In Conversation With

Kirk Gibbs National Motocross Champion on Performance and Recovery


In this episode, Dr Greta Dalle Luche speaks with Kirk Gibbs, a professional Motocross athlete who has won several national championships. Kirk Gibbs talks about how top athletes practice physiological conditioning before competitions and how they face recovery in the event of an accident. Kirk Gibbs owns TLC Recovery, a recovery space that utilises the benefits of hot/cold alternation therapy.


Kirk Gibbs

Professional Motocross Athlete
Founder, TLC Recovery


Kirk Gibbs - Pro MX

TLC Recovery


Dr Greta Dalle Luche

Scientific Lead at Parasym


Dr Dalle Luche comments on new era of Heart Failure treatment



Dr Greta Dalle Luche 0:01
Welcome to Nurosym conversation with... Today I'm pleased to have here, Kirk Gibbs, name of professional name KG5, or for friends, Gibbsy. Kirk is an Australian, and New Zealand champion of MX1 Motocross and he's here today, cause he's not just a champion on the track, but Kirk is also a champion in recovery. And I'm very interested to ever talk to him about his approach to training and recovery. Thanks for being here, Kirk.

Kirk Gibbs 0:37
Thank you very much for having me.

Dr Greta Dalle Luche 0:38
How are you today?

Kirk Gibbs 0:40
Yeah, very good. Just come home from the track, actually. So yeah, straight to work into this.

Dr Greta Dalle Luche 0:45
Sorry to stop... for stopping your recovery for the day probably.

Kirk Gibbs 0:51
Yeah, I'll try and squeeze some in. Yeah.

Dr Greta Dalle Luche 0:53
I think I, just to start, when did you start doing motocross and what drove you to the sport?

Kirk Gibbs 1:04
So my father raced when he was a little bit younger, not very seriously, but did race a little bit. And then I have an older brother and sister who are twins, they're five years older. And for Christmas, one year, they were eight years old, and I was three, they got a bike.

And I got a bunch of presents and just walk straight past them and all I wanted to do is get on the bike. Yeah, so from there, they pretty much dink me around until five years old. And then I got my own bike.

And pretty much went from there started off slowly, obviously, just riding around and then to the local club. And then, you know, probably after three or four years at the startup, the state titles stuff, and then from there to national events.

Dr Greta Dalle Luche 1:57
Wow, and looking at the achievements of your career you had that little brother revenge over your family.

Kirk Gibbs 2:06
Yeah, it's always funny like that. It always seems to when you have someone to look up to is older and being very competitive, as always, you know, being brother and sister and whatever.

Yeah, you always have that robbery. So that was good for me to have an older brother. And as much as I didn't think he helped me he did a lot. So...

Dr Greta Dalle Luche 2:28
Yeah. And how old were you when you realize that you could become a pro?

Kirk Gibbs 2:35
It was pretty light for me. I, like I said, we didn't take it very, very seriously. We did the Australian nationals and stuff as a junior that which is under 16 years old.

And I never really did any good until probably my last two years. I had some bad luck when I was 14 and didn't, didn't place but the year after I started doing a little bit of off bike training and stuff and ended up winning two classes into my last year juniors and then when you go from there to seniors, you can race up to, you know, 30, 30-year-olds. So it was a big jump for me. And that's sort of like for everyone. So it took me a couple of years but then I went to work when I left school. And I think it was more... not so much the riding side it was more going to a job that I didn't like that made me want to you know, go on race more.

Dr Greta Dalle Luche 3:33
Yeah. There's no Plan B, there's just racing.

Kirk Gibbs 3:37
Yeah, so I was... Yeah, I was racing a lot. And it was hard with the, with the work. But yeah, I didn't really enjoy the work so much. So while the job I was doing so much.

So yeah, I sort of sat my parents down and asked them if they would support me for a year to try and achieve my goal.

And they did and it was lucky that I you know, did pretty well that year and got noticed.

Dr Greta Dalle Luche 4:01
Yeah, it sounds impressive that you said that, you know you were kind of old for the age, but you're still talking about like, is that 14, 16 and then when 18 like you are still very young.

