How to train for hills when you live in the flatlands?

Discussion in 'Cycling Training' started by txags92, Oct 12, 2005.

  1. txags92

    txags92 New Member

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    I just started cycling in May of this year with the idea of riding in an MS 150 ride. I spent most of my time just building a base and getting to the point where I could do the miles necessary to complete the ride. We did go up a few times and do some relatively short rides in hilly terrain (typically about 25 miles) but most everything else was 30-50 mile weekend rides on level roads and 15-20 mile weekday rides, again on level roads. I recently completed the MS 150 ride and one of the things that was really obvious to me during the ride was that my ability to deal with hills needs lots of improvement. I was able to stay with pace lines around me at 15-17mph easily when it was flat, but as soon as we started up any hill, I got dropped like a bad habit. The easy solution is to say "go ride more hills", which I would love to do. However, I live on the west side of Houston, and the nearest "hills" are at least an hour or two's drive away. So within the confines of flat roads, a gym, and possibly with a soon-to-be aquired trainer (probably fluid), what can I do to increase my climbing power and aerobic capacity? Also, I have dropped from 265lbs to about 235lbs since the beginning of the year with an eventual goal of about 190lbs. I know being lighter will make a big difference in my climbing, but is building my climbing power compatible with trying to continue losing weight? With the upcoming time change, I will only realistically have time to do road riding on weekends, and the rest of my time will have to be either in the gym or on a trainer. I do have access to spin bikes at the gym outside of actual spinning classes as well.

    So what should I be doing to try to improve my climbing and lose weight at the same time? I will be doing some smaller one-day group rides this fall and early next spring, but my target is to be in much better climbing shape by next April or so and to be at or very near my goal of 190lbs by August or September. I want slow steady weight loss, because I know that that is what will be more likely to be sustainable for me in the long run. Thanks in advance for any advice you can give.
     
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  2. RapDaddyo

    RapDaddyo Active Member

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    Some will argue that being able to climb well is about technique, but I disagree. I think it's about power. Riding on the flat, especially in a paceline, just doesn't take much power. For example, you can ride all day at 15-17mph in a paceline with ~150w of power. But, when you climb you lose all advantage of drafting (unless the grade is very slight) and you have to rely on pure power. Granted, you can climb with 150w of power, but very, very slowly. If you had more sustainable power, you would be able to climb well even if you did all your riding on frozen lakes in MN in the winter (i.e., flat as a board). The second big difference with climbing is that the intensity is constant. When you ride on the flat, especially in a paceline, you'd be amazed to see how much of the time you are resting (i.e., power = zero). When you climb, if you rest the bike stops and you fall off. So, there's no resting on climbs. The bottom line is that you need to do two things: (1) increase your power, at least for climbs of the duration you will encounter on your ride and (2) practice riding at a constant intensity for the entire duration of the climbs you will encounter on your ride. The final point is about gearing. Some will argue that you need to learn to climb with the gears the pros use. Even the term, "Granny Gears," reinforces this attitude. That approach will put you in larger gears and lower cadences than you would self-select. I don't buy that logic. I would gear my bike to be able to ride my preferred cadence (e.g., 90-100) regardless of what people call my gears. They can call them "girlie-man gears" for all I care. We can discuss it at the top of the hill where I'll be patiently waiting for them to grind their way up the hill in their "manly-man gears." You can do all of this on the flat by following the training regimens for increasing LT and VO2MAX. You can work out your gearing by finding out the grades of your ride and working out your bike speed at AnalyticCycling.com. I have a 34/29 on my bike, and I do a lot of climbing, so that'll give you some idea of what I think one needs at the low end for climbing.
     
  3. Doctor Morbius

    Doctor Morbius New Member

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    Cliff's Notes version ...

    Increase sustainable power. Reduce bodyweight.
     
  4. txags92

    txags92 New Member

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    Ok, I appreciate the detail in Rapdaddyo's response, but while both of the suggestions quoted above are great ideas, they both seem to simply repeat what I already said my goals were...Can you give me any more detail on what I should be doing as a "training regimen for increasing LT and VO2max" or some suggestions on how to best go about "increasing sustainable power and reducing bodyweight"? And yes, I know the easy answer is to "go climb hills", but as I explained, I have no hills nearby and am likely to be doing alot of indoor riding and gym time soon. Any ideas?
     
  5. jhuskey

    jhuskey Moderator

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    If you have no hill available I would suggest using a trainer on high resistance to help increase your climbing power.

    Or move where I live.
     
  6. RapDaddyo

    RapDaddyo Active Member

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    Did you actually read my response? You asked, "what can I do to increase my climbing power and aerobic capacity?" I said, in effect, "to increase your sustainable power is to increase your climbing power and you don't need hills to increase your sustainable power." I said a lot more than that, but I'm not going to repeat it. Every training regimen has recommended training rides targeting LT and VO2MAX, but if you don't have one you prefer, try this http://www.peakscoachinggroup.com/powertrainingchapter.pdf. It's got all the training advice you should need, targeting all the training goals. I would think you would be most interested in L4 and L5.
     
