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Hills - Building Strength & Stamina

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Hills - Building Strength & Stamina

Old 09-03-15, 01:56 AM
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Hills - Building Strength & Stamina

Where I live is nothing but hills. I read a thread yesterday about how hilly it is where others live

Since I am just getting started on a new bike I have been making 5 to 10 mile rides and the majority is in the bike lane on long sustained hills on major feeder streets where traffic speeds are 45 to 50 mph.

Today I left early and made it from where I live to the Alicia Creek bike trail, which I took north and connected to a major thoroughfare connecting with another major thoroughfare for the last leg home. I would have taken another route that would have shaved off about 30 minutes, but the connecting trail - Cabot to Forbes Path for those familiar with Laguna Niguel, but it is closed during construction of the Oso Creek Trail.

Today turned into a 6 hour grueling ride. I would pedal the hills until my legs were screaming - rest - repeat. That was how the last part of my 20 mile ride went. In order to make the last one mile leg home it took me through a major intersection with on and off ramps to Interstate 5 and no bicycle lanes at the beginning of rush hour. Traffic was intense! Out of an abundance of caution I walked the sidewalk across the Interstate.

Does my method to improve my climbing make sense? Is there a better way? The majority of the hills are about 200' + per mile. I am not sore and my legs were giving out long before I was winded. I was in no hurry and wanted to make the hills if even just a peice at a time.


It reminded me of lifting weights until the muscle group is exhausted. I can certainly benefit from recommendations.
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Old 09-03-15, 03:04 AM
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It should get better with time. I have a few hills, most of them short, and I don't go out of my way to find more.

Getting rid of some excess weight if you hae it should help too.

I suppose there is one hill that I've hit a few times. About 50 miles to the base of the "hill" (with about 1000 feet of climbing).
Then 20 miles to the top for an additional 4000 feet or so. Although, I'll admit that it is hard to do the whole trip there and back in a day.
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Old 09-03-15, 03:14 AM
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It makes sense in that the way to get better at hills is to climb more hills. However, I'm interested that your legs gave out before you were winded. Typically, the limiter on hill climbing is not leg strength but aerobic fitness and rider weight - hills are all about power/weight ratios.

So that makes me suspect you may be grinding up the hills in too high a gear? 200 feet per mile isn't all that steep (on average - I appreciate the gradients will vary) so try sitting and spinning a higher cadence in a low gear. That will transfer stress from your legs to your cardiovascular system and you may find it easier to find a level of effort that you can sustain without so many pauses for rest.
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Old 09-03-15, 05:53 AM
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Adding to Chas comments, what was your previous daily mileage? Also, were you doing much climbing before this ride? From what you are saying it sounds like you went beyond your current level of fitness, much like someone that hadn't done much building of their base mileage, trying a long ride before they were ready for the distance. I'd say that some version of not increasing your mileage by more than 10% at a time would hold for climbing, but living here in coastal Florida I cannot offer any figures. I sought out what few rollers and hilly areas we have and added in some mileage on them at a rate of about 10%-20% in any one ride.

What Chas said holds a lot of credence for my riding as well, if I mash, or grind, up hills I am going to bring on the thigh pain. All the Jens Voigt impersonations/quotations won't help me out, or make my legs quit yapping at me. Spinning up, and anticipating when to shift, lets the effects Chas mentions happen. Simple answer is to drop down a few cogs, or into the small chain ring for your climbing, and build up some climbing fitness. the single biggest thing in my climbing improvement was losing weight from my large body, I shed 100+ lbs from back in 2012 when I got the okay to return to cycling after a herd of surgeries.

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Old 09-03-15, 08:08 AM
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What is your gearing? Can you find flats where you can also get in some saddle time (endurance)? If you get 3 good rides per week consisting of a fast ride, hill ride and an endurance ride, it will only be a matter of time and persistence before you are getting better at it.

Greg Lemond said something like, "it never gets easier, you just go faster". Hillclimbs do get easier, though. You will find that place, soon.
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Old 09-03-15, 08:44 AM
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Riding hills will definitely make you better at riding hills, but recovery rides are so important. Do you not have accessibility to any flatter sections that you could do an easy hour of spinning? If all you do is hills--even mixing in rest days--your legs won't respond as well as they will if you regularly mix in an easy our or two of spinning after hard days. In fact, IME easy spinning after a tough day is even better than staying out of the saddle.
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Old 09-03-15, 12:06 PM
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Originally Posted by qcpmsame View Post
Adding to Chas comments, what was your previous daily mileage? Also, were you doing much climbing before this ride? From what you are saying it sounds like you went beyond your current level of fitness, much like someone that hadn't done much building of their base mileage, trying a long ride before they were ready for the distance. ..................
Bill
This is new for me and I am building a base. Three months of walking 2 to 4 miles per day began the process, but I am a complete newb when it comes to hills and base mileage.

