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.
2. North to South. This is the pedal position at 12 o’clock and moving through the down stroke to the 6 o’clock. Concentrate on your foot position and applying smooth power through your most powerful portion of the spin. Do this 20 times, both legs. Get acquainted with it, get smooth going in and out of this rotational zone. Use your glutes, your ass muscles, feel the anchor points in your pelvis that support all the watts coming out of your quads. engage as many muscles as you can.
3. Under the Barrel. This is the position from 3 o’clock arcing around and up to the 9 o’clock. This is typically a “dead zone” in most cyclists’ cadence. It doesn’t have to be. At the 3 o’clock point, focus on the down pressure into the bottom and the transition to pulling up on the pedal with your entire leg. Feel the foot pressure in the top of your shoe as the cleat grabs the spindle. Repeat 20 times, focusing intently on this aspect of your stroke, isolating and creating smooth, powerful transitions from pushing down to pulling up
4. South to North. This is the position from 6 o’clock to 12 o’clock. It is the precursor to the explosive and most powerful part of your stroke. Focus on a clean pull from dead bottom to dead top. Keep your ankle loose and use your calf to add leverage into the downstroke. Don’t let your knees do wacky shit here, try to notice any hitch in your cadence that could be leeching power. 20 reps, both legs.
In addition to this spin exercise, climbing well, or like a God (lol) you need to be lightweight. Unfortunately, for most, we carry extra pounds. That is another series of posts altogether. Being heavy adds gravity. You need to be skinny. Not drug addict skinny, but athletic and lean. The mathematical formula to determine your ratio is to divide your body weight/ by height in inches. For example, at a height of 73 inches and body weight of 170 lbs, 170/73 = 2.3
The optimum ratio for men is 2.1 and women is 1.9
Lay off the soda and cake. Climb hills like a God!!
Climbing fast involves one factor. Hard work, sorry can’t escape it. It has to hurt like hell and take you to your limits. You have to work a climb in different ways. If it’s rolling with punches, spikes and dips, you’ll need to attack rollers and get into some deep pain, recover on the descents, use tempo through the steady grades, build and always be working. Always have a strong pressure on the wattage, never ever get complacent. If you find a cadence and tempo that isn’t challenging your comfort zone, it’s too slow. Always make yourself uncomfortable, always ask yourself if you could handle 10 more watts, if you could raise your hr another 10 bpm. Never accept your limitations, never be satisfied. That alone, a solid mental game will demand more from the body. The body meat is dumb. It does what the mind tells it to do. Let your mind guide your efforts, that is your primary source of strength and power. Repeated behavior over time becomes habitual and habits determine where you end up. Always work hard, never be complacent.