Once I put my gear on, the negative thoughts go away. All I am thinking about is what I need to do and getting to the front of the pack. When I am racing, all I am doing is trying to beat my own lap marks. I get into the mentality that I am competing against myself. It’s kind of like poetry in motion. Everything slows down and I race corner-to-corner, making sure I am breaking correctly and getting into my flow
I had the pleasure of interviewing Bobby Fong, Professional Flat Track Rider, MotoAmerica
Bobby Fong is a professional motorcycle racer currently competing in the 2020 MotoAmerica Superbike Series on the Latus Motors Racing Kawasaki Team. The Superbike Series features the world’s most talented riders aboard top-of-the-line, highly modified motorcycles approaching speeds up to 200 miles per hour. Fong is the reigning 2019 MotoAmerica Supersport Champion, finishing on the podium 14 times in 17 races. For more information, visit http://www.motoamerica.com/
Thank you so much for doing this with us! It is a great honor. Our readers would love to learn more about your personal background. Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?
I was born and raised in Stockton, California and starting riding when I was just five years old. My dad, Anthony Fong, worked at a Harley Davidson dealership so we were always around motorcycles. He and the dealership were instrumental in financially supporting racing for me and my two younger brothers when we were young. I was also able to get sponsors from local shops in Stockton. My parents sacrificed a lot to help my racing dreams come true, driving me across the country to compete and help me land a spot on a team. I worked my way through the amateur ranks and made it to amateur nationals on minibikes, which my parents drove me to in our van. I never had the newest or best bike out there and was never in the best shape (I was really a pork chop as a kid), which motivated me to work even harder than my competition. My passion for racing got stronger as I progressed into super moto and eventually road racing.
What or who inspired you to pursue your career as a high-level professional athlete?
My own competitiveness was my true driving force. My dad was always a great coach but also very hard on me, as our family was sacrificing so much for me to pursue this dream. He believed that if they were giving 100% to me, I should give the same to the sport in return. That mentality has stuck with me. With every decision I make, there is an underlying thought process regarding how it will affect my career.
I have had other people invest in me along the way, the most influential being my trainer, James Tack, who has trained a lot of other athletes out of Stockton. I started training with him when I was fourteen and he has always helped me stay on track. He is my go-to when I am injured and need to rehab back to peak performance.
None of us can achieve success without some help along the way. Was there a particular person who you feel gave you the most help or encouragement to be who you are today? Can you share a story about that?
I never grew up fixated on or wanting to be like anyone else. I never have wanted to follow in anyone else’s footsteps, but rather create my own path. I am twenty-eight years old and am now competing with younger guys, so more than ever I have to dedicate time to being the best I can be every day both on and off the track. I try to live in the moment and be as mentally balanced as best I can be.
Can you share the funniest or most interesting mistake that occurred to you in the course of your sports career? What lesson or take away did you learn from that?
I let a few chances go by as a young rider where I could have made my life so much easier by saying yes to certain opportunities, but I thought the grass was greener where I was. At the time, I thought I was making the right decision and trying to figure out who I was as a person at the same time.
What advice would you give a young person who aspires to follow your footsteps and emulate your career?
Always have a backup plan if racing does not work out. Go to school. Racing is a long, tough road that beats your body down, just as any sport does if you’ve done it for long enough.
OK, thank you for all of that. Let’s now shift to the core focus of our interview. As an athlete, you often face high stakes situations that involve a lot of pressure. Most of us tend to wither in the face of such pressure and stress. Can you share with our readers 3 or 4 strategies that you use to optimize your mind for peak performance before high pressure, high stress situations?
I have a mental health coach, Josh Hayes, who travels with me to all of my races. He helps keep my confidence high and tools to not obsess over little things. If and when things go wrong, he instructs me to not let the negative thoughts snowball into self-deprecating thoughts. I talk to Josh every day, from the projected weather on race day to combating my nerves leading up to a race. He is a former racer, so he is the perfect person to help me stay positive and confident.
