Q&A on Nutrition and Women’s Development in USA Sports with Kristen Arnold

National Team Coach and Nutritionist Kristen Arnold helps us explore maximizing your nutrition as an athlete, gives advice for how junior women can reach the next level, and shares her experience managing national projects.

FT ep 295 with Kristen Arnold

Kristen Arnold is the Women’s Development Road Director for USA Cycling, a level 1 coach at Source Endurance Coaching, and she has her own nutrition counseling business. In short, she does a lot! On this episode, she joins us to answer several listener questions: 

Should You Include Fiber and Protein on Long Rides? 

This first question comes to us from Luis Arrondo: 

“I was wondering about 3–5-hour training endurance rides. Since it is for training, should I consider eating foods that do have some protein/fiber as well as slower-absorbing carbs, since I am not looking for a glucose spike? I am not sure where the usual quick-absorbing mix would be to help when I want to avoid peaks and insulin surges, and instead draw on a pretty steady level to keep my lower carb needs met. Am I missing something here?” 

Should a Masters Athlete Hire a Dietician? 

This second question comes to us from Jenna Gatz: 

“I am a 40+ Masters racer. I’ve been working with a coach for a few years now and am really happy with how much it has helped my training. I’m racing at another level now. I’ve listened to several of your episodes on nutrition and I’m wondering if working with a dietician could also raise my level?” 

How Does a Junior Girl Get Exposure to Large Pelotons? 

This question comes to us from Katie McNulty: 

“I’ve been racing with the Junior girls for two years now and I love it! I can’t wait to get on my bike after school and go train. I’ve been racing every weekend that I can and I’m doing really well. I’ve finished on the podium a bunch of times now! 

“I want to take it to the next level, but I live in Upstate New York and most of the races around me are like five or six girls. I’ve never been in a big peloton and I’m scared I won’t know what to do when I race in one. I really want to go to Nationals this year and see if I can get selected for the National team. What do I need to do so that I can handle a big field like that?” 

How Do You Manage Composite Teams When They’ve Never Raced Together?  

This final question is one from our Fast Talk Labs staff to Kristen: 

“You are a National Team Director working with the Women’s Junior, U23, and Elite squads. What have you learned working with the best up-and-coming American riders? Since you’re always building composite squads, how do you cultivate teamwork and results with a new team every race?” 

Nutrient-Dense Ride Food Recipes 

During the episode Kristen told us about a few ride food recipes she’s put together for her athletes that will not only help fuel the ride, but also give the athlete the nutrient density they often don’t find in commercial products. She was kind enough to share those recipes with us: 

No-Bake Power Bars 

2+ Ingredient Cookies 

Sweet Potato Bites 


​Breen, L., Philp, A., Witard, O. C., Jackman, S. R., Selby, A., Smith, K., … Tipton, K. D. (2011). The influence of carbohydrate–protein co‐ingestion following endurance exercise on myofibrillar and mitochondrial protein synthesis. The Journal of Physiology, 589(16), 4011–4025. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1113/jphysiol.2011.211888 

​Churchward-Venne, T. A., Pinckaers, P. J. M., Smeets, J. S. J., Betz, M. W., Senden, J. M., Goessens, J. P. B., … Loon, L. J. C. van. (2020). Dose-response effects of dietary protein on muscle protein synthesis during recovery from endurance exercise in young men: a double-blind randomized trial. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 112(2), 303–317. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1093/ajcn/nqaa073 

​LEVENHAGEN, D. K., CARR, C., CARLSON, M. G., MARON, D. J., BOREL, M. J., & FLAKOLL, P. J. (2002). Postexercise protein intake enhances whole-body and leg protein accretion in humans. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 34(5), 828–837. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1097/00005768-200205000-00016 

​LUNN, W. R., PASIAKOS, S. M., COLLETTO, M. R., KARFONTA, K. E., CARBONE, J. W., ANDERSON, J. M., & RODRIGUEZ, N. R. (2012). Chocolate Milk and Endurance Exercise Recovery: Protein Balance, Glycogen, and Performance. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 44(4), 682–691. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1249/mss.0b013e3182364162 

Episode Transcript

Trevor Connor  00:04

Well welcome everybody to another episode of fast talk your source for the science of endurance sports training. We are here today with a new guest for the show. Kristen, thank you for joining us. We’re really looking forward to this conversation. This is Kristin Arnold, do you work down with USAC? Correct. So tell us a little bit about yourself.