  7. Doctor Morbius

    Doctor Morbius New Member

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    Then you're on the right track.

    LT: 2 x 20 min intervals
    VO2: 5 x 4 min intervals
     
  8. dhk

    dhk New Member

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    The short answer is that there is no single answer: what you're asking for is the "holy grail" that we all seek. I've read at least six training books, and numerous articles looking for the same answers, and I've just been scratching the surface. No one here can give a training prescription without tons of background information and data on you as an individual. If you don't like the "DIY" approach, you could send you specifics to a coaching service, or hire a local coach to work with.

    Reducing bodyweight is the obvious and effective way to improve power to weight ratio for most of us...it's just not fun. If you drop 5% bodyweight, you climb steep hills 5% faster with the same effort. It's almost magic.

    Basic concept for improving power is that you need to start riding at higher output levels for some % of your weekly training. EG, you could do 2 x 20 minutes one day a week, at LT power (maybe 85% of max HR), and another day a week at VO2 max levels, essentially all out, for shorter periods, like 3-5 mins. As always, how hard, how long, and how often are the key variables that everyone has to figure out to make optimum progress. Hard training requires real recovery, and too much is worse than not enough.

    Or, you could just forget all the structured stuff, and ride hard when you feel like it. Sprints for road signs, or extended pulls for your buddies is a great way to do it.
     
  9. John Budnik

    John Budnik New Member

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    Okay, let me weight in here....

    1) Lose weight, it's by far, the fastest way to improve your climbing.
    2) Make windy days your virtual hill day. I can't remember if I read it in one of Chris Carmichael's books or in the USA Cycling Coaching manual, but they noted how elite cyclist (coincidentally) from Texas ride into the wind to simulate hill climbing.
    3) Here I would say work on technique by following and emulating good hill climbers but since you don't have any hills, skip this one.

    By the way, when I would vacation in Florida which is really flat, I would see cyclists using overpasses and bridges for their hill workouts. I'm not sure how that worked out for them but it's a thought.
     
  10. dhk

    dhk New Member

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    RD and Doc, sorry I didn't see your responses while I was compiling my own tome.

    Doc, that "standard prescription" you gave is similar to my example. Believe you'd agree it's an example point on a training program which needs to be tailored to the individual, based on fitness levels, age, goals, etc. If this question had one simple answer for everyone, coaches wouldn't have much business!



    RD, liked your point on the gearing
     
  11. RapDaddyo

    RapDaddyo Active Member

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    And, for another creative idea http://www.cyclingforums.com/showpost.php?p=2026295&postcount=46
     
  12. Doctor Morbius

    Doctor Morbius New Member

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    Yes, I agree completely. Holy Grail indeed! If only....



    ... and now for something completely different! :D
     
  13. txags92

    txags92 New Member

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    I am sorry if my reply asking for more info came across the wrong way. I wasn't in any way taking exception to what had been suggested, just asking for a little more detail. I really appreciate the links and suggestions. And yes, I did read what you had said Rapdaddyo, and much of it is what I have already been doing in my climbing gearing and such, but what I was really looking for was more along the lines of what kind of training regimes people here have used or know of that can work on sustainable power in the absence of hills. It looks like the link you provided will have alot of that info, although I will have to wait until I get home to view it since my work firewall blocks the site.

    Thanks again!
     
  14. RapDaddyo

    RapDaddyo Active Member

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    No problem. What threw me off was your repeated references to "climbing power," in both the title of your thread and your original post. I was trying to help you understand that if you have more sustainable power you will also have more climbing power and that sustainable power can be increased with or without the availability of hills. In effect, I was trying to get you to understand that your stated training goal was wrong -- you don't need to increase your climbing power, you need to increase your sustainable power. Every reputable training program (of which the link I attached is just one) addresses the training goal of increasing sustainable power. And, if you're not overgeared for hills, you are in the minority among new riders. Most new riders are overgeared for hills.
     
  15. frenchyge

    frenchyge New Member

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    I read about 1 elite cyclist from Texas who moved to Spain (via France) to get his hill-climbs. I guess the wind didn't blow hard enough for him. :D
     
  16. txags92

    txags92 New Member

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    Well, its about a 3 hour drive one way for me to get to the part of Texas where that elite cyclist trains. There are hills in Austin and San Antonio...but none to speak of in Houston unless you count parking garages and overpasses.
     
  17. John Budnik

    John Budnik New Member

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    You mean it's that much windier in Spain? :D
     
  18. txags92

    txags92 New Member

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    Yeah...something about the food they serve...
     
  19. Doctor Morbius

    Doctor Morbius New Member

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    That's a real gas! :eek: :eek:
     
  20. frenchyge

    frenchyge New Member

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    I thought it was because France sucks.... :D Sorry. :eek: :(
     
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