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Training & Nutrition Learn how to develop a training schedule that's good for you. What should you eat and drink on your ride? Learn everything you need to know about training and nutrition here.

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Old 11-21-05, 10:47 PM   #1
Polonswim
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Heart or muscle?

What causes most people to be unable to climb effectively, lack of cardio-vascular conditioning or lack of muscle strength? I know I can improve both, but I would like to know which to focus on. In other words: why can't I complete a fairly decent climb without having to stop? Which is giving out first, the muscles or the heart thing?
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Old 11-21-05, 11:03 PM   #2
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sometimes it depends on how long you have trained. lack of cardiovascular or muscle strength is normal for beginner. Im just into road cycling for 5 months and im very light on weight. (181cm, 112lbs) that doesnt make me a better climber also. For me, i focus on heart more than muscle. just my opinion anyway..
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Old 11-22-05, 12:06 AM   #3
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You forgot the lungs! I was dying on climbs - literally hyperventilating, getting dizzy, etc. My legs would burn like someone had lit them on fire.

Then after a whole bunch of testing, a specialist put me on a new inhaler ... what a difference!!
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Old 11-22-05, 01:33 AM   #4
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It's different for everyone. In my case, the limitation is cardiovascular. The size of the lungs and max O2-volume it can process is based upon height and I'm 50-lbs heavier for my O2-volume than the climbers of the same lung-capacity. My legs never hurt on the climbs, I can pick it up 20-50% faster at any time I want, but my HR and lungs will max-out instantly if I do...
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Old 11-22-05, 09:42 AM   #5
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It is a balance no doubt. To train one exclusively will be your undoing in the other. Look at it like this in the form of racing. Usually in the Tour there are "specialists" that perform certain functions for the team. You have sprinters who get drop/dropout in the mountains but usually drop the hill climbers on a surge. So what to do? You may look to train 3 different types of fuel systems for the two different types of skeletal muscle fibre. Training the phosphogen fuel system part of the time will give you explosive power for mere seconds while training particularly in the lactic system will give you strength for minutes then train in your aerobic system will give you that endurance for the long hall. Training in all three will balance you but you will have to see a coach for that and explain what you really want out of yourself and then he can prescribe a routine that will give you the best chance at being as good as you can get. Koffee any takes on this?
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Old 11-22-05, 09:50 AM   #6
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well, the beauty of it is that becoming a better climber is very simple. you just gotta climb, climb, climb. your body will adapt to what you force it to do. at the beginning you may be lopsided with one being weaker\stronger than the other. but just do it often enough and your body will compensate.
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Old 11-22-05, 09:51 AM   #7
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I don't believe the lungs are a bottleneck, but the other cardiovascular adaptations that occur from long term training, such as:
  • Increased capillary density
  • Increased mitochondrial volume and density
  • Increased aerobic enzymes
  • Increased intramuscular fuel stores
  • Increased maximal oxygen uptake
  • Increased stroke volume
  • Decreased heart rate
  • Possible lowering of systolic & diastolic blood pressures
  • Increased left vetricle volume

The above list has much more affect on climbing/sprinting/endurance than normal human lung capacity.
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Old 11-22-05, 09:52 AM   #8
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I go power pretty quickly but still no good in climbing. But I am ssslowly getting better as I loose weight.

Climbing is all power to weight ratio
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Old 11-22-05, 09:59 AM   #9
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I would also say it is a balance, I mean what is one without the other? I think ultimately you will answer this question yourself. When you are truck'n up the hill and your keeping a good cadence do you all the sudden just start to weep? Do your legs go Jello? and tingle when you stop? Does it take 5 min to catch you breath after? My only advice would be to weak point train your climbing. Train your climbing first. And without knowing you- lose all the weight you can.
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Old 11-22-05, 10:50 AM   #10
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Why make it more difficult than it is. If you want to be good at something, do a lot of it ! Long slow climbs and faster shorter interval climbs in a reasonable combination ( and some few long fast climbs) will pay off for everybody.
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Old 11-22-05, 03:39 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by NoRacer
I don't believe the lungs are a bottleneck

They can be when you've got asthma.
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Old 11-23-05, 12:53 AM   #12
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Ok, to summarize: If you want to climb better, climb more often. Got it. Thanks.

