Not only are they accomplished and talented athletes, they both possess an exceptional level of training knowledge and professional insight. Let’s hear what they have to say about some interesting topics related to training in general and the state of women’s cycling:
Pez: What is your biggest challenge of this particular time of year, entering into the heart of the offseason? How important is this time of the year to your success for 2013?
Alison: Off-season is an important time of year to allow your body to rest, recharge, and regenerate for the upcoming racing and training stresses. Although you may not feel that you are doing much, your 2013 season can and will be impacted by the amount of rest you have in your off-season. Your body cannot maintain an elite level year-round, and it needs this time to detrain and recover. I love incorporating all those fun activities we miss out on while training and racing, and integrate in some resistance training to ensure bone health and density. I personally love to ride my bike. A lot. And one of my biggest challenges in the off-season is actually giving up my bike, and doing something else. This is the time of year to let it go, give yourself some space, so you will be craving those two-wheeled adventures when it is training and racing time again.
Robin: The offseason has always been important for me in different ways. Some years it’s been about relaxing and easing into the upcoming road season, while other years it has been a more serious prep time when shooting for early European trips or the Olympics.
So much of my structured training depends on how long the previous season lasted and if I am mentally rejuvenated to start training for the upcoming year. For 2013, this time of year means going back to the basics. In years past, it’s been a good time for me to get on my fixed gear bike and work on speed, power, and efficiency. In addition to riding my road and fixed gear bike, I use November through January to ride my other “fun” bikes. I will try to get on my cross and mountain bike a couple of times a week to switch things up and work on bike handling skills. It’s all about keeping things fresh and working on what skills will translate to my upcoming road campaign.
Pez: What do you feel is different in your training versus the men? What are the differences? Or is it basically the same?
Alison: I believe that men’s and women’s cycling is all the same sport. It’s cycling and we are one cycling community. However, training can differ mainly because our races are of shorter durations. For instance, the longest duration of a women’s stage race is 10 days, and the longest distance of a road race will be 140k. Our training will still reflect the different physiological stresses of our races, but mainly there will be fewer hours on the bike. But at the end of the day, it is still just bike racing. We are all training to race our bikes!
Robin: The training philosophies are basically the same for women and men. The big difference is the amount of volume in the actual training plan. Women’s races aren’t nearly the duration of men’s races so our long rides and weeks don’t need to have the sheer volume that the men do. When it comes to intensity on the other hand, our training needs to be equally focused.
Pez: What problems do you have to face, which are different than men?
Alison: The biggest issue we have to overcome in women’s cycling is that due to the lack of income available in the sport, women must find many other ways to subsidize a professional cycling career. It can be really difficult to balance both a full-time job and a full-time career as a professional cyclist. However, these are sacrifices we are willing to make to pursue our dreams and goals. We will just need to keep bringing positivity and professionalism into the sport, and continue to grow the sport from the ground up.
Robin: Typically, most pro female cyclists are trying to juggle training, working a full-time job and personal relationships in comparison to male pros who get more time to focus on their training and racing. Men’s salaries are typically higher and they tend to have more support from their teams. Recently, professional women’s cycling is campaigning to start paying competitive salaries and start generating revenue through media outlets. Once this happens, female pro cyclists can truly give a focused effort and train properly while raising the bar for cycling in the USA and abroad.
Pez: What key bit of advice would you offer a woman starting out in the sport who has aspirations of success?
Alison: Never give up on learning and don’t be afraid to take risks. Don’t be so quick to limit your potential by labeling yourself as a specific type of rider. You think you can’t climb? Sign up for a hilly race to learn and to watch. Bike racing isn’t rocket science and it should be enjoyable and mentally simulating. Always learn, but take risks. You never know what you are capable of achieving until you try!
Robin: The most powerful piece of advice I can give is finding a coach/mentor that has experience and connections in the sport. Working with a knowledgeable and respected coach/mentor can help provide the skills and upward trajectory on the women’s circuit. Training hard and having a strong team and work ethic is vital in cycling. If you can show that you have the strength and the mental capacity to be a 1) team player and 2) suffer better than the other woman, you can go far in this sport. Ask around and discover what coaches/mentors are helping women’s cycling grow and care about development of the sport in your area. Once you find that person, become a sponge and show them you are serious about being successful!
• Without a doubt, the primary underlying theme is that in terms of training, it’s similar. The racing distances are shorter, so the volume is less, but overall, women still focus on the same components as men. There are no special workouts that distinguish men from women. We all have primarily the same physiological systems to deal with. And it’s my guess that if you ask most women about their shorter distances they would prefer longer races!
• I think most people are surprised to discover that a majority of women pro cyclists actually have other jobs to support themselves, and both Alison and Robin are no exception. It’s unfortunate, but true. What this means from a professional athlete perspective is that they have to take into account all the stresses in their lives when determining their load for training and racing. They have to learn to focus better during the season. That is a very difficult thing to do at that level, especially when competing internationally. These women deserve an incredible amount of respect from the cycling community as to what they do day-to-day.
• According to the USA Cycling’s 2011 report on their website, only 13% of total members are women. A more amazing stat is that 50% of women that buy a license for the first time never renew! I know personally that both Alison and Robin care deeply about growing the sport. Their advice in the last question is dead-on. First, never underestimate what you can accomplish, never giving up! Second, success is a lot about whom you align yourself with. Set yourself up with athletes, coaches and mentors that have a specific vision for your improvement and success. Talk about the path a lot, always keeping an updated network of resources as part of your team!
Again, a special thank you to Alison (@AMTetrick) and Robin (@Robin_Farina) for their insight, professionalism, and true desire to improve both womens cycling and cycling in general. Best of luck in in the upcoming 2013 season!
Ride safe, ride strong,
Bruce Hendler is a USA Cycling Coach and owner of AthletiCamps in Northern California. For the past 10 years, he and his experienced team have helped athletes of all levels achieve their goals in the great sport of bike racing thru cycling training camps, cycling coaching and performance testing. To contact AthletiCamps, visit their website at www.athleticamps.com or follow them on Twitter.