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hills

 7 Tips to Becoming a Better Climber

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7 Tips to Becoming a Better Climber

By Coach Alison Powers

Climbing. People think it’s this magical thing that only lucky or skinny people can do.  This is a misnomer. Anyone can climb. Anyone who likes to ride a bike, can ride up a hill.

            Yes, riding up a hill is harder than riding on the flats due to fighting gravity. Fighting gravity requires more effort, more leg strength, more fitness, and more stamina- both mental and physical. However, there are a few things you can do and techniques you can learn to make climbing feel easier, more efficient, and more enjoyable. 

1) Climb- as silly as it sounds, it’s true- the more you climb, the better you get at it. You’ll learn to relax when climbing, your legs will get stronger, and your fitness will improve.

2) Learn to climb out of the saddle- being able to climb both seated and standing gives you a chance to change positions, use different muscles, and it breaks up the climb. Often times, people stay seated for the duration of the climb. They think that if they stand it will make them more tired. This is true if you accelerate when you stand. Any time you accelerate, you will make yourself more tired. The secret to standing and pedaling is shifting into 1 (or 2) harder gear(s) before standing. This way, once standing, you maintain constant speed and are able to use your body weight to push down the pedals.

3) Change positions- This idea not only applies to climbing in and out of the saddle, but also to hand positions. Our road bikes have three different hand locations (hoods, tops, drops), use them. You don’t have to stay still when climbing.

4) Change cadence- just like standing when climbing, being able to push both a big gear and spin a small gear helps climbs go by more quickly. The idea is to change up what you are doing to recruit different muscles and/or energy systems throughout the duration of the climb.

5) Pacing- the longer the climb, the more aware of your pacing you will need to be. The goal when tackling a climb should be to start a little conservatively, so you can continue to climb strongly and finish strong. Avoid starting too hard, and then slowing down and becoming more and more tired as the climb goes on.

6) Be Ok with being uncomfortable- climbing is harder than riding on the flats due to fighting gravity. Fighting gravity requires more effort, more leg strength, more fitness, and more stamina- both mental and physical. This means it’s going to be hard, and it’s going to be uncomfortable and that’s ok. It’s OK for your legs to hurt a little bit and it’s OK to be breathing hard.

7) Practice- Here is a workout you can do on your next training ride that will help you learn to climb at different speeds, standing, sitting, and accelerating.

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6 Tips to Becoming a Better Climber

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6 Tips to Becoming a Better Climber

By Coach Alison Powers

Climbing. People think it’s this magical thing that only lucky or skinny people can do.  This is a misnomer. Anyone can climb. Anyone who likes to ride a bike, can ride up a hill.

            Yes, riding up a hill is harder than riding on the flats due to fighting gravity. Fighting gravity requires more effort, more leg strength, more fitness, and more stamina- both mental and physical. However, there are a few things you can do and techniques you can learn to make climbing feel easier, more efficient, and more enjoyable. 

1) Climb- as silly as it sounds, it’s true- the more you climb, the better you get at it. You’ll learn to relax when climbing, your legs will get stronger, and your fitness will improve.

2) Learn to climb out of the saddle- being able to climb both seated and standing gives you a chance to change positions, use different muscles, and it’s breaks the climb up. Often times, people stay seated for the duration of the climb. They think that if they stand it will make them more tired. This is true if you accelerate when you stand. Any time you accelerate, you will make yourself more tired. The secret to standing and pedaling is shifting into 1 (or 2) harder gear(s) before standing. This way, once standing, you maintain constant speed and are able to use your body weight to push down the pedals.

3) Change positions- This idea not only applies to climbing in and out of the saddle, but also to hand positions. Our road bikes have three different hand locations (hoods, tops, drops), use them. You don’t have to stay still when climbing.

4) Change cadence- just like standing when climbing, being able to push both a big gear and spin a small gear helps climbs go by more quickly. The idea is to change up what you are doing to recruit different muscles and/or energy systems throughout the duration of the climb.

