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Be a better climber?

Old 08-10-13, 08:19 PM
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Vingleik Vaagal
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Be a better climber?

Where I usually ride its pretty flat, and by flat I mean there are some gentle hills but nothing steep and long. So, where do I start if I wanna train for the really big climbs? Ive been searching around but I mainly find articles on how to improve your technique. Which I probably need, but my main problem is my capacity. I do quite ok on flat rides but as soon as I face a steep hill I immediately run out. How do you usually ride when your main goal is to increase your climbing capacity?

An outline of my typical route. There as some hills, but nothing that usually takes more than 2 minutes to climb.
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Old 08-11-13, 09:56 AM
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Climbing a long hill is all about putting out a steady power for an extended period. If you don't have big hills nearby find a flat section or loop where you can do steady efforts of at least 20min. The elevation profile you provided might be hard to maintain a steady effort if the downhill sections are fast.

When you say you 'immediately run out' as soon as you hit a big climb that's because you are starting out too hard. If you're used to short hills, the effort you put out on short hills will be much higher than what you can sustain for a long climb.

If you have a HRM focus on keeping your HR steady for 20min. That may mean you go into a lower gear than normal for the short uphlils and pedal harder than you're used to on the downhills. You need to figure out the HR you can sustain for an extended period of time. A powermeter would be helpful if you can get access to one.

I do most of my riding in flatish areas with the hills only between 50-100m. I have to ride for 2 hrs to get to a 10-15min hill. But I do have access to flat areas where I can ride at a steady power for an hour. I did my first big climb of the year yesterday (900m) and while I suffered going up, it didn't feel much different than a steady 1hr ride on the flats.
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Old 08-11-13, 11:16 AM
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Originally Posted by Vingleik Vaagal View Post
Where I usually ride its pretty flat, and by flat I mean there are some gentle hills but nothing steep and long. So, where do I start if I wanna train for the really big climbs? Ive been searching around but I mainly find articles on how to improve your technique. Which I probably need, but my main problem is my capacity. I do quite ok on flat rides but as soon as I face a steep hill I immediately run out. How do you usually ride when your main goal is to increase your climbing capacity?

An outline of my typical route. There as some hills, but nothing that usually takes more than 2 minutes to climb.
Your question about "immediately running out" on a hill sounds almost exactly like the question I posed to my cardiologist and his exercise physiologist. Based on the stress test I had just taken they both told me that my "Ventilatory Anaerobic Threshold" (aka "VAT") --which is pretty much the same as what others call the "Lactic Acid Threshold" is too low. Or, more specifically, it is only 50% of my VO2Max and it should be at least 60% or preferably 70%.

What that means is that my body cuts over from burning oxygen for its energy to using other means that do not involve oxygen. And, at about the time that switch over happens, lactic acid tends to build as well (which is why many refer to it as the lactic acid threshold).

Their advise to me was a little vague -- but was essentially to increase my VAT by pedaling at an increased heart rate for longer periods of time.

But, the devil is in the details: How much longer and how much higher?
... Which is why I posted my question on VAT to this forum...

I hope that helps you. It may not because you may not have the same problems as I have. But, increasing the VAT/Lactic Acid threshold is a standard technique for most endurance type sports because a healthy body can go all day below that threshold but wears out quickly once you go above it.

Conversely, you may have other cardio-pulmonary problems that only a cardiologist could diagnose. But, for most Americans it seems to be the typical couch potato syndrome that is characterized by a low VAT/Lactic Acid threshold such as I have.

... But again, on the flip side, there are techniques to climbing hills efficiently... (perhaps it is that as well?)
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Old 08-11-13, 03:50 PM
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The key to big climbs is pacing. You can't go too hard at the beginning.
You can increase your aerobic threshold by training at or a little below threshold.

The other thing about big climbs is that you can't stop pedalling. Getting used to that will help.

And last is the mental aspect. If you fear or dislike the climb and spend your whole climb staring at the road in front of your wheel, it's going to be miserable and you will be more likely to quit. Embrace the climb and enjoy the view on the way up.
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Old 08-11-13, 04:49 PM
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Vingleik Vaagal
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Thanks for the replies. Im totally blank when it comes to this aspect of cycling, and appreciate all the info I can get. Usually I keep attention to my HRM but thats about how advanced it gets for me. I try to stay at about 80-85% of max for most of the trip. As said earlier, my rides are pretty flat but I try to really push myself with some pace up the small steep hills there are. Likewise if there are some flats where I can really push myself to go faster and try to stay there as long as possible. Best way to describe it is maybe some sort of unstructured intervals?

One of my goals with cycling (main reason to pick cycling up is the fun of it), is to get in better shape. Im not in a bad shape, Im normal built but my stamina has taken some effect by my many years of rather watching sports on TV than doing it myself.

So how should my riding plan be? I usually ride 2-4 times a week if I can find the time. One day with intervals, and one day where I ride for a longer period?
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Old 08-11-13, 05:22 PM
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Sounds good. At this stage pretty much anything you do will get you in better shape as long as you spend enough time on the bike. Riding at different intensities (i.e. intervals, stuctured or not), will cause more improvement and will make riding more interesting than always riding the same speed.

if you're calculating HRmax from a formula there is a good chance it is wrong for you. Better to do a field test, either for HRmax or for LTHR, which is a bit more useful and not so unpleasant a test.
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Old 08-11-13, 05:37 PM
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Yeah, my HR percentage is a bit off on my Garmin, but I've figured out how to compensate to a certain degree. Planning to be a bit more structured in a future. Read somewhere that its recommended with 3 sessions a week, one longer trip, one interval session and one interval-ish medium ride.

For the long trip it said 2,5 hours or longer, which sounds pretty fair, where you wanna be at approximately 75% of your HR during the ride. Normal conditions will mean about 80 km rides averaging about 15 mph.

For the interval session its probably a good idea to vary between hill intervals and general intervals? Found a hill in my area on Strava thats about 2km. Probably a fair hill to do some intervals? Do some miles as warmup and some miles after as a rundown?

As the interval inspired session I guess my usual rides fits the term pretty well? Calm medium long rides where you try to pace yourself up an hill or on a flat for some period?

When you do intervals, flat or hilly, whats the preferred count and time?
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Old 08-12-13, 02:01 PM
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For climbing, it's all about mass. Watts per kilogram is essentially the most important measurement for cycling in general. For climbing, it's all about getting your weight (and your wheels) as minimal as possible (hence Fränk Schleck and other climbers getting banned for xipamide or other diuretics). If you can drop some weight and keep up your watts that's the best place to start. Then it's all about sustaining effort over a longer period of time. This is when work on the trainer is beneficial.
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