And I was wondering when it took Kirk has got a very interesting recovery routine, which I'm gonna, we're gonna speak about in a bit. And he was also the owner or main manager of TLC, which is a recovery space, it's an amazing recovery room located in Sunshine Coast, Australia. And I was wondering, when did you start recovering like so?

You know, when you're a young athlete, you just... all you want to do is to race probably, right? And when you do start it to ever a professional recovery schedule, and I'll do that often.

Kirk Gibbs 4:51
Just over the years... You know, when, once you get to the pro level, you have people that help out from outside, so, you know, from trainers to, you know, just, just people that in general to help like physios and stuff like that.

So, like you said, when you're young, you don't... you just train as hard as possible, and for as long as possible, and you just think, you know, that's the best way to achieve that goal. But obviously, over the years, you know, I've been doing it since I was, professionally, since I was 18 years old.

So now 33, over that period of time, from accidents and stuff like that you just really learn a lot in recovery how your body works. And, I guess just, yeah, how, how you need to achieve, achieve everything really do everything so well, not just eroding every side to be able to be back on their bike faster to eliminate the least amount of time off.

Dr Greta Dalle Luche 6:00
Yeah, and I think like, it's not just, I think particularly for motocross, but I guess all around other sports. It's not just preventing injuries but also achieving the highest performance because motocross is extremely intense from the physical point of view and mental as well.

So, like, I like to ask you, like, how many hours you usually trained for and how many hours you put into recovery to come back stronger and, and also to achieve your highest performance during contest?

Kirk Gibbs 6:39
Yes, it's definitely that's, you know, it's hard. And that's what you need to adjust to your body and how you feel. But right now, it's pre-season we're like 10 days out from round one of our nationals so it's been a massive pre-season up till now.

So December till, till this right now is, is the hardest part of our, our season is trying to build that days to be, you know, not have any issues and not going in, you know, underdone or anything like that. So, at the moment we're riding, this week, I've ridden five times this week.

And we're putting an hour and a half to two hours on the bike, which is, most of our races are 30 minutes. So normally we do 30 minute rides, to simulate that. And, and on tracks that are often you know, with the the heat up here on the Sunshine Coast is really hard.

So, you know, our heart rates, you know, my heart rate's a little bit lower than sound, but I normally average between 160 to 180. For those, for that 30 minutes. So just it's more, not so much, it's more the adrenaline I guess, for us as well, it gets our heart rate so high, if you do that in the gym, it's nearly impossible to do that on a rower or something like that, for 30 minutes, you know, you could maybe do it once, but we do it three or four times a day.

So but then yeah, we obviously got to factor in our recovery, which is active recovery. You know, if it's a light skin or a walk or things like that, and then obviously TLC helps out with you know, the, the hot and cold pools and, and stuff like that just really stretching, you know, morning, night, warming up properly cooling down. I guess we're sort of just trying to tick every little 1% box to like you said to try and be the best you can every single day.

Dr Greta Dalle Luche 8:42
Thanks for and thanks for finding the time to speak with us during the height of the competitive season. We really appreciate that.

And you threw in a lot of things that I like to talk about. Like you said, like, that you measure your heart rate, and we try to measure do you usually take as a measure of the intensity of your training and the intensity of your recovery?

What do you look at? I don't want you to give away things to competitors but you know, just to tell me what you can tell me.

Kirk Gibbs 9:18
Yeah, no, that's fine. I, uh... For riding-wise we don't really monitor the heart rate as much only because it's so high. You never really not gonna get a high heart rate when you're pushing. You know, especially this time of year like I said, we've got to push as hard as possible to be as ready as can be so on the bike, we don't really monitor the heart rate as much like I can still see it but it's more hour off by training that we really go through our zones.

We did a VI2 max at the start of the year. So that gives us some trending zones. So, you know, 1,3 to 5, you know, 5 being the most, which is like 183, for me, I think is my heart rate on the VI2.