Kristen Arnold  00:25

That’s right. Thanks so much for having me on the show. I’m really excited to be here. I’m a big fan. And this is just such a great resource for coaches and athletes alike. So a little bit about myself. I am the Women’s Development road director for USA Cycling. So I primarily work with the junior women road national team program as well as the elite in the U 23. Women’s road national team programs. And then I also coach for a company called Source endurance and I have my own private practice nutrition counseling business. My academic background is in dietetics. I have a Master’s of Science in nutrition and my sports dietetics credential. Yeah,

Rob Pickels  01:07

and today we have a great episode lined up awesome q&a questions to answer a lot of them are on the dietitian side of things, which you’re going to be super well equipped for. But we also we have a couple others in there that are going to round out the conversation. So of course

Trevor Connor  01:19

really looking forward to this and yeah, we went through our list of questions and definitely pulled out a few on the nutrition side because this is your area of expertise and really interested in hearing your answers. If you heard that your God is the gateway to good health, you’re an endurance athlete. gut health is even more important as the GI system directly impacts athletic performance. Did you know that the weather stress levels and the size of your small intestine can affect your unique fuelling requirements. Dr. Alan Lim sports scientist and founder of sports nutrition company scratch labs joins the fast talk fan podcast to discuss the vital role that gut plays in performance. This is a muscle as an episode, check out the fast top fan podcast with guest Dr. Alan Lim at fast talk labs.com. So let’s dive into the first question here. So this comes from Louise or Rando this bit of an older question for us. It comes from 2022. And so Louise asks, I was wondering about three to five hour training endurance rides, says it is for training, should I consider eating foods that do have some protein or fiber as well as slower absorbing carbs? Since I’m not looking for a glucose spike? I’m not sure where the usual quick absorbing mix would be of help when I want to avoid peaks and insulin surges and instead drawn a pretty steady level to keep my lower carb needs met. In my missing something here.

Kristen Arnold  02:50

This is a really interesting question. I think because CGM ‘s are becoming more popular continuous glucose monitors, I get a lot of questions about this right now. So athletes, not just endurance sports, but other types of athletes, everyone’s more focused on how they can keep their blood glucose levels level and optimized. So talking about three to five hour endurance rides. So I know on this podcast, you all have done several episodes on endurance training, what is endurance training? What is zone to training. So first, to define that there’s a few different ways to define it. But if we’re talking about endurance training, we’re talking about tapping into below LT one, and specifically, it should be very aerobic based, right. So in that zone, we are talking about primarily burning fat, and burning some carbohydrates. But it’s really important to actually keep in that zone during training, if that’s what we’re doing. So that being said, most of the research on fueling during exercise is on higher intensity training. And there’s less studies done on the aerobic base training. But what we do know is that carbohydrates and calories during exercise artists essential to performance in this time frame the three to five hours, the bulk of the research is on carbohydrates. And so meaning your carbohydrate needs during these types of training rides three to five hours is really important. And what we also know is the type of carbohydrate having a multiple sources of different types of sugar molecules or types of carbohydrates is important. And if the question asker is not familiar, there are several different transporters for different types of carbohydrate molecules, right? So if we’re only taking in glucose or only taking in sucrose, there’s only so many molecules that can go through So at one time, if we have both glucose and fructose molecules, now you can have multiple types of sugars, carbohydrates that can go into the cell at the same time so we can get more carbohydrates into the cell. So all of this research is really well studied. But your question about the glucose spikes and trying to keep blood glucose levels. A couple of things with that. One is insulin isn’t the only player during exercise when it comes to glucose metabolism, right. So there’s another player called glute four, which breaks down carbohydrates. And this is specifically utilized during exercise. This is why people with type one diabetes, don’t need to take as much insulin during exercise, even if they’re taking in more carbohydrates because they have additional enzymes on board to break down carbohydrates. So spikes that you may see in your blood sugar during exercise are not necessarily a bad thing. And also, it depends on the intensity. So one phenomenon that I’ve been reading about more often, with people using CGM EMS, or continuous glucose monitors is at the onset of exercise, the body will activate utilizing glycogen for fuel. So what happens is you actually get a glucose spike. And that’s because there are enzymes that are breaking down glycogen to put blood glucose in the bloodstream. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing that’s not contributing to long term health implications with high blood glucose levels, what it is, is just making sure that your body has glucose onboard. So with what you’re maybe missing here is that with these three to five hour endurance rides, two things I like to talk about in my dietetics practice. One is that effectively, when you’re training for this long, you’re cutting into a meal in the middle of the day, right? If you’re training from nine to one, when you’re writing through launch, if even if you’re writing from like six to 12, or six to 11, you’re cutting into breakfast. So it’s really important to meet your daily nutrient needs. And because you’re training at a lower intensity, your gut has more time and ability to digest food because there’s less blood diverted out of the gut into the limbs for exercise. So this is actually a really good opportunity to have more nutrient dense foods or complex foods, foods with fiber in them, foods with amino acids and protein. And that’s not necessarily for performance, or for blood glucose levels. But what it is, is for nutrient density, getting more vitamins and minerals, meaning your daily nutrient needs. So long answer to your question is that, yes, it can be helpful to include protein and fiber, and slower absorbing carbohydrates, because these foods primarily will have more vitamins and minerals and essential nutrients for your body. And also to help to sustain that exercise while still meeting your daily nutrient needs. So