I find that my mind can perform the best when I have been taking care of myself physically. I try to stay in shape year-round to maintain my fitness. In the off-season I will lift heavier weights, but during season it’s all about maintaining my health both physically and mentally at all times.
Do you use any special or particular breathing techniques or methods to help calm your nerves before a big race?
I need to do it more and I’m not religious about it, but I do try to meditate. Before a race, I rely on music. Typically, I am listening to EDM, trance or house music to get myself into the right headspace. My race weekend routine is pretty intense, as I am religious about following the same schedule down to the food I eat. Some call me a “Primadonna”, but it’s what works for me! I prep all of my food for the entire weekend. I eat my meals at the same time every day and go to sleep around the same time as well. I also drink a liter and a half of water before I get on my bike. I like to go on a quick run, stretch and do push-ups to get my body warmed up before we race.
Do you have any techniques to developing a strong focus and clearing away distractions?
I really enjoy talking to people. I will go out on my scooter and talk to my buddies about any and everything, just to keep from thinking about the race. I like talking to fans to. It keeps my mind occupied to engage with other people.
How about your body? Can you share a few strategies that you use to optimize your body for peak performance?
I am very invested in my physical health as well as my mental health. I have developed a real passion for physical training and rehab, because I have been around it so much throughout my career. It’s really my second love and second job. Other than investing in my own training, I enjoy helping other people do therapy, cupping and trigger points. Because I know what works for me, I am able to understand what other athletes’ rehab and physical training needs are.
Training-wise, I have done and continue to do some pretty crazy things to keep my weight down and increase my agility on the bike. For instance, I do a lot of water fasting. Seven pounds equals one horsepower on the bike, so it’s the little things that make a huge difference. If you are lighter, the bike stops faster because there is less mass to stop. Further, the tires on our bikes wear out while racing, and the lighter you are, the longer your tires will last. While it’s important to be light on the bike, you also have to be strong enough to handle the bike, so it’s a constant battle with your mind and body to maintain the perfect riding weight.
These ideas are excellent, but for most of us in order for them to become integrated into our lives and really put them to use, we have to turn them into habits and make them become ‘second nature’. Has this been true in your life? How have habits played a role in your success?
It’s all about trial and error in figuring out what works best for both for your mind and your body. I think your mental health has to be equally as strong as your physical health, which means you have to take the time to invest in both. If you put all of your effort into your physical training and get to a race and you’re not mentally prepared, it’s all for nothing.
As a high-performance athlete, you’ve likely experienced times when things are in a state of Flow. Flow has been described as a pleasurable mental state that occurs when you do something that you are skilled at, that is both challenging and meaningful. Can you share some ideas from your experience about how we can achieve a mind state of Flow more often in our lives?
Many of us are limited by our self talk, or by negative mind chatter, such as regrets, and feelings of inferiority. Do you have any suggestions about how to “change the channel” of our thoughts? What is the best way to change our thoughts?
Once I put my gear on, the negative thoughts go away. All I am thinking about is what I need to do and getting to the front of the pack. When I am racing, all I am doing is trying to beat my own lap marks. I get into the mentality that I am competing against myself. It’s kind of like poetry in motion. Everything slows down and I race corner-to-corner, making sure I am breaking correctly and getting into my flow.
Ok, we are nearly done. You are by all accounts a very successful person. How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
Racing was not always a smooth path for me. I didn’t get things handed to me on a silver platter. I think that’s helped me give advice and train others. I can relate to those racers trying to make it racing on poor equipment because I did it. I am proof you can be a racer on a shoestring budget. I have also broken almost every bone in my body and had both good and bad experiences with training, so I tend to give my two cents to whoever wants it, whether that be trying different styles and diets for training and helping athletes in their recovery.
Is there a person in the world you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with? Why that person in particular?
Dwayne Johnson. He is in just about every movie out there and he is very invested in fitness and nutrition. He seems like an overall really well-rounded guy who balances his fame well.