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Trainer Talk with....John and Eli Tomac

by Racer X Virtual Trainer


Eli Tomac became the first rider since James Stewart to win his first-ever pro national as a rookie.

photo: Steve Cox

Virtual Trainer: Hey John and Eli, thanks for taking the time to talk a little training with me and the readers of Virtual Trainer.
John Tomac: Sure no problem.
Eli: Yea, sure.

Eli, let's start with you. Tell me a little about how your season went this year and how you plan on spending your off-season if you have one.
Eli Tomac: Well I pretty much had the best season I've ever had this year on the 80's. At Loretta's and Ponca I won all my classes and wrapped up a few other championships earlier in the year. So his year was pretty good for sure. We don't really have an off-season, like there is a race in October in Missouri that we might go to and then there is one in Florida in November and then I guess we will take the winter off a little bit but that's about it.

As you graduate from the 80's and transition to the bigger bikes, do you foresee any training challenges that you will need to address?
Eli: I definitely think I will have to start training a little harder and get more muscle to handle the heavier bike. I just need to grow and get a little bigger as I get older.

John, you are Eli's full time trainer, correct?
John: Yes, but the program I have for Eli is more off-the-cuff type training than what I have for someone like Ben Townley who I also train. Ben's training is mapped out day-to-day basically all the way throughout the year. With Eli's I'm not that technical with it at this point. I am not that hard core or detailed about what is going on with him because he is still an amateur and still young. We will get to all that later. Right now we have a lot of variables with school and things that are going on at home whereas with Ben everyday is scheduled with workouts and riding. I have been ramping Eli's stuff up as we go along year to year. I have always taken the approach of not overloading him too early.

I know Eli is a pretty small young man, do you see his strength as an issue and do you plan on incorporating strength training into his program?
John: You know, it's hard to tell right now because a lot of the strength comes along with how a kid physically matures and that is different for everyone. There were kids that Eli was racing against on 60's and then a year later they were on a big bike and he hasn't seen those kids since in his class because he has grown a little slower and was able to ride his mini and super mini classes all the way through 15. It just really depends on the growth of the kid. I don't like to push too hard on the strength stuff until they are through puberty and their bodies are done developing. At this point most of Eli's strength training is done with his own body weight and not necessarily pushing bigger weights. I believe in some strength training pre-puberty but not a lot of it.

There have been a lot of father son teams in motocross where the dad sticks around throughout the kids career. Eli what do you think about having your Dad as your trainer? Is he hard on you or pretty easy to get along with?
Eli: I really like having my dad as my trainer. Yea, he is actually pretty easy to get along with actually, so it all works out pretty well. We have always done stuff together so having him there in my racing career just seems normal.
Eli has taken home several titles at Loretta Lynn's. Seen here in the Super Mini Class.

It seems like Motocross is one of the few sports where parents can stay involved in their child's career even once they turn pro. I mean you didn't see LeBron James mom or dad sitting on the bench when he turned pro in the NBA. Eli, is that something you look forward to having you Dad along with you once you turn pro and John will there come a point when you say, 'OK son, its time for me to step back and let you go on your own'?
Eli: Yea, for sure I don't think I would mind it at all having my dad with me. I guess if he wants to come along with me he can (laughs).
John: We will just have to see how the situation plays out. I wouldn't want to be there if we weren't getting along or if I felt it was bothering him at all. It will all just depend on what he needs at the time. I am just there to support him. I don't have any other motivation than that. You know a a lot of this has to do with the fact that you can turn pro when you are 16. That is a lot for a 16 year old to handle. I think the age to turn pro should be 18. I think it is tough for a 16 or 17 year old kid to handle things without some parental guidance around.

John, I think most everyone is familiar with your success as a professional mountain biker. How did Eli get involved in racing motocross rather than mountain bikes?
John: Well, I was friends with Johnny O'Mara and used to train with him. We would end up on the same bike rides and would hang out a bit. So I was exposed to motocross and had some sponsors that did both motocross and mountain bike stuff. With Eli, he started out racing BMX bikes when he was 4 and 5 and then started putting around on a PW 50 and like most other people we ended up at a local motocross race and it seemed like he liked that a little more than the BMX so we started doing more MX racing. Next thing you know he was getting pretty good and liking it and getting good results.

What's your take on that Eli?
Eli: I don't know, I guess I just liked racing motocross better. I still like to Mountain Bike though.

Do you ever compete on the Mountain or road bikes?
Eli: We actually do one race per year on the mountain bike. That's pretty fun when we do that.

I assume that the majority of your cardio training comes from cycling or mountain biking as opposed to running. Which do you do more of and why?
Eli: Well, actually where we live we have to use the mountain bike more because we live a little bit out in the boon docks and the roads don't have a shoulder so riding on them is a bit sketchy. Sometimes we will go up a little higher in the mountain passes and do some higher altitude type work on the road bike.