Trevor Connor  08:21

I’m glad you went there, because I think that’s part of what he was wondering about in the question. I think it’s pretty established that if you’re doing high intensity work, you’re in the middle of a race and you want to perform at your best you need those simple sugars. But on those long rides, which is just a training ride, does health impacts outweigh performance impacts? Meaning on that long ride? Can you still get the work done, still have a good ride, but maybe focus on more nutrient dense foods? Avoid those simple sugars, which as we know too much simple sugar is not good for your health? Or I think his question is, do you still really need those on the long rides? And what’s your feeling weigh in this performance versus health impacts?

Kristen Arnold  09:03

Yes, you do still need the sugar and the carbohydrates as the volume of training goes up. So do the carbohydrate needs in standard practice? Somebody that’s training three to five hours a day, that’s going to be in the eight to 10 grams of carbohydrate per kilogram body weight parameters. So yes, the carbohydrates are still needed both for performance and for daily function at this time, but focusing more on like the complex, carrbridge foods so things like lower glycemic index fruits, oats, long grain rice, things like that can be included in fried food. You

Rob Pickels  09:42

Kristen, I thought it was really interesting that you pointed out you’re going to be skipping a meal oftentimes when when you’re doing rides of this length. And I thought you were going in a different direction I thought you’re gonna say so you need to replace those calorie needs but you you went in the direction that you went in, which is you missed him meal, which meant you missed a big part of the nutrients that you’re taking in for that day, because normally you wouldn’t be eating a gel at lunch, you would be eating fruits and vegetables and lean meats and all of these other terrific things in your diet. And by not eating that meal, you’re missing out on all the vitamins all the mineral all the fiber all the protein that you otherwise would be getting. So I thought that that was a very interesting, I’m glad that you answered that question. I’m glad that question was asked to you because it was a very unique way to look at it. And I appreciate that.

Trevor Connor  10:32

So let’s give a little practical advice here. For the listeners on a long ride like this low intensity, what sort of ride foods would you recommend they take?

Kristen Arnold  10:41

So specifically, this is looking at training endurance rides, right? So Robert just mentioned missing a meal. You know, if this is a really important big race day, we’re gonna go all in on performance. But this being a training ride, potentially this person is doing multiple, three to five hour days back to back. Yeah, focusing on those foods is helpful. So recommendations, I think, especially in this time period, in what would be considered the offseason or transition for some people, this can be a great time to actually experiment with making your own ride food, right. So we don’t need fancy packaging to be able to pull it out of our pockets and five seconds in a race, we can take time to package things in a way that is less easily accessible, but still getting what we need. So fast, easy ones that don’t require cooking or anything like that would be dried dates, dried figs, dried mango, some of the lower glycemic index fruits such as dried apricot, these are good options that you can just buy at the store and put them in your pocket. There’s a few really great cookbooks out there that include these nutrient dense options. Rocket Fuel is one and then also the feed zone cookbook, portables. So even two ingredient cookies, which are essentially just oats and bananas are a great option. And you literally just mash a banana, put half a cup of oats in there, put them in cookie form, put them in the oven until they’re done. And that’s it. So not

Trevor Connor  12:19

to put you on the spot here. But do you have any really good recipes that you like for race food that you’d be willing to share with us that we put up on the website?

Kristen Arnold  12:27

I do? Yeah, I have a couple people that know me know that I hate cleaning dishes and I don’t like mess. Almost all of my recipes include, effectively just one bowl or one pot or one pan and you can make everything in the pan. You don’t have to get out six different utensils and pieces of equipment. So yes, I can put a couple of recipes up there.

Trevor Connor  12:51

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Rob Pickels  13:34

Well, Trevor, what do you think? Should we move on to the next question? I think we did a great job with getting some eating recommendations here. Absolutely. I’m

Trevor Connor  13:41

actually looking forward to try one or two of these recipes. So what’s our next question, Rob?

Rob Pickels  13:45

Yeah, this one is from Jenna. And it reads, I am a 40 plus masters racer. I’ve been working with a coach for a few years now. And I’m really happy with how much it’s helped my training. I’m raising it another level. Now. I’ve listened to several of your podcasts on nutrition and I’m wondering if working with a dietitian Wow. Dieter Zhi attrition.