And then yeah, so active recoveries in zone 1, zone 2. And then we did a, pretty much all through January to halfway through February, we did a base zone. So long periods of time. Zone 3, which is 130 to 150 heart rate. So we'd go on two to three hours cycles on the road. And you know, we're doing gym twice a week, we monitor your heart rate through that. And yeah, it's mostly for off the bike. But it's always good to know, where you're at, your resting heart rate, just in case you're getting sick, he can monitor all those things.

Dr Greta Dalle Luche 10:56
So when you train, you're trying to go, you know, as hard as you can, or like to get performances at the lower heart rate?

Kirk Gibbs 11:06
Yeah, so to build, to build your base. So the way we look at it is, it's like a pyramid. So at the base, your base is just your general fitness as in your low heart rate, you can do that for long periods of time, it's a really good base to have.

When you don't get injured over the years, your base gets bigger and bigger. And then more, you know, intensities, you know, at the top. So that's how we see it in the way of building all our, you know, the first six to eight weeks of our training, we're doing a little bit less intense on the bike, and doing long duration. So we might do 40-minute modos so we can see out the duration at a little lower intensity, same with our training. And then once we get six to eight weeks out, we intensify that do a little bit shorter, but a lot higher heart rate. So we still have that base. But it's yeah, we're working on the peak fitness as well.

Dr Greta Dalle Luche 12:10
Yeah. When you talk about the base increasing, you mean, been longer in an exercise state? What do you mean about the base, increasing?

Kirk Gibbs 12:22
Just in general in the way of, you get more, you're getting fitter. So your heart rates coming down.

You can do it for long, because your heart rate can sit at that zone for so long, you get more comfortable at doing lower heart rate or, you know, all this scientific fact of it being that it can help you in, you know, jetlag and just little things like that having a really strong base, you know, your heart rate doesn't go up as much when you're in a plane and things like that.

So having a really good base is just something that's, is just good to have. Because then you, you know, you have a base, and then you only really have to work on those fine-tuning things to help, you know, when you have that base. 

Dr Greta Dalle Luche 13:15
And you also look at heart rate variability?

Kirk Gibbs 13:21
Yep, yeah. So we have all our group that we ride with, there's now I think, 10 to 12 of us in this group that we ride with one of my friends that I spent some time with on a team. He's now our riding coach.

And we stumbled across the work, which is something a band, which is really good for sleep and like I said hope at heart rate variability and your strength throughout the day and how much sleep and recovery you need to be able to perform again the next day, which is really good for us. But yeah, we all, we are all on an app now. And yeah, it's good to track all those things. Your heart rate variability is really good for seeing how you deal with not only physical but mental stress throughout the day and what you've, what you do, and obviously, we have big physical loads.

So it's really important to monitor that and what we do throughout the day to see how we recover for that next day.

Dr Greta Dalle Luche 14:27
Yeah, like for, it's very interesting. For the public, like heart rate variability. Variability is a measure of how much variability there is in you know, heart rate to adapt to different circumstances and during recovery, you want to have a very low heart rate and you want it to respond quickly to changes in the environment.

So if healthy heart can adapt to different situation and that's what you want, really going from the highest level of recovery, like you know, long sleep and very calm state to go and picking up performances right in motorcycling. Because there's so much at play right with strength.

There's like, mental focus. So you know, to see obstacles respond quickly to that. And I think their higher rate is not just, you know, it's from adrenaline, but it's also connected with high, very high like respiratory rates during the race, like I say, like a high aerobic state. Is that correct?

Kirk Gibbs 15:35
Yeah, for sure. Yeah, it definitely is. And yeah, like you said, it's just so important to cover all aspects of, of wear out, there's just more that woop is another thing just to keep us accountable. I guess, you know, you know, we just try not to leave everything up to chance and not just guessing.

We're trying to have every little box ticked of where we're at and everything to be able to just like I said, those one-percenters to keep us, you know, might be this, the word might be that 1% that we need on our, on our competition that keeps us that give us that little edge over them to be able to have the right mindset to go to the line that we have done absolutely everything that we need to do, to be able to go and win.

You know, because it's not a lot of our, our racing is very physical. But once you get to my level, there's a lot of good guys, there's probably 10 guys that can win races this year that we're going into. So to have an edge on them would be great. So yeah, we're just, we're just trying to work on those. Also those off bike and, and little one sentence.

