Training for the unknown

11 December 2008 | 9:00 - By Christophe Barriere-Varju

Training for the Dakar Rally requires serious physical effort. This is a race that requires every ounce of energy available, but how do you train for the unknown?


This was a first.

My philosophy was simple: "train for 1,000 kilometres of physical activity per day and I should be ok". Well, that required a lot of time which I didn't have.

So I changed the way I lived to force me into a 10-month round of training with no choice.

I train mentally by commuting from Nelson Bay to Sydney three to four times a week, keeping my nerves while stuck in traffic, spending nearly six hours driving almost every day. That is a real test of resolve and patience, but gets me used to long distances and a full day of work. A typical day of work for me is 14 hours.
Physically I do a lot of mountain bike riding, three to four hours each session, and I recently raced a 24-hour mountain bike race, solo!

However, being limited with time and work I break my training into Resistance, Endurance, Strength, and Stretching to work on specific muscle groups.

Every week is a mixture of the following exercises:

Mountain bike: 3-4 hours two or three times a week (resistance and endurance)

Running: I like to run for two hours in the Stockton sand dunes (interval training) or run on rocks along the ocean to work on reflexes

Canoe: You will see me at sunrise on a blue canoe in Nelson Bay working my upper body for one or two hours before I drive down to Sydney

Weights: At night I spend usually one hour doing weights for strength, and then watch TV while doing 1,000 ab crunches (in lieu of 1,000 kms)

Mountain and Rock Climbing: I use this type of training to work on stretching, trying to accentuate every movement and stretch

Over a 10 month period, nearly every day, I keep a daily routine of various exercises to increase stamina.
Still the unknown is daunting, so I seek to hit what we call the "physical / mental / emotional wall" during my training sessions, closely monitoring my heart rate and recuperation time, and analysing how my body and mind react.

This is where the Dakar begins, putting yourself in impossible positions during training and coming out of them having learned a little more about yourself.
And what do I do during the remaining two months of the year?

That is the time it takes for the body to fully recover from the massive 9,500 kilometre Dakar effort.

:: See all the Dakar highlights on SBS TV at 6pm nightly from January 4 to 19, and follow SBS's extensive online coverage at

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Comments (5)

02 Jan 2009 19:43 AEST


From: Villers-buzon .France


depuis un petit village de 300 habitants ...ou il y a cinq motards qui te souhaitent à toi et à toute ton équipe BONNE ROUTE et BON RALLYE. Merci à Pat, qui m'a envoyé avec beaucoup de gentillesse le site 'DAKAR dreams do come true. les motards : Prune, Christophe,Mickael,Vincent et Romaric. a fond la manette des gaz mais toujours avec' modération' LOL. Bon vent cbv 205

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24 Dec 2008 5:31 AEST


From: Newcastle

Credit to everyone

The Dakar Rally is a true test of strength not only physically but mentally. My heart goes out to all the competitors to realise their dream. To finish this race without injury should be the focus, the preparation involved is monumentous. I am always interested to follow the media during the race but would like to see more time dedicated to those competitors who don't have the luxury of huge sponsorships, my thoughts are with all competitors, you are all winners to me.Bisous and safe journey

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19 Dec 2008 20:48 AEST


From: Villers-Buzon. France

La ou il ya une volonté il ya un chemin

Ayant été un ancien compétiteur dans le domaine de l'endurance ...Course à pied et vélo sur route ...Christophe ,vu, ton assiduité et ton sérieux consacrés aux entrainements tant sur le plan physique que mental, je suis persuadé que tu vas réaliser un Superbe Dakar. je te souhaite bonne route ...Tu es déjà un exemple de volonté et de courage, pour beaucoup d'entre Nous. je rejoins le commentaire de Pat, qui dit que certains devraient se bouger plus...Bon voyage et prend du plaisir.

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18 Dec 2008 23:20 AEST


From: Sydney

so what do you do next?... no road, no sign, no water

Really; how DO u survive? The training does sound intense, but for sure is the best thing to do...! Go to the extreme and then push a bit more to go beyond, only then are you ready! Great philosophy, many should apply to their daily life too and get out of their comfort zone a bit more often Mountain bike, canoe, running, weights.. what a cocktail!! I am sure you'll be just fine! 1,000km at a time, then get as much rest as you can before the next 1,000 Life is a Journey: BON VOYAGE 205!

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11 Dec 2008 21:47 AEST

CBV #205

From: Corlette

Pushing "past" the extreme

I like to separate training into three components: physical, mental, and emotional. Racing is the fun part, training is where the hard work should go into. Imagine being physically exhausted, hardly being able to stand up, mentally drained with concentration after 12 hours, and being lost in the middle of nowhere, not a single mark to follow due to a sand storm, the night is coming, your body getting weaker by the minute, using every bit of saliva because you ran out of water... this is Dakar!

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About this Blog

Christophe Barriere-Varju is riding for Team Rally Australia in Dakar 2010. Follow Christophe's story and feel the emotion and inspiration through his blogs for SBS during his South American adventure.

Christophe Barriere-Varju Christophe Barriere-Varju is one of the world's leading off-road motorcycle racers.
He competed in the 2006 and 2007 Dakar Rallies, and is set to take the challenge once again in 2010. Christophe also runs a charity foundation called Dreams Do Come True, which helps others - especially disadvantaged children, achieve their goals. Born in France, raised in West Africa, and completing his education in California, Christophe now resides Down Under and is a rider for Team Rally Australia.