Climbing hills hurts. Some people just go faster. This post will give you some mental tips and spin techniques to help you out.
The mental approach is key. Sometimes it’s just the sight of a big climb that triggers anxiety or fear. That isn’t unusual. The visual picture of a looming gradient, especially when you’re fatigued, will make you doubt yourself. You’ll inwardly tell yourself it’s going to suck, that you can’t possibly do it.
The best approach in this situation is to forget the negative thoughts by focusing on your technique. Focus on your gear selection. You want to be spinning at 80-90 rpm. This isn’t law, do what feels right at the moment. When you’re tired, use different muscle groups, stand up and use your body weight to push a higher gear. Alternate supporting your weight between your arms and shoulders to your legs. As your body weight is pushing the down stroke, practice shifting support to your upper body over the bars and then back into your legs as the next down stroke occurs.
Being efficient is key. Subtle things you may not notice will leach power from you. Squeezing the bars too tight, grimacing in pain with jaw clenched, tense upper body, arms locked out. Next time you climb, see if these bad habits are holding you back.
Your upper body should be upright with an open chest, shoulders back. You need oxygen, if your lungs are constricted from poor posture, it reduces the capacity.
Your eyes should be looking 10-30 yards up the road. Head should be up and breathing is deep and rhythmic. A loose, natural grip on the bars and relaxed facial expression will do wonders for your perceived effort. In many ways, your physical condition affects your thoughts. A tense, forceful body posture indicates pain and suffering within. Remember, what is within is expressed on the outside.
Your mid section should be strong enough to anchor your pelvis, hips and glutes. Pedaling force should originate in the glutes, your hips should not rock side to side or up and down. They need to be planted and stable. Bike fit is critical! Spend the money at your local shop, the results are astounding. Without proper fit, you are risking injury from repetitive stress, especially on long rides.
Your sole focus should be on raising the rpm’s and consistently choosing the best gear for the gradient. Technique is key, a strong spin that produces high watts throughout the stroke will add speed to your ascent. With an even, well refined spin, it makes climbing faster and much easier to manage heart rate.
The graphics below illustrate a concept to break the spin down. This practice will reveal any weakness or hitch in your stroke by isolating each component. This is best performed on a stationary trainer, rollers or a spin bike.
Your spin and posture, bike fit and cadence all work together. Refine them together.
1. Over the Barrel. This is the pedal position that moves from the 9 o’clock position, over the top of the arc to the 3 o’clock position. Concentrate on it when you spin. Feel your cleat pulling at the pedal, arching over and transitioning into the down pressure at the 3 o’clock. Repeat that 20 times, both legs, focusing solely on the upper arc.