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Old 06-02-05, 07:24 PM   #1
michaelnel
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Being overweight and out of shape and old, I am a terrible hill climber. But I have made a general rule for myself that I'm NOT going to push my bike up a hill, unless I've done something like blow up my knees and I'm in pain. It's kind of a point of personal honor for me. There's no dishonor in pushing the bike up the hill, but there's somehow MORE honor for me in riding it, no matter how long it takes.

I've come up with a little mind-trick technique that helps me when I get REALLY pooped on a climb. I stop to rest for a few seconds (I don't get off the bike, I just stop and put my feet down.). I drink some water, let my heart slow down and get my breath back. Usually 30 seconds to a minute is enough.

During my rest period, I pick an object ahead but close by... depending on how tired I am, it might be quite close (25 - 50 feet away or so). Maybe it's a particular bush on the side of the road, or a sign, or a milemarker, or a piece of trash, or simply a discoloration in the pavement. Doesn't matter what it is, it's just an object that represents an achievable short-term goal.

I say to myself "Self, you KNOW you can make it to that bush. You don't have to make it to the top of that hill (which I don't look at), just to that stinkin' BUSH. Look how close it is, you can do that!"

Then I put my feet back on the pedals and start going. When I get to the bush if I feel I can go farther, I pick another object and repeat it. If I really feel I can't reach that next object without resting, I rest again.

Sooner or later (later, usually ;-)), I find myself at the top without ever having climbed to the top. I just climbed from one target to another in goal-steps I *KNEW* I could reach, and THAT got me there.

Yes, I know it's dumb, just a silly trick mind-game I play on myself, but it works for me.

Needless to say, this technique works best when you have lots of time and are riding solo. ;-)
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Old 06-02-05, 07:56 PM   #2
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Being overweight and out of shape and old
Okay - some specifics, please.

How overweight, how out of shape, and how "old."

Bet we got lots of guys on this forum who can "out age" you!

(I just checked your public forum, and found your birthdate at

February 13th, 1950)

I got you beat by eleven years (11-07-1939), and I don't think of myself as "old".

Oh, by the way, WELCOME!
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Old 06-02-05, 08:59 PM   #3
michaelnel
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Originally Posted by DnvrFox
Okay - some specifics, please.

How overweight, how out of shape, and how "old."
About 80lbs overweight. I'm 6' tall and currently 259lbs (down 10lbs in the past two weeks).

I have never been athletic and have been pretty much a couch potato all my life except for about five years ago when I was heavily (pardon the pun) into bicycles for about 2 years.

I've spent most of my life avoiding exercise or any kind of physical exertion. I smoke cigarettes, too.

I'm 55 years old.
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Old 06-02-05, 09:45 PM   #4
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I like your technique! I've been stopping and resting but I hadn't thought about the short-term goals. It's amazing what a little rest will do, isn't it? I also try not to look at the top of the hill.

Thanks for sharing!
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Old 06-02-05, 09:46 PM   #5
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I have a variation on your technique that you might want to try that I call the rabbit. I "learned" it in 1980 when I was on a loaded tour with two other riders who had been on the ride the year before and were better prepared. It wasn't even a day into the ride, out of Eugene, OR heading south along the snake river to the coast, that I knew I was in trouble--my gears were not low enough.

Here was my trick--much like yours--I'd ride up hill until I could no longer breath through my nose (which means your heartrate is getting to high to sustain). Then I'd stop, but only until my breathing was under control again--which doesn't take too long--and, then I'd start pedaling again. Because of my higher gears, while I was pedaling, I was leaving my companions behind, and I pretty much stayed ahead despite the frequent jack rabbit starts and stops because, like you, the non-riding time was minimized (I learned that the longer you rest, your legs just turn to lead anyway, and more time goes by than you really need to recover).

I had occasion to use this technique on other loaded tours over the years. Born out of desparation, it nonetheless worked pretty well, even if you have more appropriate gearing, and even with ridiculously low gearing if you're offroading on steep climbs.
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Old 06-02-05, 10:02 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by michaelnel
About 80lbs overweight. I'm 6' tall and currently 259lbs (down 10lbs in the past two weeks).

I have never been athletic and have been pretty much a couch potato all my life except for about five years ago when I was heavily (pardon the pun) into bicycles for about 2 years.

I've spent most of my life avoiding exercise or any kind of physical exertion. I smoke cigarettes, too.

I'm 55 years old.
Good on yer Mike , it takes a lot of willpower to get your arse into gear after a long spell doing nothing too energetic ,I have a job getting motivated after a week out of the loop sounds like you're doing well ,it should get easier as you get fitter ,if you can dump the smoking (easier said than done ) you will soon get up the hills ok,just take your time climbing & gear down low, do some deep breathing , before you get to the uphill climb this should put some oxygen in the blood before you start climbing.Good luck mate ,dont let the buggers grind you down
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Old 06-02-05, 11:09 PM   #7
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It's a great technique, not only because it helps you get to the top of the climb, but because it will become a measure of how much your fitness improves. There will come a day, assuming you do a similar climb quite often, when you will ride up there and forget to use the technique.

