power.
The intent is to be more efficient on the bike where you can perform skills easier. This is also an area where you always want to address because you are the motor of the bike. The stronger you can make the key muscles to perform explosive tasks like gate starts and acceleration to the first jump, your potential to race up front increases.
Understand, strength training helps with ones ability to be smooth and efficient over jumps (whether you choose to pump, manual or jump) and gives you the strength to make corrections and prevent yourself from getting out of shape. For older riders, strength training can enhance one’s ability to ride on the back wheel - think of manualing, tap manuals and navigating a technical deep rhythm section.
Mental and Emotional Fitness
What is mental and emotional fitness?
Mental fitness is simply being able to access your ideal performance mind state for the lap and emotional fitness is having behavior flexibility. Let’s go over these quickly.
Your mind state is going to either enhance you or hurt you, and I like to think of these as either being resourceful or un-resourceful.
A resourceful mind state could mean you have thoughts and feelings of being energized, alert, confident, empowered, ready, etc. There are so many more and these just a few examples.
An un-resourceful mind state could be thoughts and feelings of uncertainty, fear, doubt, not good enough, not belonging, nervousness, anxiety, etc.
The question is, do you have an intention of having a resourceful mind state and are you able to access it before the gate drops and maintain it from staging til the end of the lap.
Emotional Fitness is about your ability to respond to things resourcefully vs responding un-resourcefully. For example, you just saw the moto board and it has all the fast names on the board, how do you respond? Are you defeated immediately, or are you energized and up for the challenge with an opportunistic attitude? Behavior flexibility is more about how well can you respond resourcefully, being flexible to look at things through an opportunistic filter.
When I think of character traits I also consider ones ability to practice discipline, dedication, effort and focus.
Some riders have no problems with their ability to show effort and dedication. Some are just halfway in rather than all in.
Usually this is a result of one or two things.
- Their purpose to race and compete isn’t strong enough. If this is the case, then they should revisit this.
- It could be that an athlete is gifted and things come easy to them and it’s not required of them to put in extra effort or to practice discipline, or they just don’t understand the value of putting in work, focus or dedication. This is where someone will need to teach them the importance of character traits.
For me, I have personally struggled in all of these areas throughout my Amateur and Professional career, and when I found myself working on all pillars at once the magic appeared. The consistency of the work elevated each pillar and the results were elevated. The biggest mistake I made and many other athletes make is that we think that once a pillar gets maxed out, we don’t need to work or maintain it. Working on the pillars is an infinite game - meaning, it doesn’t stop until you stop competing. The greatest racers, the greatest athletes are always working on the pillars.
Now, it’s time to get to work, and show up!
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