Dr Greta Dalle Luche 16:49
Yeah. And, yeah, I recently I was like, I had a period of stress. And I try like, I'm a surfer myself, that's my sport. And I felt like I wanted to go surfing and the surf was pretty big.

And I felt like my body was so much on the stress that I couldn't respond when extra stress of the, of the surfing are going to be conditions. But I guess yeah, you really want to have like building your baseline and recovery and go back to that calm state where you can actually have control of your enhanced physical activity during, during a contest.

And it seems interesting that you mentioned the hot-cold pool, cause the hot-cold is known to simulate the, the parasympathetic, the parasympathetic state to bring your, your body in a parasympathetic state.

And that's actually has been connected to a better heart rate variability, which is also something that we do at Neurosym. It's the same principle that we use at Neurosym to improve, or say, improve heart rate variability and performance. Yeah, how often would you go in, in the hot cold bath, and you go, like, after a  hot training or before contest?

Kirk Gibbs 18:12
Yeah, for sure. Or just any, any chance I can get really, I, I, you know, obviously putting your body under that much load under that much fire heart rate, that's when your muscles start to break down.

You know, when you're in that, in that base zone, that's when your muscles are, you know, really getting a lot of oxygen and building. So you can, you can do a lot of that, that training without breaking the muscle down, but obviously what we do so, so high heart rate, it can break the tissue, the muscle down, so yeah, getting and getting in the pool is something that I try and do as much as possible.

I'm trying to get in probably two to three times a week with, with fitting in our training off the bike as well. It's pretty crazy at the moment because pre-season. So, you know, like I said, I've ridden five times this week, and then also trying to fit in now active recovery and, and gym workouts as well.

So yeah, very, very tough to fit it all in, but go try making that time and yeah, you always feel better when you get out. Like you said, it's more of a, the cold pool is more of a mental thing as well I feel, so really good for trying to calm yourself down and put yourself in, in other stresses as well.

You know, not just, not just to the physical ones. It's more trying to, you know, build yourself to be able to put yourself through anything really.

Dr Greta Dalle Luche 19:49
That's a good point of view. And, you know, as you said, it's so much to do for training and recovering and you're also running a business at the same time. How many, and you got private life as well.

So how many hours of sleep do you aim for during this high, high performance season?

Kirk Gibbs 20:12
Yeah, just depending on the workload that we get and what I've got on the next day, obviously, but I'm, I try to be in bed by nine at 9pm.

So 9pm through till I try and not get up before six. So six o'clock, I'm a pretty good sleeper as well. So I roughly, am awake only for, from what my wife tells me is roughly between 20 to 40 minutes a night.

So yeah, I'm getting mostly eight hours or eight-plus hours a night and it's pretty rare that, that I don't and if there's obviously something's come up or some for some reason that I don't but um, yeah, I really try not to fluctuate, try and be really consistent with my sleep. Just cause it's such a big factor.

Dr Greta Dalle Luche 21:05
Interesting. Yeah, I, since I understood, I think I messed up a bit with my sleep in my early 20s, which is not ideal, but since I learned how important is for, for my mental state and overall from being a functioning, a high-functional human during the day, I just tried to get, you know, eight hours or more. It just, it feels like when you get more sleep, you spend more time in bed, but the day feels longer. Like Sunday, if I get better sleep like I feel like 12 hours a day, like five hours I can't get as much done.

Yeah, I was wondering if you had any injuries in your career and how you went through them?

Kirk Gibbs 21:51
Yeah, I've had plenty of big injuries. Yeah, so I've broken both scaphoids, which is little bones in your wrists, which is it's probably the least it's the smallest bone in your body that gets the least amount of blood flow that sits just in the back of your wrist. And it's really restricted my movement in my wrists as well. So I've done both sides of them have both operations on them.