John, you train Ben Townley. He lives in Florida and you live in Colorado. How do you guys have your training set up. You obviously can't train with him every day so how do you handle that situation?
John: We do things over the phone and in person. It's a little bit of both. We try to work it so we can hook up when we can. Sometimes we will spend a little bit of time in Florida and then he will come out here. But the majority of his training is online or over the telephone.
John, no doubt on the phone with BT101 while Eli waits his turn.
Do you use the mountain bike or road bike with Ben?
John: Well, when he is in Florida it's mostly the road bike. Mountain biking isn't very good in Florida. When he comes out here it's a little bit of both. With mountain biking you are getting into a little higher impact stuff which sometimes you want and sometimes you don't. Motocross is high impact enough that you don't need something else beating you up. So the road bike is nice because you get cardio but you are in a low impact situation. It all really just depends. Like right now with Ben coming back from injury I started him out on the road bike and then mixed in some mountain biking just to get a little more impact as he works his way into riding his motorcycle.

What do you think it is about ex-mountain bikers and road cyclist that make such good trainers for motocross? There are several in the industry including Aldon Baker, Randy Lawrence, John Louch and yourself.
John: Well, mountain biking has obvious cross over similarities with motocross. It's a little bit different but it's pretty close. And on the cardio side when you are racing mountain bikes it's pretty detailed cardio work and I think that anyone who has done the sport for a while gets pretty familiar with programs like that. And it's a hard enough sport where you have to really manage the training and the rest periods along with the whole program. If you are a cyclist and have competed up to or even close to the pro level the whole training program and even building stuff from year to year almost becomes second nature. It's not that way in motocross yet but I think it is getting that way for sure. Training in motocross is absolutely the foundation to the whole program and motocross in the past hasn't really been there but it's definitely getting there now.

Do yo guys use the rowing machine as well like a lot of other riders and trainers?

Eli: Yes, I always use the rowing machine at the gym as a warm-up. We use it at the track sometimes too. I also use the TransformX bars to warm-up with at the track and work out with at the gym. They are starting to be part of the program.

I think the TransformX bars are a great addition to anyones training program. I especially like the rock and roll platform for doing off balance pushups.
John: Yea, I like that it is more specific to motocross with the grip width and the bend of the bar. It is definitely a good addition to any one who rides motocross. I really like the rowing machine a lot because it is a full body cardio workout and is a nice warm-up for training and riding.

Look closely....that is one tricked out bike!

Now on to my favorite topic and that is performance enhancing drug use in motocross. John, do you think guys in MX are using and do you think the AMA should be testing like other professional organizations?
John: I definitely think there should be a testing program in place. I realize it's expensive but the AMA needs to do it. MX is a fairly physical sport and there is a fair amount of money involved so I think they need to get serious about it. As to whether I think drugs are being used in the sport, it's just pure speculation but I think there are probably a few guys using them. I still think motocross is the type of sport that you can do well in with out that stuff if your willing to do the work. I would be a big supporter of getting the AMA to get a program in place immediately.

Why do you think the AMA hasn't done anything about this?
John: I think because it is a lot of work to deal with and it can be expensive. It can also be scandalous. I mean look at cycling. It is probably the most stringently tested sport in the world but it also seems to be the most tainted because of it. It's not an easy fight. You have to be willing to take the gloves off and get bloody.

I have also been told by a few people in the know that drug testing is anywhere between 5 to 10 years behind he actual drugs that athletes are taking.
John: Yea, I have a feeling it is getting better though especially in cycling. I thought that they made some substantial gains at the Tour this year. There were guys who did well at other races and then got caught at the tour. So I think they are progressing but this is just my gut feeling.

Yea, I think the AMA needs to take proactive stance on this instead of waiting until one of the top riders gets busted and then becomes reactive.
John: Yea, for sure buts its a motosport which has a different mentality than a purely physical sport like cycling. I think performance enhancing drugs are probably viewed as part of the equation whereas in cycling, swimming or track and field it's everything. Especially at the amateur level in MX. I really can't see the benefit of using drugs since the motos are so short. Plus it's just going to ruin the kid. Interesting topic that we could go on and on about but it's a tough nut to crack for sure.

Well John and Eli I appreciate you taking time out of your day to chat with me. Eli you seem like a really nice young man who has a great role model in your dad to follow. I wish you both the best of luck.
Both: Thanks!

That's it for now, until next time, good luck with your training and remember, if you have a question, log on to the Virtual Trainer Expert Forum and have your question answered by a panel of experts. In addition, be sure and check out the Racer X Virtual Trainer archive section. Your complete one-stop information zone for motocross fitness. VT Signature

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