Trevor Connor  14:06

Do you have your dietitian degree? blog with your dietitian degree? Yes. And every

Rob Pickels  14:10

degree, you should. That’s That’s awesome. I don’t know how you got it. I’m the only one in the world with it. But I’m racing at another level. Now. I’ve listened to several of your episodes on nutrition. And I’m wondering if working with a dietitian could also raise my level. Now, Kristen, this is an interesting question. I think for you who’s worked on both sides of it. I’d love to hear how a dietitian can add into that team that we oftentimes talk about working with athletes. Great.

Kristen Arnold  14:37

Clearly, I’m going to be biased in this answer. Because I am a registered dietician, I value the piece that nutrition plays in performance, but I can also provide some context of what is going to be the best opportunity. So I would say number one, one of the main reasons to hire a dietitian is if an athlete has any kind of medical issue that affects their ability to train or perform. Right. So things like diabetes diagnosed or undiagnosed gut issues, heart disease, thyroid related diseases, I work with quite a few athletes at high levels that have diseases like Hashimotos, or have polycystic ovarian syndrome, or hyper or hypothyroidism. And a lot of these health conditions have drugs, but nutrition plays a primary role in both quality of life and performance. So if there’s anything like that, that would be absolutely number one reason to hire dietician. But even to improve performance, I’ll say from the coaching side, there are several flags that both an athlete or a coach can point out and say, Yes, this could be nutrition related. Okay, so the ones that I find the most often one, getting sick, or having the common cold, any kind of frequent, that an athlete is out of training for being sick, the immune system, nutrition plays a huge role in the immune system and staying healthy. So in as a coach and an athlete, being taken out of training for being sick is really frustrating for everybody, right? Something to avoid. So preventing getting sick is a good reason. Also, if an athlete is plateauing in their training, or performance, so we see upward trajectory, maybe this athlete is newer to the sport, and they’re seeing constant upward progress, but they’re hitting a plateau. So they could be running into leveling up, which could include timing of nutrients around training and competition, getting all their nutrient needs met throughout the day, and really just providing that foundation for the training and competition to support the performance. So nutrition itself, and working with a registered dietician isn’t going to instantly make somebody a better athlete, right? It’s the training and the exercise that’s making the physiological adaptations. Nutrition is providing support for that training to be optimized and getting the most out of it. And so by having optimal nutrition, and really dialing that in, you can come back to every workout and put out the most effort and the best effort that you can. So just thinking about it from that perspective. Another thing I’ve seen often is athletes that have gut issues now in the media, and also the science, we are getting into a new phase where athletes are aware that eating enough calories both off the bike and on the bike is essential to performance, right? Like we’re talking more about energy availability, we’re talking more about how many and what types of carbs to take in during exercise during training competition. But what I’m seeing is all these wacky combinations of different drink mixes being mixed. Different gel combinations, like athletes are putting gels in their bottles, and then also putting other drink mixes and they’re just trying to load up really

Rob Pickels  18:19

Oh, yeah. Come on, guys. If some is good, more is better.

Kristen Arnold  18:23

Exactly. So working with a registered dietician to know like, what are the standard practice guidelines and the science? What are the best foods that are going to work for you and really dialing in that the habits that will support the nutrition that will support the training is a good reason to hire a dietician? Yeah.

Rob Pickels  18:43

And to answer this from a different perspective, somebody who doesn’t have a nutrition background, a master’s degree in the field, let’s be honest, coaches are awesome. Coaches are terrific. And coaches can really help you improve your performance. But the knowledge of the coach is limited, and it’s okay to say that right? I know for me when I’m working with athletes, yeah, I might have a grip and an understanding on carbohydrate fueling during performance, right? That’s a very coaching nutrition type of topic. But let’s be honest, my knowledge doesn’t go much further than that. And oftentimes, when athletes have nutrition questions, I say, hey, you know, it would be really important that we brought in somebody that was an expert in that area, because I recognize that my knowledge is limited perhaps because I spend so much time you know, Christina with people like yourself who do have that deeper knowledge and Trevor you as well have a much deeper nutrition knowledge than I do. So, I do think that we all need to recognize it’s okay to play to our strengths. But if there is a deficiency in knowledge, let’s bring in a team member there to really help round out the knowledge base something else

Trevor Connor  19:47

I’ll bring up just from my own experience. The two of you can get a good laugh out of this because here’s my 20s for you, even though I call myself a nutritionist now, you know, I was fresh out of college, I was just over recreational cyclists that the time and subscribe to Men’s Health is a use pre built to search everything on the web. It was least getting magazines, but it was very selective about the articles I read. I was living in Boston and the smartest thing I did was Nancy Clark, who had really written the definitive book on sports nutrition at the time, was in Boston. So I signed up for six sessions with her, which was a real smart move to do, because, you know, the first session that I had with her, she asked me, you know, what, what sort of foods do you eat? And I’m like, Well, I’ve been reading men’s health. I got all these great ideas. She was like, so what, what’s your typical day? And I’m like, Oh, your morning, two bowls of Golden Grahams, some cottage cheese for lunch, ramen noodles for dinner? And she just gives me this look of I’m not sure six sessions is enough.

