Athlete Profile: Shifting Gears with Leslee Schenk Trzcinski

By Marilyn Trout | 06/25/12
Athlete Profile: Shifting Gears with Leslee Schenk Trzcinski

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Athlete Profile: Shifting Gears with Leslee Schenk 

It had been a number of years since I had last seen Leslee and at that time she was wearing the US National Team jersey, and I the Canadian Maple Leaf, racing through the back roads of southern France. Recently, the inaugural Exergy Tour in Idaho brought us back to the international scene of elite women’s racing.  This time,  she was a part of a commentating crew alongside Craig Hummer of NBC.

Like many elite athletes, shifting gears out of international competition has had its grinding moments for Leslee and as in any tough race, she has come through it stronger personally and willing to empower others for life’s transitions in sport and beyond. Today she is owner of Tune Yoga for Sports in Canandaigua, New York,, helping others “play at a higher level.”

I’ve enjoyed getting to know Leslee a little better through this interview and trust you will also be empowered by her sage advice.


  1. Retiring from Elite Racing
    1. What made you decide to retire and when?  
      An injury, shattered clavicle (non-union), and then the mass exodus of sponsors in 1990 (7-Eleven formally left the sport as did other national sponsors) were the deciding factors.
    2. What was good about retiring, what was hard about it? 
      Retiring was difficult and I did it too hastily. It was difficult transitioning even though I had a great college education and a lot of skills that I was blessed to be able to apply. I got a job in a marketing firm and used my journalism and people skills to adapt easily. However, it  was still difficult for me and I watched a lot of other top athletes really, really struggle with the transition.   The good thing about retiring was being able to take the phenomenal drive, dedication and lessons learned on the bike and within a team, and apply it to the business world. It was interesting to see some direct application of those skills to my new work .
    3. Do you compete now and how does that compare to your elite racing?
      No, I do not currently complete, however, I have considered going back to it for fun. I do some coaching locally in upstate New York and really enjoy working with athletes of various levels.
    4. What wisdom would you like to share with Masters racers that are newer to cycling?
      • Goal setting is key, no matter what level you are currently or where you think you can or want to go.
      • Good advice and guidance is extremely important, there are some things that are not at all intuitive. Also find some good coaching guidance on drills/intervals/cardio training as well as bike handling, paceline skills, cornering and other tips as well as nutrition and recovery.
      • Find a good community of other riders , men and women.  For women riders, I find  riding with other women every so often gives an added sense of camaraderie and community.
  2. Aging and Cycling
    1. What changes have you noticed in your ability to train and/or race over the years? 
      Take a lot, a lot, a lot (did I say a lot : ) more time to recover!  Be patient. It takes a longer time to achieve a level of fitness. Injury prevention is key which comes from really listening to the body. I am lucky that I am now a certified yoga teacher and really fully understand the benefits of recover y. I always did understand that rest and recovery were critical to peak performance but have really come to understand it to a new level. Learning about the body, listening to what it is telling you and adapting to it is critical – at any age but particularly as we age.  
    2. Are there any particular ages you noticed significant changes? 
      The forties are good years but things to start to change. I think that is a pivotal decade.
    3. How have you adapted your training and your equipment? 
      A lot more recovery, more quality training vs quantity and  a lot of yoga and massage. Equipment does not really impact things too much – like  trends in frame construction, etc. Saddle comfort is critical and many times it is not at all the most expensive or hottest model but a basic version that really fits best. It is very individual.  Getting a great bike fit is key and having your an expert assist you with that.
    4. What wisdom would you like to share with others Masters racers about aging and continuing cycling? 
      You are never too old. Competition is healthy – with others and yourself. Set realistic goals and take care of your body. It is about longevity and loving the sport for a long time. Use the wisdom gained through life’s lessons and apply that wisdom to this great sport.
  3. Coping with Health Problems
    1. What illnesses, diseases, or injuries have you encountered? 
      Gluten sensitivity (not celiac, but serious sensitivity)  has really opened my eyes to food allergies and nutrition issues. I am not a certified nutritionist but really push people to monitor their diet and notice foods that cause reaction like dairy, wheat and sugar.  The training on the bike is critical but it is also about the other hours of the day and how that time impacts your performance. Fuel the engine well, no matter what age.  Other than that, I have been really blessed with no significant health issues. If I feel a tweak in a certain area – muscular/skeletal – I really listen to it and may back off for a session or two so as to not exacerbate or develop a chronic injury.
    2. How does your cycling background help you to cope with the problem? 
      My cycling background has taught me to be smart and to realize that this is strategic – it requires thought, planning, pampering and discipline.  Taking it seriously – you get out of it what you put into it.
    3. How have you adapted your cycling to accommodate changes? 
      Less miles; more intense -  for example quality vs quantity. Cross-training is of great value to keep the entire body strong – cross-fit training, yoga, swimming…
    4. What wisdom would you like to share with fellow cyclists who may face similar challenges? 
      Cross-training in the off-season is very beneficial. The repetitive nature of cycling over-utilizes some muscles and under-utilizes others. Finding a balance in the body is critical for power, performance, longevity as well as deeper body awareness, posture, breath optimization and recovery.  The bottom line…have fun!!

Leslee's Cycling Highlights

  • World Championship Medalist – 1987 Silver & 1988 Bronze, Team Time Trial
  • US National Team – 1985-1990
  • 1986 Colorado Sportswoman of the Year
  • Multi-Stage Winner, Coors Classic
  • La Vuelta De Bisbee Hillclimb – Prologue recordholder
  • Member of Lowrey’s and 7-Eleven Teams
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