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Training for Better Cycling: Hill Climbing without Tiring
Pace is the Key
Pace, that is the number of revolutions per minute at which you turn your pedals, is the most important factor to think about when planning your hill-climbing strategy. Too fast or two slow - either of these will tire you faster than keeping an even pace.
To cultivate an even pace for yourself, work on it first in relatively flat terrain. Experiment. Find the pace that's right for you on the flat. When you think you have found it, find a good sized, but not ridiculously high or steep hill and try it out there. You may find that your pace is already right on target for hill climbing, or you may find that you must adjust your pace up or down. The ideal is that you will feel comfortable maintaining your pace while staying in the saddle during 95% of your typical hill climb.
A faster pace is easier to maintain over a long ride. Train yourself, therefore, to pedal faster.
A good way to speed up your pace is through interval training. Once or twice a week, map out a ride over varied terrain and devote the ride to interval training.
In interval training, you alternate fast and hard pace with slow and easy pace something like this:
- 10 minutes easy pedaling on flat terrain
- 5 minutes pedaling as fast as you can in a lower (easier) gear on flat terrain
- 10 minutes easy pedaling and coasting
- 10 minutes pedaling as fast as you can up a hill
- 20 minutes easy pedaling
You can change the durations to suit your needs, but the idea is to alternate between easy pedaling intervals and all-out, heart pounding intervals. An interval training session should last a half and hour to an hour. Over time you will see your pace increase.
Try to Stay in the Saddle
According to Bicycling Magazine, your most efficient climbing position is in the saddle. If you need to stand briefly to achieve or maintain your pace or give your knees a rest, that's okay, but most of the time you are better off if you stay seated. Your legs expend more strength in the standing position than the seated position. To maintain strength over the course of a long ride, you are better off staying in the saddle.
Not to state the obvious or anything, but the best way to get comfortable climbing hills at an even pace is to go do it.
Plan a route that includes several good sized hills for say, fifteen to thirty miles and try to bike that route a few times a week. You'll be surprised how soon those hills get easier.
Good luck and happy hill-climbing!