This morning I am not sore though I am tired. I think you are right about building a base and only increasing it 10% a week. Flats are available to me, but only after making it through a gauntlet of hills.
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Old 09-03-15, 05:39 PM
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I have the same situation regarding hills. Flats are few and far between around here, and if I leave from my house I have three options for direction......and all immediately start climbing, moderately steep and fairly long. Have sort of decided that all I can do is ride every other day, and occasionally spin on the trainer for recovery. Oh well, in a couple of months it'll be winter again, so it'll be pretty much trainer all the time until spring. Riding the roads is dangerous enough in the summer, not going to do it with snow and ice....much as I despise the trainer.
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Old 09-03-15, 06:19 PM
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Technique and gearing are really important. Some riders, including Chris Froome, are most efficient when sitting in the saddle and spinning with a moderately fast cadence. This technique requires a deeper gear range than what many bikes have as standard equipment.

Other cyclists, including Nairo Quintano, can stand with all thier weight on the crank and mash the pedals at a slower cadence. These riders can perform well on a hill without a deep gear range.

Most older and larger riders need to sit and spin to complete a longer hill.

Do you prefer to sit or stand when climbing?

What chainrings are on your bike? What cassette?

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Old 09-03-15, 09:15 PM
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There is an old saying in cycling ... spinning stresses the lungs, mashing stresses the legs.

IMHO, the quickest way to get faster in the hills is:

1. Intervals: Go at it hard for 5 minutes ... as hard as you can. Then back off for 5 minutes. Later, rinse, repeat.
2. Lose weight: Well, if you have any to lose ... and most of us do. It's about power/weight, and losing weight definitely helps.
3. Standing and sitting: I do both. Spin until you're tired of spining, then stand ... until you're tired of standing. Each uses different muscles, and doing both allows you to give the others rest. And when it comes to standing up, there is a technique. Your cadence should be slow ... as if you are on a stair stepper and simply putting your weight on the pedals. Pick the gear that lets you do that.
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Old 09-04-15, 12:03 AM
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Originally Posted by Barrettscv View Post
Technique and gearing are really important. Some riders, including Chris Froome, are most efficient when sitting in the saddle and spinning with a moderately fast cadence. This technique requires a deeper gear range than what many bikes have as standard equipment.

Other cyclists, including Nairo Quintano, can stand with all thier weight on the crank and spin the crank at a slower cadence. These riders can perform well on a hill without a deep gear range.

Most older and larger riders need to sit and spin to complete a longer hill.

Do you prefer to sit or stand when climbing?

Have been sitting! Tried standing and not real coordinated I have to admit.

What chainrings are on your bike? What cassette?
The low end is 30/30, which should be plenty low for hills. It is me!
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Old 09-04-15, 01:06 AM
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If coordination when standing is a problem, try this.

immediately before standing, change UP a couple of gears. You want a lower cadence when out of the saddle. Stand straight up, with almost all your weight on the pedals and as little as possible on the handlebar. Maintain a light grip and allow the front wheel to weave slightly with each pedal stroke. Look well ahead, the bike will go whete you're looking. Maintain a steady rhythm, about the same as you'd use when briskly climbing a short flight of stairs, or using a stepping machine in the gym. Change down again when you go back to a seated position.
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Old 09-04-15, 03:19 AM
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endurance + strength. The more often you can ride, the longer rides you can do, the faster you will get. Ride to work, throw a few hills in. Get a long ride in on the weekend, throw hills in. Listen to your body & gauge your effort. Speed will come. Watch the pros. Unless it's a short enough hill, they try to ramp up their speed as a climb goes on & conserve enough energy to make it to the top. Distance riding is about finishing. & you'll be surprised at what that'll do for your stamina & recovery. When you can do 100 miles in the mountains & ride during the week you'll have a good understanding of how to gauge your output. & you'll find that you can also recover from an effort really fast. The body is an amazing machine.
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Old 09-04-15, 08:12 AM
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Originally Posted by fthomas View Post
Is there a better way?
I found I was overusing my quads, not firing the glutes effectively (and calves). Sounds funny, but it sure makes a difference. Glutes are big muscles, can handle the load for a very long pull. If the top of your legs are burning spinning up a hill chances are your technique needs some work. There are many articles about this on the net, some for runners. On the bike, I engage the glutes by pulling back on each foot through the bottom of the pedal stroke, it's part of my warm-up. There are a variety of body weight exercises you can do off the bike to target that area. As a geezer, I've found exercise routines that focus on various leg muscles can seriously help power output and sustain on the bike. And, just 'riding more' doesn't really accomplish the same thing, for me you have to specifically target that development if you want a significant improvement.
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Old 09-04-15, 10:13 PM
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Thanks for some great recommendations. Today should have been a 7 mile ride with hills, but I spent the day dealing with plumbers and HOA, etc. We used 3,000 gallons of water in a 24 hour period due to a slab leak. There is always tomorrow.
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Old 09-07-15, 02:08 AM
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When i re took up cycling, i got what was then a cheap mtb with 18 gears. It was fun, used for work over a hilly route. I tried to find the steepest hills to climb involving 2 or 3 houfs of work. It was too long and a tad boring.
Then graduated to 35 or 40 minuters locally, timing myself. Even more fun, albeit risk taming.
Now, where i live, the hills are all round me. Its just great steaming up em. . . back indoors inside the hour.
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Old 09-07-15, 06:45 AM
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I'm going out on a hill ride this morning if rain bolds off. Hills cant be avoided here, you just have to deal with the hills until you get better at it. Sooner or later you find yourself climbing with the big boys. The most important and first step in technique was learning how to unload that upstroke pedal.
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Old 09-10-15, 10:17 AM
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Originally Posted by OldsCOOL View Post
I'm going out on a hill ride this morning if rain bolds off. Hills cant be avoided here, you just have to deal with the hills until you get better at it. Sooner or later you find yourself climbing with the big boys. The most important and first step in technique was learning how to unload that upstroke pedal.
There are various elements in climbing that can be considered - breathing, gearing, technique etc. After all these things are considered, I agree with OldScool about unloading the upstroke pedal. Especially toward the end of a ride when I'm tired, the legs tend to get lazy on that upstroke so that the downstroke pedal is not only trying to move the bike forward, it is also lifting that lazy leg. I continually work on drilling in good habits just as in any other sporting activity such as tennis of golf. Unloading the upstroke pedal is one habit to work on as is a good relaxed position and good breathing technique.
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Old 09-10-15, 04:38 PM
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I'm no expert but one tip I was given was to hold on to the bar tops and pull back on the handlebar with the opposite side that you are pushing down on the pedal.
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Old 09-11-15, 04:05 AM
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Originally Posted by TCR Rider View Post
I'm no expert but one tip I was given was to hold on to the bar tops and pull back on the handlebar with the opposite side that you are pushing down on the pedal.
I do that on the hoods though pretty much the same effect. When grinding up hills where every muscle counts, you will naturally adjust your position by feel. Another tip is sliding back in the saddle a few inches to engage more quads, hips, lower back and buttocks.