Rob Pickels  20:52

Did she go to your apartment and light all your frozen pizzas on fire?

Trevor Connor  20:55

Well, I didn’t have frozen pizza, because you order pizza? Oh, it’s higher quality? Yeah, but she just said, So what sort of, you know, what do you get for protein? And I just looked around kind of like what’s protein? So I’m sure there’s a lot of people who struggle with that, particularly nowadays, because you can read so much online and get these crazy suggestions for nutrition. Please, Kristen, speak to this. But a dietitian is going to give you something that’s more based on science and hopefully push you in a better direction of what you might be

Rob Pickels  21:26

reading. And I’ll throw in and personalized to you and your needs, right, which is maybe a very important aspect.

Kristen Arnold  21:33

Yes, absolutely. A couple of things, one, just to define. So I’ll go through what the differences are between a registered dietitian and nutritionist. So legally, anyone can call themselves a nutritionist, you could have zero credentials at all, and call yourself a nutritionist, a registered dietitian requires a four year didactic undergraduate degree. So it’s the same coursework across any program you go to in the country, you also have to do a one year internship, which is essentially a residency where you work in different fields of nutrition care. On the ground, you’re essentially working for free as a residency, you do that for a year. And then you take a registration exam, which is a three hour exam. And then you have to keep up continuing education credits after that. And they’re actually requiring a master’s degree as well in 2025. So there, we’re going to, we’re going to require a master’s degree to have the rd credential as well. So we have standard guidelines that we are obligated to meet in order to keep our credential which are all evidence based, evidence based, meaning science based. So that’s the distinction between a registered dietitian and a nutritionist, not saying that nutritionist can’t provide quality care. I know a lot of nutritionists or sports nutritionist that have good expertise, and they practice in a way that’s safe for the people that they’re working with. But they don’t necessarily have the breadth of knowledge or experience that a registered dietitian will have. So that’s one part two, the answer of your question and I also wanted to point out, Trevor that I actually met Nancy Clark a couple of weeks ago, we did see the food and nutrition Conference and Expo, which is the largest nutrition conference in the country. And I was extremely excited to meet her because guess she is she wrote the quintessential book and sports nutrition for athletes, like not for practitioners. So it was huge. And it was such an honor to meet her. And it’s really cool to hear that you actually worked with her one on one

Rob Pickels  23:45

did she bring up that one crazy athlete she had in Boston as a case study for you?

Kristen Arnold  23:51

She’s worked with a lot of cyclists and she told me many stories about work.

Trevor Connor  23:58

One of those stories, I won’t lie to you. So I knew nothing about the field. Then since she was just a local dietitian to me, it wasn’t until later on when I was studying nutrition. I went whoa, I actually did some sessions with her. That’s pretty cool. That’s great. You got a chance to meet her. Well, let’s shift gears here. Now we’re going to appeal to that. Coach side of you the side that is working with the development teams taking a lot of these you’re working with Jr. You’re working with you 23 You’re working with the elite women’s squads taking them to races. So I think we got a couple of questions here that’s really going to tap into that side of your knowledge base. And this first one we have from a Katie McNulty She’s a junior athlete. She writes, I’ve been racing with the junior girls for two years now and I love it. I can’t wait to get my bike after school and go train. I’ve been racing every weekend that I can and I’m doing really well. I finished on the podium a bunch of times now. I want to take it to the next level but I live in upstate New York and most of the races around me are like five or six Girls, I’ve never been in a big peloton. I’m scared. I won’t know what to do when I race in one. I really want to go to Nationals this year and see if I can get selected for the national team. What do I need to do? So I can handle a big field like that?

