Riding high

October 9, 2012, 3:03 pmmenshealth

MH talks to Levi Sherwood, the newly crowned champion of the Red Bull X-Fighters freestyle motocross tour

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Levi Sherwood, Swatch pro team rider and newly crowned champion of the Red Bull X-Fighters freestyle motocross tour, explains what it takes to soar beyond your limits

- Interview by Grant Taylor

What is your approach to practice?

When I was younger, I used to be on a mission and say to myself “I need to learn this, this and this”, but things were also a lot sketchier. Now, I’m still focused on making things happen, but doing them properly and being comfortable with them. Things are never perfect in this sport, but as long as I’m trying my hardest to get there, I’ll get pretty close.

You’re known as one of the most flexible riders on tour, helping you pull off higher scoring tricks than others. Do you do much training off the bike?

I don’t do as much as I should. Being young, I’ve kind of got away with not having to do things like yoga and stretching, but I definitely need to get into that as soon as possible (laughs). Hopefully it’ll help me to have a longer career. That said, I’ve always done a lot of mountain bike riding and swimming. They both help with my fitness, but I do these for my own enjoyment more than anything. I think it’s important to take my mind off things when I’m not riding.

How do you come up with a new trick?

Riding with others has always pushed me to go bigger and better. I’ve been riding with a few friends and I’ve looked at what they’re doing and thought “Maybe I can twist it this way or add something in there”, and luckily it’s worked out. It’s definitely one of those things where the more you try and do it, the less it works. When trying new things, just enjoy yourself and allow yourself to feed off other people’s energy.

You had a major crash last year. How do you come back from that?

Yeah I broke my wrist, 3 vertebrae, and lacerated my liver. It was a freak accident. I’ve crashed in the past, but it wasn’t my fault, which makes it easier to move on. This time my bike slipped into neutral and I couldn’t do anything about it, which really got to me. Normally I’d get back on the bike and start where I’d left off. But this time, after four months off, I was starting to dwell on it a lot and had days where I would ask myself “why am I still doing this?” But I knew motocross is not something I could ever give up. I think if you really love something enough, you’ll be able to find ways to push through. I just had to ease my way back.

Do you get nervous before each event?

For a while, before I got hurt, I wouldn’t ever really get nervous. I guess I was just used to having pressure on me. But this year, I’ve been riding really well and I am getting nervous before events. I think that’s a good thing. Your nerves are kind of telling you that you’re ready for it, but they’re also keeping you on your toes, whereas when you aren’t nervous you’re probably too relaxed and you aren’t in the mindset you need to be in.

Can you give us an insight into how you attain complete focus and concentration right before you compete in an event?

I do my best not to take things too seriously and psych myself out. Coming into the hour before we go out there, I take my time with things. I get changed a little bit early, listen to some music and hang out by myself, which gives me plenty of time to relax without having to rush things. You don’t want to ever feel like you’re stressed or rushed before an event. I do my best not to think too much. I know that I’ve done the work in my training sessions.

You ride against some of the biggest names in the world of FMX. Do you ever try to match or copy them in any way?

When I started riding freestyle motocross, I used to try and ride like Nate Adams who was the best at the time. There’s certainly a lot you can learn from the older guys who have been riding in competitions a lot longer than I have. But I don’t ever try and copy anyone else. I just get out there and do things the way I think they should be done. I’ve always wanted to be the best.

What do you do to relax when you’re not on tour?

I’m pretty much constantly on the bike. It’s something that I love, and it’s all that I’ve ever done. It’s just as much a hobby as it is a sport or a job to me. But I also spend a lot of time with friends and enjoy myself as much as I can when I’m at home. It’s really important to me because I know that I start to stress out after long stints on tour. It’s important to give yourself a break. It just refreshes you and clears your mind, which means you can come back bigger and better.

And lastly, can you tell us what it means to have made it onto the Swatch Proteam?

I’ve been with Swatch for two years now, and it’s been awesome. I actually won my very first event on the tour and they gave me my own watch. I haven’t taken it off since because it gives me so many happy memories.

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