I had a big crash in 2012 got knocked out. Another, another rider jumped in front of me and took me out in the air. I landed funny and the way I was landing it cut my circulation off like my airway off and essentially died on the track and it was like where there's a very good medical crew was right there because that jump had been known for that. Not so much that in injury buttons for you know having big crashes at it. So they responded to me really quick, brought me back, but I was knocked out for 15 minutes. So yeah, I need to have four months off just to make sure that I had no you know, brain injury or anything like that.

A broken femur, pelvis, collarbones. Yeah, I broke my foot. Like six weeks ago, I didn't even crash but yeah, just, just practice and training. And yeah, I just broke my medic metatarsal, fifth metatarsal in my foot. And yeah, had to have three or four weeks off, and then just got back into it a few weeks ago.

Dr Greta Dalle Luche 23:35
So that's almost later, I actually smiled on the foot because, I didn't, I wasn't happy for you to injure your foot by a smile, because that's when we initially scheduled this interview for and then that happened.

And I was like, oh my. I mean, I lost him for a few weeks, and then you were just back on, back on track after a couple of weeks.

And I was like, wow, he's really king of recovery.

Kirk Gibbs 23:58
Yeah, I took it pretty seriously. I... so the lady upstairs that works here as well. She has a PMF machine.

So that's really good for rebooting your cells and stuff like that throughout the body.

Obviously, over time, your cells are like a battery and they start running low. So that was kickstarting and then I was gone to a hyperbaric chamber every day.

Dr Greta Dalle Luche 24:22
Sorry, which kind of machine and which kind of chamber? I lost, I lost them both.

Kirk Gibbs 24:28
So the pm, PMF machine which is Pulsating Magnetic Field, which really helps with, you know, your cells and stuff like that. Healing, healing and stuff like that as well.

So did a load of that every day before I would go to a hyperbaric chamber, which is, you know, everyday life we breathe in 20% oxygen, and then when you go to that they put you in a compressed cylinder and you'd wear a mask and they give you a 95% oxygen, which is obviously, you know, really good for your blood cells and getting that moving.

So I did that every day for nearly two weeks. Cost me a mini fortune. But well yeah, obviously it got me back on the bike a lot quicker than I probably should have been, you know. My foot probably wasn't 100% healed, but it's good enough to start doing what I needed to do.

Dr Greta Dalle Luche 25:28
Yeah. Thanks for, thanks for all this has been like, really, really nice to get a bit of an insight in the motocross world and how a top athlete perform.

And I think I would like to close with a question for you on what would you say like, which advice would you give to a junior motorcyclist or an amateur person who want to improve their performances?

Kirk Gibbs 26:02
I think it, what I see a lot at the moment is dads probably live in through their kids at the moment of pushing and probably a little bit too hard. So really, it's, it's a long time and you know, there's a lot of ups and downs probably more a lot more lows than there is highs in this sport. So you really need to keep it fun. Yes, yeah.

Like, it's good at the moment, because we have a big group of riders and we all have good bands and whatever. So that, that keeps it fun for me, you know, I'm 33 years old, and it's, you know, I'm coming towards the end of my career.

So, you know, you still need to keep it fun. I was probably a little bit later than most kids. You know, I didn't go professional till I was 18, 19 when a lot of kids turn professional and they're 16.

So I think it's just keeping it fun keeping it fun until you get to that really serious spot. When you turn 16, 18 or whatever, you need to be able to have a balance of fun, although it becomes a job as well. So yeah, just try to balance that I guess.

Dr Greta Dalle Luche 27:10
Yeah. Do you find that when, when you have fun, you have better performances in your contest?

Kirk Gibbs 27:18
Definitely, definitely. When you're enjoying your riding and you're enjoying being there and being in the moment it's, it's a lot, you definitely performed that out.

If you're, if you haven't got very good vibes or positive mindset, it's very hard and it's a very steep slope your ego down if you can't turn that around.

Dr Greta Dalle Luche 27:43
Great. Thanks. Thanks, Kirk. Thanks so much for your time and hope. And best of luck for this, for this season.

It's been a pleasure to have you here at Neurosym conversation movies. And I hope to see you soon maybe at TLC.

Kirk Gibbs 27:59
Alright, thank you very much.

Dr Greta Dalle Luche 28:01
Bye, Kirk.

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