I thought about it the other night while climbing over the bridge on my commute. I used to count down the lamp posts from bottom to top and hope like crazy the last one would come up before I collapsed. Now, I look at the red bike taillight ahead and wonder if I can hunt it down before the top!!! Lamp posts? What are they?
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Old 06-03-05, 12:53 AM   #8
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There are not many hills that beat me, but I hate to admit it but some of them are getting hard. I have always had the same method of getting up hills. By hills I do not mean the gentle or sharp rises that last less than 200 yards.

I start hills at a respectable speed, when it gets hard I change down, then change down again and again. when I have run out of gears and it is still difficult- I slow down. Works for me and in case you think this is only for us fit ones out here. I talked a cyclist up a hill last week, and it is a basket. 700ft climb in less than a mile, and is one of the killer hills in our part of the country. This rider was reasonably fit, but on a heavy mountain bike with high gearing, with knobbly tyres and he he was not a regular cyclist. When he got to the top, he was out of breath, legs ached but he was elated. He had just climbed the worst hill on the ride on a bike that should not have been able to do it, and in fact several of the young whippets had walked for the last 100 yards. Hills should not be raced until you have the fitness to do them. Until then, ride them in any way you want, but that bike is heavier when pushing it.
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Old 06-03-05, 06:53 AM   #9
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It's not your weight or your age. It's those butts that are holding you back. You know bypass surgury is very close right? I had mine 3 years ago because of cigarettes.

Everything is beginning to fall into place for you. Smoking is next.

There are a few bikers over at quitsmokingjournals.com. Take a look.

Before long you will be mocking those hills.

See you around
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Old 06-03-05, 07:00 AM   #10
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Greetings Geezer from the "oldgoat"

well, you got a couple of years on me, I just turned 50 this year and realized that I have spent way to many years abusing myself. I quit smokin the coffin nails about a month ago and pulled out the ol' rusty schwinn. I appreciate your take on the climbing those dang blasted hills. I'm going to try your idea this weekend when I'm out for my 20 mile ride. I too, carry a few extra pounds. Remember, we did not put them on overnight and will not lose them overnight. Good Luck on your bike riding adventures.

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Old 06-03-05, 12:10 PM   #11
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Not a bad idea for a young guy... As the other post pointed out, though, a lot of us were in school before you were born.
I've used variations of the same thing for years, both running and cycling. Back when there used to be people slower than I am (it doesn't happen much these days), I'd set my sights on one a convenient distance ahead and make him or her my goal: "That guy's hurting as much as I am, or he'd be long gone. I'm tougher than he is, and I'm not going to slack off until I catch him." Works as well as anything else. On shorter climbs, I'll try to estimate the number of pedal strokes to the top: "OK, I'll be at the top in 50 revolutions, and I've got 50 left in me." It's surprising how accurate you get at picking the number, and if you miss, then you can say, "OK, 10 more. You've ALWAYS got 10 left..."
Of course all this would be unnecessary I lost weight and got in shape, but....
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Old 06-03-05, 01:35 PM   #12
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I like your suggestion AND your style, michaelnel!

Maybe you could adopt the same technique to stop smoking?
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Old 06-03-05, 01:53 PM   #13
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Sounds like a good techinque.

Part way up a big climb on a rural road last weekend I looked in my mirror and saw a line of headlights coming my way. At first I thought it was a funeral procession, but it was a group of motorcycles in town (DC) for Rolling Thunder. As they passed, I started to count bikes. By the time I had counted all 45 I was nearly at the top of the hill.

Anything to put your mind somewhere else.
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Old 06-03-05, 04:05 PM   #14
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Yes to almost all above. Age and hill climbing are not close friends. My rule of thumb is to breathe long and (relatively) slowly. When I find myself gasping and thinking my lungs are too small for all the air I need and am reaching to unsnap my "strangling"helmet buckle, I know I'm pushing too hard-- time to shift down and settle for a long 6-7mph grunt. (Its helpful to envision all those similar aged people who grunt just getting out of the recliner...reminds me that I'm quite happy to just be here on this hillside working so hard. Once at the top, I also remember that I/we can always get a little bit past that "barrier" we fear is there.

Keeping a sense of humor about how pained and awkward I look and feel helps too!
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Old 06-03-05, 10:40 PM   #15
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Michaelnel.

I like your attitude! "Get 'er done" come hell or highwater. I don't need this technique on rides, it is at work when the "IN" basket is overflowing that I have to resort to something similar!

Congrats on your successes!

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