5) Pacing- the longer the climb, the more aware of your pacing you will need to be. The goal when tackling a climb should be to start a little conservatively, so you can continue to climb strongly and finish strong. Avoid starting too hard, and then slowing down and becoming more and more tired as the climb goes on.

6) Be Ok with being uncomfortable- climbing is harder than riding on the flats due to fighting gravity. Fighting gravity requires more effort, more leg strength, more fitness, and more stamina- both mental and physical. This means it’s going to be hard, and it’s going to be uncomfortable and that’s ok. It’s OK for your legs to hurt a little bit and it’s OK to be breathing hard.

Good luck, work hard, and climb away!

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Superior Hill Climbing

Photo by ProVeloPassion, Mary Topping

Photo by ProVeloPassion, Mary Topping

Written by ALP Cycles Coach, Jennifer Sharp

The last lap took everything she had. She crossed the finish line euphoric and then slumped over her bike, weaving to a stop and bent over, exhausted from the effort. 

We all have a pain cave. The question is - how deep do you dig when you approach it? How willing are you to push beyond your perceived physical and mental limitations? And what is it you fear most that you tend to avoid because it shines a light on an area you need to address?

For me, it's hills. Hills challenge my bigger frame and fast twitch physiology. And in many ways, when the going gets tough, I crack quickly under pressure. Maybe you can relate or maybe you'd replace hills with sprinting or riding close to someone else. 

We all have fears, excuses, easy to come up with reasons why we don't practice our weaknesses. But as both a coach and athlete, I urge you to practice those weaknesses. Strengthen the skills that challenge you the most. 

A couple of weekends ago was our local highlight race of the year: Superior Morgul. It had it all: a parking lot crit, street sprints, time trial and the queen stage road race, finishing at the top of the esteemed "Wall". It's a Colorado classic. Last year at the finish, I crossed the line in tears telling my husband, "don't ever make me do this again. No matter what." The wall made me question the joy and fun I have in cycling, rocking me to my core.

So a couple of Sunday mornings ago, much to my surprise, I was leading the Omnium. And the question over breakfast became, well - why wouldn't I do the road race? The risk: Benjamin thought after last year our marriage may hang in the balance if things didn't go "well." But the gains? Well the gains far outweighed the risks: my teammate Jenna was in a close second and I could help her win; it would be great training and prep for my season goal of Master World Track Championships; and I would conquer some hill inner demons. 

Armed with 10+ hours of sleep, a fresh perspective and a willingness to go for it, I pinned on a race number. Even if the strongest climbers who only showed up for the road race danced up the wall and left me in their dust, my competition were the other omnium riders and I had a fighting chance of winning. 

So on the third lap, the climbers climbed and I found myself pushing HARD through the climb, losing contact from my rivals. Luckily I wasn't alone and finished the race with six other women. On the final climb, a rider attacked and was chased to the line while I fought an ugly uphill battle, coming close to overcoming the attacker but didn't have quite enough. Had I beat her, I would have won the overall. Me. This girl. Going from self-defeat a year before to what if's. The point total was close: Tracy at 101, Emily at 100 and myself at 100. Beating just that one person would have leap frogged me into first. Woulda coulda shoulda!

However, the biggest lesson of the weekend came the day after and seeing a photo of the race winner, Emma Grant. Just after crossing the finish line, she was hunched over her bike, gasping for air and showing signs of the enormous effort it took for her to cross the finish line first. She went all in. She pushed so hard because she wanted it so bad and she prevailed. 

When I think back to those final moments as I battled toward the finish line, I know I sat up just enough, settling. What I'm inspired by and can't wait for is to push so hard that I collapse from the effort. That even those that can climb (or sprint, etc.) push as hard as they can despite the risk. Because if you're not pushing 100%, then are you still chasing the dream?

Even after coaching and racing for many years, I am always thankful for the lessons that teach you about strength and vulnerability. Thank you Emma, for showing your courage. And thank you to my competitors for allowing competition and areas where I can test my ability. And most of all, thank you Universe for gravity and hills.

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