Happy Girls are the Prettiest (& Fastest!)
INTERVIEW OF MAURA KINSELLA
ELITE ATHLETE AND MEMBER OF OPTUM’S PRO CYCLING TEAM
We were fortunate enough to catch up with hometown girl, Maura Kinsella, this weekend at the Gateway Cup in St. Louis, where her pro racing team – Optum Pro Cycling – took second place overall. She is a delightful, inspiring young athlete, with a clever new endeavor she’s dubbed HAPPINESS WATTS.
Professional cyclists measure their legs’ output in wattage (watts) and it’s a very technical aspect of these sometimes intense racers’ jargon. Maura, like many of our yogi readers, has opted for more balance in her training and pro athlete life. She coined the phrase “Happiness Watts” to describe the energy one can put toward race day output from his/her happiness input. Happiness, according to Maura, includes more factors than training and racing. She finds additional strength from this balance she encourages. She will put happiness fuel in her tank in a variety of ways – letting her hair down and dancing, playing outside with friends, yoga, and even eating a donut. Happiness Watts is working for her too, as she has raced some of the biggest Pro/1/2 races in the nation and all over Europe, including the Tour de France.
Here’s more we learned from this amazing lady today:
1. So, you’re from St. Louis. Is this where you began your bike racing career? Tell us about it.
Yep! As a senior in high school, I traded in my Cross Country running singlet and knee problems for some spandex and a bike to compete in my first race in February in Columbia, MO aptly named Froze Toes. I had no clue what I was doing and I crashed three times but still won so I began to think, “This is awesome!” I wound up hooking up with a local junior (U19) cycling team through Mesa Cycles, practicing my technical skills, and racing a full season that year. Then, I got a taste for some real elite-level racing in California when I went to college at Santa Clara University the following year. It’s been an upward trajectory ever since!
2. Oooh, as uber active athletes who indulge in the silly side of life, we completely connect to your mission at Happiness Watts to promote the balance and enjoyment in active individuals’ lifestyles in order to give them an edge. How did this philosophy come about for you, or was it always the way you’ve been?
It’s funny because I think I was more intense as an amateur, trying to go pro. I would be the coach’s “dream”: going to bed at 9pm every night, eating brown rice and chicken breast, and doing my workouts to the exact second. During that time though, I realized that I was actually dreading the day-to-day routine of training. Now that I put more of a priority on hanging out with my friends and having an ice cream cone if I want it, I’m a lot happier and race much better because of it. I definitely have found that I gain power from things that make me happy. So voila: I created the brand Happiness Watts because I wanted to share this message to current and prospective athletes to promote a healthier relationship with sport and life.
3. You’ve raced in both the Tour de France and four World Cups! How much time do you spend training for those types of races?
It really depends on the time of year but I usually train on the bicycle 13-18 hours/week. During the off-season (October-January), I’ll do a lot more cross-training which I enjoy to change up my routine a bit. I’ll include things like running, rock climbing, strength training, hiking, more yoga classes, etc.
The European World Cups in the spring, like Ronde van Drenthe and the Tour of Flanders in Belgium, are tricky because they’re some of hardest racing all year with the cobbled roads and bad weather. They’re also some of the longest races we do in women’s racing: about 150km or 4 hours.
The women’s Tour de France was an 8km circuit that we raced 13 times around downtown Paris along the Champs Elysee in late July. The race started out like any other world-class, European race with all of the Olympians and top female racers in the world making the race really hard. However, the conditions changed drastically and it started to rain and the Champs Elysee became one big, diesel-coated slip-n-slide as crashes would happen at every single corner. It was the most insane experience. The Tour de France wound up neutralizing the men’s race that was set to arrive in Paris a few hours later after they saw how crazy ours had been!
4. As girls who dabble in many sports, we find some happiness watts when centered on our yoga mats. Do you practice yoga? If so, how has it benefited you?
I practice yoga in the least tradition sense. I very rarely go to classes but I enjoy using Yogaglo.com classes or just making up my own 10-minute flow-y routine when I wake up in the morning. I love getting into the routine of practicing yoga in the mornings. Sometimes I get out of the habit and I’ll feel like I don’t have the energy for it but I really just feel better physically and mentally when I am able to practice. I think it helps with my whole life’s philosophy of trying to be the most “balanced extremist” that I can be and becoming a more complete athlete.
5. Tell us one of the best Happiness Watts stories you’ve collected thus far in your social collection.
Hmm… that’s a tough one because there have been so many great stories out there! I think what’s great about Happiness Watts is it connects all different types of people from all different parts of the world. Whenever someone #HappinessWatts on social media via Instagram or Twitter, it shows up on the homepage of HappinessWatts.com so we see everything from the mid-ride coffee shop stop to a beautiful sunset on the lake with friends.
If I were to choose, I love the “Burger Sunday” photos that people post. Burger Sunday is a weekly holiday that we encourage for people to let their hair down and eat a burger on Sundays! In Boulder, all of my friends get together at someone’s home and it’s a great time to catch up with each other, drink a little (or a lot) of wine, and eat a good ole fashioned burger with sweet potato fries. You know it’s a good time when my roommate, fellow Optum Pro Cycling racer, Eric Young, brings out the ice cream machine! Check out the website on the Mondays after #burgersunday and you’ll be sure to find people from all over posting their post-race/post-big training weekend festivities. Every time I look at my homepage and see what brings people their #HappinessWatts around the world, that makes me happy.
6. What does the future look like for Maura Kinsella?
Well right now I’m just focused on the Team Time Trial World Championships in Richmond, VA (first time it’s been held in the US since the 1980s) that’s coming up in two weeks, and then afterwards enjoying some time off the bike and relaxing. Beyond that, well that is the million-dollar question.
We invite you to check out Maura’s site and learn more about #HappinessWatts, and tag it when you’re adding the power of happy to your daily routine. Thank you, Maura for playing with YoGoGirls today, and for the happiness you brought us. We will be watching you and smiling all the while.
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