When I started road cycling, I hated hills. In fact, hills were the least done workout in my training regimen and it didn’t take me too long to realize that avoiding that challenge, made it more difficult for me to improve my cycling. Where I currently live, nearby hills are scarce, but that doesn’t mean that making a hill workout is impossible.
Hills are great for working on acceleration and stamina. Many winners of the Tour de France were kings of the mountain. Lance Armstrong, despite recent news, trained hard to be able to win the tour, and the mountain stages were his strongpoint. In Armstrong’s book, “It’s Not About The Bike“, he wrote: “The trick was not to climb every once in awhile, but to climb repeatedly. I would do three different climbs in one day, over the course of a six- or seven-hour ride. A 12 mile climb took about an hour, so that tells you what my days were like.”
Other winners, like Alberto Contador and many others, were great in the mountain stages. It seems that being a climber is an extremely useful tool to any team and a big threat to everyone else. How to get better at those climbs? Practice and training. Some areas are abundant in hills, while others can be flat. Here are a few simple ways to do a hill workout wherever you are.
This shouldn’t be a struggle to find a hill workout, when you have hills all around you. My suggestion is to ride in a a mostly flat area for the first third of your ride to get warmed up. For any one, especially beginners, find a set of hills where you can climb for 15 minutes at a time. Do the climb and use the downhill for rest. Another idea is to climb a long hill; one that you will not be able to make it to the top, or just barely make it. You will be climbing for a long time and you may fall over from exhaustion, but you will be able to recover for the downhill, so go as far as you can. For more advanced riders, make those hill repeats or the long climb last; it will be difficult, because you will already be tired from your ride earlier, but you will be set for race day.
Incorporate the hills as much as possible into your workout. If you have a bunch of hills scattered about your area, get all of them in for your hill workout, it may seem easy at first, but by the fourth or fifth climb, you will be bagging for it to be over (but there are still more to go.) In a different workout, find to steepest, tallest, and longest hill and do hill repeats until you cannot go anymore. Follow a similar concept as the “Mountain Areas” section up above.
This is always a challenge. If you have an actual hill, you will get to know that one hill very well, because you will be doing that hill on repeat. Flat areas are a huge struggle, and it is easy to get used to riding the flats, but don’t, you won’t improve. I have seen it happen to me and I don’t want the same for you. Have that one hill at least once in each of your rides. Also ride on windy days, because wind is usually in the flat areas too. If you don’t have a single hill, I have had friends who will use a highway on and offramp as their hills; it’s not the best, but at least it’s something. Otherwise you will need to go to the gym and use a spin bike to simulate a hill, but it is not the same.
Going up a hill can mentally break a cyclist. The thought of a hill with no end in sight, makes a cyclist want to decrease their speed even more for the hills, but in all actuality the faster you go (to a point,) the easier the hill feels. To read more about the how to conquer the hills in your mind, read more about it in this article on bicycling.com. My favorite word of advice came from the end of the article. It reads: “Don’t let your perception of terrain fool you. Pay attention to objective clues to your effort, like heart rate or pedal pressure.”
For a little more about hill workouts check out this post also on bicycling.com. This has helped me better my workouts and it could help you as well.