Hills take experience and that is best gained by riding. Hills are your friends, dont avoid them.

Just a note: I'm talking hills not mountains. Hills are attacked and powered over whereas mountains will require more endurance and upper body relaxation for the long haul up.

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Old 09-11-15, 10:22 AM
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Watching Nairo Quintana is best when he attacks on the mountain stages. Its not just "dancing on the pedals". Its him trying desperately to distance himself from the group. He'll do it in a series, off the saddle with swift and powerful strokes using both his weight and muscles. Then like doing repeats, he will sit down and do it again and again. By the third interval, he hopes that nobody will catch him.

But for older folks who seem to rediscover bike riding again as an adult, the thing about hills is that the knee joints take more "punishment" than when on the flats. This is something to consider especially when older and not really going to be a Category rider for races.
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Old 09-11-15, 11:04 AM
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Aliso Creek trail? I can see where the terrain around Mission Viejo might be challenging.

I think the better way to improve on hills, rather than grueling long rides, is shorter, higher-intensity ones. Or Intervals. Basically, ride hard until you're done-in, then quit for the day. And by "done in" I mean you're not recovering from an all-out effort. Sort of like a weight lifter working a muscle group to failure. Two or three times, max, then quit. Extending the agony out isn't helping.
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Old 09-11-15, 11:28 AM
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Originally Posted by BlazingPedals View Post
Aliso Creek trail? I can see where the terrain around Mission Viejo might be challenging.

I think the better way to improve on hills, rather than grueling long rides, is shorter, higher-intensity ones. Or Intervals. Basically, ride hard until you're done-in, then quit for the day. And by "done in" I mean you're not recovering from an all-out effort. Sort of like a weight lifter working a muscle group to failure. Two or three times, max, then quit. Extending the agony out isn't helping.
Don't agree. Hill repeats are great, he should do them, but climbing is also (mainly) about aerobic fitness and managing one's effort over a sustained period.
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Old 09-11-15, 02:34 PM
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I'm a flatlander but this week I'm away on vacation and there's some challenging hills here. I usually do intervals at least once a week but this week I replaced them with hill repeats. The hill I was working on was about .7 miles long. I hit it in Zone 5 ( I use a powermeter) and recover down the other side turn around and hit it from the opposite direction. I did 10 repeats and I will say I felt it a lot more than intervals on the flats. Nothing like a hill to get the heartrate soaring.
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Old 09-11-15, 02:50 PM
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Hey, I'm old. there comes a point when pedaling ain't much faster than walking &
a lot more work. When that happens, I'll walk it. Too bad this solution isn't much
help in a high traffic, urban setting. I'm glad I don't live in city. Highway traffic's
bad enuff here. The city scares me to death. Hills here can easily rise 400 ft. in
less than a mile. I can ride over one if I'm allowed to collapse for 10 minutes at
the top. The second & third hill are a bit more daunting.
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