Kristen Arnold  25:14

This is a great question. And it’s one that I am constantly trying to figure out the puzzle pieces to put together. Definitely a huge limitation in the US is field sizes. And effectively just that our country is so big. I mean, having to travel is a big part of the sport for athletes in the US and young athletes alike. But there are a couple of suggestions that I’ve been providing to junior women, because it is really tough. Like on the national team, we bring junior women over to Europe, they’re in this totally new environment, right. And so Katie, this is a piece that clearly you’re already aware of that if and when you race in Europe, it’ll be 6789 times 10 times the amount of athletes that your typical li racing against, but a few opportunities. One I’ve been encouraging athletes to get on the track if they’re not typically racing on the track, so road athletes going finding a velodrome, to practice racing. I have seen that athletes that have experienced on the track, they’re more likely to feel more comfortable on the road and big field. So there’s closer contact dialing in those race strategy and tactic execution points that track racing, you get you know, you can do 50 finishes in a day, right, where in road racing, you may get one race finish once a week, if you’re lucky. You’re having the experience of riding close to other riders at high speeds. track racing is really good for that also racing against other girls your age, even considering doing things like gravel races, so gravel racing has mass starts, right. So we’re starting with hundreds of other people, those other riders may not be in your category, but you’re at least getting the experience of being around a lot of other riders. And I will say like one factor of racing gravels, there’s no categories, typically rights age group, or maybe there’s categories, but we don’t know what the level of racing is. These gravel races with the mass starts the level of bike handling. But I will also say that’s true in the junior women’s races in Europe, right? Like the girls that we’ve brought over, they are surprised at what could be perceived as poor bike handling skills, or very good bike handling skills, right? They’re not comfortable or used to the type of movements that girls are making, right? Like they may swipe you or bump your elbow six times in a row. And that’s just common. That’s just normal for racing in Europe. So master gravel racing track racing, group rides, like any kind of opportunity, you get to ride in a bigger field that’s not necessarily racing, and then also doing Junior camps. So there are a few Junior camps that are put on by USA Cycling and then also by private coaching groups. And the nice thing about these is where you may go to a race and only race against six other girls. If you go to a development camp, you could race against 20 or 30 other kids, right? So you’re getting a bigger field size in a controlled environment where the intention is for you to work on these skills. And you can get more comfortable being close and knowing how to navigate pack efficiently with kids your age or around your age. And then one other suggestion is actually watching YouTube GoPro footage. This is something I’ve done with athletes that I work with one on one is I mean even watching like the Williams brothers, their GoPro footage of in criteriums like you’re getting some kind of stimulus watching somebody navigate through a pack taking the wheels moving into slops that you may not have thought of. They aren’t always great examples, I will say so watch some of the GoPro footage like for example, I was directing the Redlands composite team for USA Cycling last year and there was a video of a guy that had a GoPro footage from the Redlands criterium. And definitely the way he was navigating the pack was in my experience, like not very efficient, but even then it’s a good way to see like, oh, I would have done this differently. But you’re getting the stimulus of looking through somebody else’s eyes at those high speeds.

Trevor Connor  29:57

That’s a great point and Certainly something that’s available now that wasn’t available 1015 years ago, it’s a great way to do it. If you don’t mind, I’m just gonna throw in two other small suggestions with this. I love to you brought up track riding and just go in and get in that comfort, kind of being really in really close quarters and potentially bumping elbows. The suggestion I would add to that is if Katy has a couple other girls that she trains with, every once awhile, go out in the grass field ride really slow and just practice bumping, bumping shoulders, bumping elbows, bumping handlebars, bumping wheels, and just get a little more comfortable with that. The other thing I’ll quickly add is, if you do go to Nationals this year, I’ve said this on the show before, you have to ride nationals before you can race nationals. So I wouldn’t go to nationals with the ambition of trying to get on the podium, I would go the first time with the ambition of just trying to get the experience. And what I’d recommend is find a girl who seems to really know what she’s doing in the peloton and just sit on her wheel and kind of do what you’re saying, just watch how she navigates the field and try to follow her and and learn from her. And then the next year, you’re gonna come back much more comfortable and clear on what you need to be doing. Yeah, Trevor,

Rob Pickels  31:13

I think that this is an interesting point. And universally, not just in cycling across all different sports, all different activities, people will oftentimes want to have this big ambition. And they practice and they practice and they practice and they practice to get ready for that big ambition. And they won’t go say to Nationals or to this event until they feel like they’re ready. And that could be two seasons down the line. Oftentimes, what’s best is show up. Now, you might not be quote unquote, ready for it. But that’s okay, because you’re gonna have an amazing learning experience. And that is going to accelerate your ability to be ready to compete at that level that you want to, you got to put yourself out there, you might not be at the absolute top of your game. But ultimately, that’s how you learn.

