Hill Climb On The Bike Is 80% Mental Endurance And Skill Whatever Your Age – Ten Cycling Tips From FitOldDog

Hi folks! Glad you came by!

Hill climb on the bike.

This little 7% grade hill used to intimidate me at the end of a long ride, but with much harder climbs under my belt, like the Mountains of Misery final 3-mile 8-16% grade, this hill turned into a bump that I can ‘big ring’ if I put out 300-400 watts. You sometimes have to decide who is boss, you or the hill!

Endurance sports require a great deal of mental training, whether you are young, old, a professional athlete or an age grouper having fun.

It took me a long time to learn the key skills of cycling, and I still have plenty of progress to make. Over the years, my hill climbing has improved considerably through the process of ascending many hills and watching what works best for me. Again, stay aware of what is happening in your body, and don’t listen to music, listen to your body. There seem to be a number of keys to success on the climb:

  1. Relax your legs, or you’ll be fighting yourself and wasting energy.
  2. Undertake some really challenging climbs to build the confidence you need to know you can do it.

    At 6000 feet up Mount Lemmon for breathtaking views followed by a great descent.

    At 6000 feet up Mount Lemmon, Tucson, Arizona, USA, for breathtaking views followed by a great but very cold descent.

  3. Sit up on the bike, with good posture (NOT in aero position), to permit full use of all key cycling muscle groups, especially gluts and hip flexors.
  4. Learn when you can and cannot ‘big ring’ a hill – meaning, “Is it a hill or a roller.
  5. Find your optimal cadence, which may be a faster spin (90+ rpm, fast twitch muscle fibers) or slow grind (50-60 rpm, slow twitch muscle fibers), and don’t sit in between these spin rates – works for me anyway.
  6. If you’re with a group and you’re being dropped, “Change up and suck it up,” to build mental endurance.
  7. Learn to shift the load between muscle groups, such as resting your quads by engaging your gluts.

    FitOldDog's first Continuum Lesson

    Click image for free instructional video about FitOldDog’s first Continuum lesson from Rebecca.

  8. If you’re in a triathlon, leave enough life in your legs for the run. Until you gain sufficient skill in this area, use a wattage meter and determine your safe ceiling wattage. For me, during the Lake Placid Ironman, I learned to never go over 250 watts, whilst ignoring all those bikes going by – I see plenty of those people again as they walk the run.
  9. Ride with stronger cyclists from time to time, and try not to be dropped (though you will be eventually).
  10. I repeat, relax into the hill! Relaxing your jaws can help with this, for which I use a trick taught me by my Dance and Continuum teacher, Rebecca, as follows: take a mouthful of water, swill it around in your mouth, swallow half, leave the rest in your mouth and move your tongue around so its tip can feel the air-water interface, and just explore that feeling across the surface of the water for a few minutes or more (always makes me think of Gollum and his underground lake). This will help to relax your jaws, and thus your hips, which spreads to your legs, all contributing to a better hill climb. Strange but true. Thanks Rebecca!

Happy hill climbing, and don’t forget to enjoy the view when you get to the top and the thrill of a descent well-earned.

-k @FitOldDog


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Disclaimer: As a veterinarian, I do not provide medical advice for human animals. If you undertake or modify an exercise program, consult your medical advisors before doing so. Undertaking activities pursued by the author does not mean that he endorses your undertaking such activities, which is clearly your decision and responsibility. Be careful and sensible, please.