If you’ve never ridden a motorcycle off-road, it’s easy to dismiss it as a motor-powered sport that doesn’t require much fitness. Spend five minutes cruising a bumpy road or motocross track, however, and you’ll quickly discover off-road riding is one of the most physically demanding sports there is.
Professional motocross racer Ryan Dungey, 23, has been a mainstay on the pro circuit since he was 16 years old. In his young career, Dungey has won every title in motocross—dominating first in 2009 on a 250 cc bike before moving up to the 450 class and winning both the 2010 AMA Supercross and AMA Motocross Champion titles. He’s been a vital part of Team USA’s medal run at the Motocross Des Nations since 2009 and was named Transworld Motocross’ Rider of the Year in 2012 and is sponsored by some of the biggest companies surrounding the sport including Red Bull, Target, and Fox Head, Inc as well as a host of others. Today, Dungey lives full-time near Tallahassee, Florida, where he can take full advantage of the sunny weather and train year-round.
As a professional, his season starts each year in January with the arena-based AMA Supercross series that runs until May. Two weeks after that ends the outdoor national AMA Motocross series begins and goes until the end of August, and the Motocross Des Nations happens only a few weeks later in September. All told, that means Dungey is traveling to compete nearly every weekend nine months out of the year. In the face of so much moving about, Dungey has a very specific schedule that he follows to keep his fitness on track. “We pretty much fly to the race every Friday and fly home on Sunday,” he explains in an interview with GrindTV. “I don’t get to get on the dirt bike on Friday or Sunday.”
“Sunday’s are all about recovery,” he continues. “Depending on the location of the weekend’s race and the length of the flight, we do a recovery cycling ride or a swim—something quick and easy to flush out the lactic acid build-up. Back in Florida, we get four days to do our routine, so on Monday I’ll get back on the dirt bike and get into things. I ride on Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday so I’ll get three days on the bike during the week [and a fourth on race day on Saturday]. We do motos and sprints, depending on how I feel each day or what’s coming up for the weekend.”
Dungey is quick to point out, however, that his time on the dirt bike is just one part of his fitness routine. “I basically do cardio every day,” he says. “I wake up, have breakfast, and then go out for either an hour [pedal] bike ride or a 30- to 40-minute run. Then we’ll throw some gym days in there, too—either do that on Monday and Tuesday or Tuesday and Thursday.”
Speaking to Dungey, it’s easy to get lost in his use of the proverbial “we” used by many motocross stars, race car drivers, jockeys, or other professionals conditioned to thanking a team of mechanics, helpers, and sponsors from the top of the winners podium. He currently does most of his training on his own, however. “I don’t have a trainer,” he says. “I’m self taught. There have been a lot of great people who helped me along the way, but I’m also just going off of what I’ve felt has worked for me and my career and am applying it now.
“I’m pretty fortunate to work with a lot of great companies that make my life a lot easier on the road. Target provides me with a motorhome that is at each race. I fly in and I have everything in one place—it is stocked with the foods I like. There is also a bike on a trainer in there, which is really nice. I’m able to get on my own bike and spin my legs for warm-up and recovery. It’s really convenient and works out really nice.”
Refuel and recover
Due to the format of motocross races, a rider who finishes in the top spot has ridden in at least one or two heat races in addition to practice runs before competing in the main event consisting of 20 laps around the track. Because of this, even the best riders spend hours on their bike burning a ton of calories, so it’s no surprise that what Dungey eats is as important has how he trains. “I wear a heart-rate monitor whenever I train,” says Dungey. “On race day we typically burn 5,000 to 5,500 calories, but on a training day it’s closer to 3,500 to 4,500.”
When it comes to eating, Dungey says he tries to eat a regular, balanced diet, but on race day he tries to load up on carbohydrates to keep him feeling fueled for the long day.” I like to eat more carbs than I usually would during the week because I always want to feel topped off and not feel like I’m lacking in anything,” he explains. “It’s a long day, too—you burn a lot of energy doing a lot of different things. I try to keep it pretty balanced. In the morning I’ll usually have eggs paired with oatmeal, cereal, or toast. I also like to have a berry smoothies on race day with protein inside—it’s easy to digest and just keeps me going. We always have a good lunch—usually some pasta with chicken and olive oil. And, we drink a lot of electrolytes to make sure we’re replenished because when it comes time to race you’re exerting so much energy on the track. I hate feeling hungry—it makes me miserable.”
The Ryan Dungey method basics
How often: Every day
For Dungey, cardio means a 30- to 40-minute run, a recovery swim, or one hour of mountain or road biking.
American Heart Association recommends: At least 30 minutes of moderate exercise five times a week for 150 minutes per week to keep your heart healthy.
How often: Two days a week
On Dungey’s gym days he works his full body, going through a new weekly series of exercises every three weeks. While he leans toward free weights, doing chest presses, inclines, declines, leg presses, walking lunges, and squats, some of his favorite moves also include CrossFit-style box jumps and linear rope waves.
American Heart Association recommends: Moderate- to high-intensity muscle-strengthening activity at least two or more days per week for additional health benefits.
Practice your sport
How often: Four days a week
For a professional motocross rider like Dungey, getting time on his dirt bike is a key ingredient to his success. Using drills, sprints, and other training exercises, Dungey is able to perfect his technique and reaction time from the bike. It also gives him the mental fortitude he needs to get through the long and stressful race days.
Tunes to ride by
With a sponsorship from Skullcandy, Dungey is, not surprisingly, a big fan of music. “When I’m in the gym or on my road bike I like to rock out to a little bit of everything,” he says. “I’m on iTunes all the time finding the new and upcoming stuff.” You can download his favorites below.