Kristen Arnold  32:00

Absolutely. There’s so many other pieces to racing outside of the actual racing. And, you know, it’s disappointing when you come to a race and you figure out you forgot your shoes, right? Yes. Things like that, like traveling for a race is totally different than going to a race that’s a half hour drive from your house. And really can’t discount all of the knowledge and the pieces to put together when you’re doing these types of events. So absolutely, like going just for the experience is essential to development, not just to performing the next year.

Rob Pickels  32:36

And this is somewhere where perhaps working with a coach who has worked with other athletes in this situation, getting on maybe a composite team would be really great for this so that you’re sharing in the knowledge of that coaching staff, and not necessarily just trying to do this yourself

Trevor Connor  32:53

and gray point on the bag, figure out what your race bag is going to be. Check it before you travel check at the night before the race check at the morning of the race, you cannot check it enough times. Make sure you have your shoes and your helmet because that’s the thing you never want to forget. Yeah,

Rob Pickels  33:10

we could do a whole episode on race craft and preparing for traveling and what to pack and how to pack that. That’s a whole show in itself right there.

Trevor Connor  33:18

Yep. Chris, and I’m sure you’ve seen that many times. I’ve never done it myself. I’ve seen people forget their shoes.

Kristen Arnold  33:24

I’ve turned the car around many times for athletes, both on the national team and otherwise.

Trevor Connor  33:34

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Trevor Connor  34:01

Let’s go to our final question here. Which is actually a question from us. Not from one of our listeners. But it’s a question we really want to ask you. So we wrote you are a national team director working with the women’s Junior you 23 and elite squads. What have you learned working with the best up and coming American riders in particular? Since you’re always building composite squads? How do you cultivate teamwork and results with a new team? Every race? Yeah, this

Kristen Arnold  34:30

is a great question that I’m really excited to talk about because I think more and more in the us too. We are seeing more opportunities for composite teams, which is different than working with a professional team, right like a professional team, or even a development team. For juniors. You are working with the same staff. You’re working with the same directors you’re working with, you know, a different combination of the same athletes. And so you have all these opportunities Is to really dial in working symbiotically and getting the machine efficient. Where on the national team, we’re throwing in new stuff, new riders every single time. And we have to be super dialed like going in, we don’t have room for mistakes, because there’s so many variables. And it is a really good challenge to get composite teams to bond and work together as a team. And this is something I’m really passionate about with the national team. So when I’m working with a new squad, first thing I do, I always have a meeting on the ground, everyone’s together to set expectations for both the trip and for the races. Right, so we set I set expectations and intentions that is focused on team that everyone is the team, the staff, the director, and the riders are all on the same team. And so what this means is communication, focusing on communication, both in and out of races, if a rider if you know if anyone needs anything, this is the chain of command, this is who to go to first, help your teammates, if you see a teammate that is trying to get their stuff together. And they’re a little late, but they want to be on time, help the teammate get their stuff together, just everyone’s on the same team and really setting that expectation ahead of time, I do definitely see it. This is something that I learned throughout the year, right. I didn’t necessarily do this perfectly the first time I worked with the national team. But on the bike to like, usually we’ll do training rides around the races, right, there’ll be an easy spin or a course recon, just encouraging riders to talk with one another about the race course about how they’re riding, and pointing out things to each other about like, oh, this person accelerates up hills a little bit more quickly. This person likes to adjust more gradually, as they’re going into a corner and just speaking to each other about their writing habits and writing style. And also communication habits is really important. Also, one other piece I’ve learned is to ask the riders what they want to get out of this national team trip, right? Like, what are their individual goals? Or what do they want to accomplish or come away with, and that provides buy in for both like the individual writer and also for them to come together. So they can support each other in all of their individual goals. So doing this kind of exercise, one thing I learned is you can’t go on a circle and ask each one individually, you’ll just get the same answer, right? It’ll be like, oh, I want to work on bike handling and being more comfortable in the pack, and helping out my teammate. And then the next answer, oh, I want to work on riding in the pack and being more comfortable and talking to my teammates, and this same response. So what I’ll have writers do now is actually write their answer on a piece of paper, and then have them share what they wrote down. If they want to add to it, they can but at least they’re coming in with their own thought process and not just playing off of what the other person said. But yeah, the main thing is, would be one communication, both on and off the bike, setting the expectation, that we are all on the same team, and then acknowledging and celebrating each individual goal and seeing how we can accomplish that for each rider.

Trevor Connor  38:39

So something that I’m addressing and asking about continuing with this question. You tend to when you have a team have some riders who really want to be the person the team is working for and go for the win. You have other riders that are much more willing to work for one of those people. What’s been your experience with that? Does it tend to kind of organically find its place where you have a couple of people that are the leaders and a couple people that are working for them? Or is there a conflict? Do you need to pick who the people are? How does it tend to work for you, particularly when you’re dealing with composite squads?