I love this site. Unselfish sharing of ideas and tips by people who love cycling. Great place.
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Old 11-23-05, 07:54 AM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Machka
They can be when you've got asthma.
Agreed, but I closed with:

"The above list has much more affect on climbing/sprinting/endurance than normal human lung capacity."

I think this leaves asthmatics out.
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Old 11-23-05, 08:17 AM   #14
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For me it's the legs. I just started cycling, but have been rowing on a stationary ergometer for years, so my cardiovascular conditioning is pretty good. The legs are what do me in. On a really steep hill, they start to burn and gradually begin to feel weaker and weaker as I pedal. Eventually, I stop. I could keep going but for them. However, the legs seem pretty easy to train. It takes a long time to build up cardio fitness, but my legs seem to be getting into shape pretty fast.
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Old 11-23-05, 09:01 AM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Joe Schmoe
For me it's the legs. I just started cycling, but have been rowing on a stationary ergometer for years, so my cardiovascular conditioning is pretty good. The legs are what do me in. On a really steep hill, they start to burn and gradually begin to feel weaker and weaker as I pedal. Eventually, I stop. I could keep going but for them. However, the legs seem pretty easy to train. It takes a long time to build up cardio fitness, but my legs seem to be getting into shape pretty fast.

This is generally what most people think. They don't link the ability to supply working muscles with fuels for energy, to CV fitness, when in fact, getting and processing fuel, which also requires getting oxygen to the working muscles is a big part of CV fitness. Muscle strength is another area of consideration, but muscle strength development is trivial compared to CV development.

The 'components' of a fit CV system does not simply consist of heart, lungs, veins, and arteries. The system includes the miles and miles of capillaries that get fuels and oxygen to the working muscles.

How do you improve?
Long term aerobic training. This means riding long and often at intensities under lactate threshold (LT).

How do you reverse some of your aerobic improvements?
"Red-lining" your rides. Red-lining improves the wrong system. It improves the anaerobic processing of energy and your muscle's ability to buffer the acidic environment created in your muscles from 'going anaerobic'. This system -does- need attention, especially if you will be racing, but it has to occur at the right time within a training macro-cycle and in the correct doses, otherwise, it is best to stay under LT.
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Old 11-24-05, 07:01 AM   #16
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Isn't it that if you can't reach your MHR that it's likely legs, and if you reach MHR easy that it's cardio?

At least that's what came to me last night.
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Old 11-24-05, 09:25 PM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by NoRacer
I don't believe the lungs are a bottleneck, but the other cardiovascular adaptations that occur from long term training, such as:
  • Increased capillary density
  • Increased mitochondrial volume and density
  • Increased aerobic enzymes
  • Increased intramuscular fuel stores
  • Increased maximal oxygen uptake
  • Increased stroke volume
  • Decreased heart rate
  • Possible lowering of systolic & diastolic blood pressures
  • Increased left vetricle volume

The above list has much more affect on climbing/sprinting/endurance than normal human lung capacity.
What are your measurable quantities for each of those factors? Wouldn't you have to measure each and every one for each individual to find what the rate-limiting step is? It's like a production line and the very first step is a lungful of air of certain numbers of liters. You need to measure the rate that the oxygen is transported to the muscles and back out again and find out the relative rates of each step. Like streamlining a production-line to be most efficient, you need to identify the rate-limiting step. It's different for everyone.

Actual lung-capacity as in volume of air that can be inhaled in a single-breath isn't as important as how much oxygen actually passes into the bloodstream on the other side (milli-moles/second). The actual lung-capacity of riders in the TDF varies by over 50%, yet their power-output and speeds are much, much closer than that.

Also optimizing climbing/sprinting/endurance will require focusing on a different system. Typically there's an inverse relationship between climbing vs. sprinting speed.
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