Have you ever wondered what exactly goes into cycling? Sure, we see cyclists on the road on a daily basis, but there is so much more to training for racing bikes than a relaxing bike ride. It’s all about strategy, focus and more importantly, specificity of training. Arden Stelly, a member of OrthoCarolina Winston Women’s Cycling team and a cycling coach herself, recently discussed what her training regimen looks like to prepare for a race season of competition against the elite women’s field, which usually lasts from March to August.
When not coaching or training, Arden is a stay at home mom to three boys between the ages of 12-16. She typically gets up at 5:30 AM, gets her kids off to school, sits down for coffee, emails, and does a little Facebooking. Then she gets ready to ride from a minimum of one hour to a max of about six hours. “I usually do at least one easy hour ride a week, where I listen to podcasts. It’s definitely more relaxing than the rest of the training schedule,” said Arden.
Another two or three times a week, Arden focuses on interval workouts. It may be climbing up a mountain three or four times, or it may be going as fast and hard as she can for three minutes and repeating that six to eight times. This helps build aerobic capacity, strength, and endurance, preparing her for the type of courses she may find during race season. During a race, Arden has to be ready to push herself and be ready to adapt to any sudden changes in pace.
On the weekends when there aren’t any races, Arden participates in the local hard group rides. On the benefits of group rides, Arden said,"Riding with other people is great because it forces me to keep going, even when I don’t want to. These rides are usually longer, lasting about four to six hours.” Sometimes the group ride isn’t long enough, and Arden will ride from home to the start of the group ride and then back home after everyone else is finished.
“To be competitive in the elite women’s field it takes a lot of extra hard work and many, many miles on the bike. The longest rides tend to be my favorites because you get to see so much of the world. There’s such great beauty you miss when you only travel by car!”
Of course, Arden pays special attention to her diet and those foods relate to fueling for quality training sessions. For shorter days, Arden may focus more on protein than carbohydrates, and the opposite is true for the long weekend rides. “Carbs are the preferred energy source for high-intensity demands. Protein is necessary for the muscles to rebuild and repair. Longer rides, three hours or more, will require additional fuel and will be mostly carbohydrates. After the ride, I’ll make sure to take in about 20g of protein to aid recovery”. No matter what, she focuses on eating whole foods and limiting anything processed. But she does confess she loves a good cake with icing!
Besides the thrill of winning a race, Arden puts a lot into the future of the sport. She works as a coach to developing cyclists and runners. Once someone starts training seriously it can be difficult to balance work, family and effective training. “As a coach, it’s my job to take into consideration a particular athlete’s life stresses and the time they have to train. I then help them perform their best without wasting time and energy.”
Arden also stresses that there are so many ways to enjoy cycling. “You don’t have to want to race bikes to enjoy it. There is no gym that can put the wind in your face, the sunshine on your skin, and the thrill of covering many miles on a machine powered by your own body. You can go any speed and reap huge rewards both mentally and physically. The experience of riding a bike is magic—it’s good for the legs and good for the soul”.