Kristen Arnold  39:17

Well, I’ll say first, one of the main intentions with the national team in general is to take high performing Americans that aren’t already racing in Europe, and providing them opportunities to race in Europe. So we’re really bridging that gap between racing in the US and Europe. So riders that are already on UCI World Tour teams or teams that are based in Europe, we may bring those riders in for the national team, but they’re less likely to get selected because they’re already doing the races that we want them to be doing. So a lot of the time you know we’re getting a squad of six, seven riders that have never raced in Europe. And yes, We always do team tactics we always have a plan going in, but a lot of it is just them getting experience and learning how to navigate the peloton. I mean features that are more common in Europe that are challenging for riders in the US, our road furniture, lots of bombs, different types of terrain, the pack dynamics are just super different, like a lot closer, tighter knit. So preparing and setting writers up for success to be in that environment is goal number one. Goal number two would be to accomplish their individual tasks as the team so I have had not necessarily conflict but I’ve had situations where riders, multiple riders wanted to be the a rider. So what we’ll do, it depends on the race, right, if it’s a stage race, it’s a little bit easier because there’s opportunities every day for results, we might have one rider go for the rush jersey, which is like intermediate sprints, and we might have one rider go for a stage win. And so really everyone can get success in a stage race and different scenarios. And one other piece I wanted to point out on this podcast about women in especially junior and you 23 Women is I think a lot of the writers I’ve worked with, they’re more concerned about getting dropped than they should be, I would like to build up the confidence in these women athletes to know they should be taking risks in the race risks being tactical risks, not safety risks. Yes, going for an attack, like going with a move they’re not sure if they’re going to be able to stick with and affecting the race in this way, is such a better way to put yourself out there and get noticed than to sit in and get 25th. One thing I’ve experienced with the national team is they may be thinking that they’re writing for themselves, and they’re going to finish in the top 10. But statistically, what may help them to get more noticed by the teams they want to be on is actually going with a move, they’re not sure if they’re going to stick in, or that the move is going to stick and actually taking those tactical risks. So in that way, they’re helping both their team and themselves. So one part is reframing, like, what their intentions are, what they want to accomplish, and to like how they can help both themselves and their teammates. In one part, setting expectations of like, you don’t have to get a result to get noticed. And in some ways, actually getting noticed is more important than getting a result on a piece of paper.

Trevor Connor  42:45

That was always a big part of my philosophy, which was, I always want to be a factor in a race, I’d ever want to just be in the middle of the field going with the flow, whether that’s going for the wind going with the breakaway or just sitting on the front working for a teammate. I just want to be able to say I influenced this race, I think that’s an important thing to to always consider when you’re in a race. Absolutely. So Chris, and one last question to ask you here. And I think this is particularly true for juniors but probably true for cyclists and athletes at all level. I know this was an issue that I had, which is advocating for yourself, putting your hand up and saying, hey, I want to be selected. I want to be part of this. I think I can perform. What’s your feeling on this with athletes?

Kristen Arnold  43:31

Yeah, advocating for yourself is essential in life in general. And especially for women athletes, we may need to do even more of this to get noticed. But this is something that’s really important. Yeah, for juniors and elite alike is that there are lots of ways to get noticed. But the important piece is being in communication with the people that are making decisions or close to making decisions. So I mean myself, like in people on the High Performance team at USA Cycling, we’re always scouting looking at results, but we may not be able to see something that’s happening. And we also understand that results aren’t the only piece of being successful as an athlete, right. So advocating for yourself, being in communication, emailing and also taking risks. Like I said, tactical risks and races is essential to getting noticed and getting selected for different opportunities, whether that’s getting on the national team or getting on a professional team.

Trevor Connor  44:41

Fantastic. Well, Chris Wood, I hate to say it, we are getting close to the hour here. So I think it’s time to wrap this up. But it’s been a real pleasure having you on the show. Hope we can get you back at some point. You’ll really appreciate the answers you gave. So thanks for joining us.

Kristen Arnold  44:56

Yes, thanks so much. It’s been great.

Rob Pickels  44:58

That was another episode of Fast Talk. Subscribe to Fast Talk wherever prefer to find your favorite podcast. Be sure to leave us a rating and review. The thoughts and opinions expressed on Fast Talk are those of the individual. As always, we love your feedback. Join the conversation at forums.fasttalklabs.com or tweeted us @fasttalklabs at fasttalklabs.com to get access to our endurance sports knowledge base coach continuing education as well as our in person and remote athletes services. For Kristin Arnold and Trevor Connor. I’m Rob Pickels. Thanks for listening!