Carmichael Training Systems and BICYCLING.
This climbing regimen, from Carmichael Training Systems coach Andy
Applegate, will put so much power into your pedals, your buddies will
swear they see wings as you leave them in your wake:
Strap on your heart rate monitor
and sit on your sofa. Check your heart rate. Now clench your fists and
grit your teeth. Bet your heart rate jumps a few beats. When you're
climbing a long hill, you want to direct all your energy to your legs,
not your face. To stay relaxed, Applegate swears by "Qigong climbing"--a
kind of moving meditation. As you approach the climb, think light
thoughts--clouds, birds, angels. While climbing, progressively relax
your body from the top down, starting with your eyes, then your mouth,
jaw, shoulders, chest, back, arms and hands. "You want your upper body
so still that if someone were to watch you from the waist up, they
wouldn't be able to tell if you were climbing or casually riding along,"
says Applegate. Also, stay light on the pedals and keep your legs
moving rhythmically. The goal is to erase every ounce of unnecessary
tension. "You'll feel better, ride smoother and have more energy to keep
riding strong after you've crested the climb," says Applegate.
Find Your Power Position
To pull maximum air into your lungs, keep your back straight and your
chest open. Position your hands on the brake hoods and relax your arms
so your elbows sit wider than your hips. If you're short, slide back on
the saddle to generate more force through the top of the pedal stroke
and to encourage your heel to drop through the bottom of the stroke. If
you're tall, slide forward, positioning your hips so they come close to
lining up with the bottom bracket to generate maximum muscle force.
When you have to stand, click into the next larger gear and stand
when one foot reaches the top of the pedal stroke (2 o'clock) to
minimize momentum loss. "Avoid leaning forward as you stand, which
tosses the bike backward in reaction," advises Applegate. "Stand with
your butt over the saddle and keep your weight centered over the bottom
bracket." You should feel like you're running on the pedals, allowing
the bike to rock gently, but not excessively, from side to side.
Raise Your LT
"The cornerstone of climbing fitness is being able to generate high
speed and power at lactate threshold," says Applegate. To improve yours,
slip in LT (or steady state) intervals at least once, and no more than
twice, a week. After a good warm-up, ride 10 minutes at a steady effort,
keeping your heart rate about three beats below your LT heart rate
(just below your average heart rate for a 30-60-minute time trial, or an
effort of seven to eight on a scale of one to 10). Recover for 10
minutes. Then repeat two more times. Work up to two 20-minute intervals
with 20 minutes recovery, then just one 30-minute interval.
Practice To Perfection
You'll get better just by choosing a hilly route at least once or
twice a week. Add these drills (one per climbing-designated day) and
you'll improve even faster.
Uphill Sprint 20s: Find a hill that takes 10
to 15 minutes to climb. Start climbing at your lactate threshold. After
two minutes, stand up and attack at just below all-out sprint intensity
(nine-plus on a one-to-10 scale) for 20 pedal strokes. Sit and go right
back to climbing at your LT. Repeat every one to two minutes (depending
on your fitness) all the way up the hill. Perform the drill one to two
Rock the Rollers: To keep going strong through rolling terrain,
practice two-minute attacks. Find a short climb or series of climbs that
takes about two minutes to crest. Wind up before you hit the climb so
you're at LT as soon as the hill starts. Climb at LT for 90 seconds;
then go as fast as you can for the final 30 seconds all the way to the
top. Repeat four to six times.
Peak Force Intervals
Climbing in big gears strengthens your legs to put more power in
every pedal stroke. By improving your peak pedal force, you help your
legs stave off fatigue during long climbs, when you're typically using a
smaller gear. To build your pedal force, find a long, gradual hill and
start climbing as you normally would. After a minute or two, click into a
harder gear and slow your cadence to about 50 to 60 rpm. Maintain a
smooth pedal stroke and a low heart rate. Climb this way for one to two
minutes. Then shift back into an easier gear and recover for five to 10
minutes. Repeat to the top of the climb.
Other advice: be tiny, shrink if you need to, and lightweight like Domenico Pozzovivo, winner of the 2012 Giro del Trentino (center, below).
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