SoCalCycling.com caught up with Tom Soladay who is the founder of Beyond Intervals Coaching and a professional cyclist of 7 years with the Optum Pro Cycling Team. With the off season here for most competitive cyclists, Tom gives us some tips on common off season mistakes, cross/strength training, long-term training outlook, general diet concerns and keeping it fun.
SoCalCycling.com: You finished your season with the Tours of Utah and Alberta. How did you start your off season?
Tom Soladay: I unpacked my suitcase for the first time in months. Spring cleaning happens in September when you’re racing full-time so it’s almost like Christmas. You’d be amazed the stuff that piles up during the season. I’m getting married October 18th so I had plenty of things to keep me distracted. I have been offered contracts in August, September and October in the past. It’s a stressful time of year if you are above the 27 year old age limit for domestic professional teams (half the team must be under 28). Limited spots, especially if you’re always riding in the service of teammates. Still love what I do and I’m locked in for another year.
SoCalCycling.com: What are some common off season mistakes that you try to avoid?
Tom Soladay: Not taking enough time off and trying to maintain fitness. At the end of every racing season it’s easy to get excited about all the things you want to improve. Who doesn’t like a fresh start?! Fatigue builds up in training and I don’t want to question whether or not I took off enough time. For masters riders they need to be careful not to take too much off because it takes a lot longer to get that fitness back.
SoCalCycling.com: Do you work on cross/strength training in the off season? How important is strength training?
Tom Soladay: I start with cross-training after a week or two. It comes down to the amount of mental/physical fatigue that I have built up. When I have taken enough time off I start to miss my workouts and itch to get out there. Whether it’s running, mountain biking or gym work, it’s all unstructured for the first month.
Cycling is an endurance sport and like many athletes, I lose muscle throughout the season. The winter months are the only time where I can build that strength that I rely on during the season. This includes an adaptation phase, max strength phase and explosive strength phase. Not everyone can get to the gym so stairs at the local park or a box for jumping in the garage all work. I have missed the explosive phase a few years because my on-bike training volume/intensity become too high as the season gets closer and I hadn’t planned it out. I have learned that I need to prioritize my gym work ahead of the group rides and early season races.
SoCalCycling.com: Do you have a long-term training outlook for yourself, as well as the athletes that you coach?
Tom Soladay: Yes. It really helps if you have a plan. It’s easy to start the group rides and early races in Jan/Feb and sacrifice your training because you want to be competitive right away. With a plan, you make sure that you complete the blocks of base, tempo and threshold work sooner rather than later. The group rides are useful and integrated into the training program. Specific work on weaknesses like sprinting and short hills can be addressed closer to the New Year. Just remember that training is awesome! There are so many gains to be made in the winter that it’s very motivating.
SoCalCycling.com: Do you have any diet concerns this time of year?
Tom Soladay It’s good to cut loose and eat what your heart desires. However, it doesn’t take long to regret doing so! For most people a healthy diet is a 365 kind of deal. Frequent visits to the grocery store to stay stocked on perishable foods like produce make all the difference. When I stop going to the store I eat out far more often (+ lbs & $) and I am constantly tearing through the cupboard for a quick fix.
SoCalCycling.com: What is your mindset this time of year?
Tom Soladay: Relax. Have fun. Remember that racing is stressful and traveling wears you down. We have time to take it all in and don’t need to be worrying about what training everyone else is doing. For example: I came good on a 2 year promise to my fiancé that we could go rollerskating. I was always needing to train, recover or avoid injury. I even walked to the grocery and ice cream shop one night. It does not sound like much, but these things make a big difference to those around us.
SoCalCycling.com: Thanks for your helpful insights Tom and hope you enjoy your off season!
Visit Cycling Coach Tom Soladay at Beyond Intervals Coaching to learn more about his coaching techniques at Beyond Intervals Coaching.
Photo courtesy Optum Pro Cycling Team