Ask ALP: How do I become a better climber?
Every week, Alison Powers and her fellow ALP Cycles coaches — Jennifer Sharp and Patricia Schwager —share their experience, stories and advice with Ella readers in a ‘Weekly Wisdom’ training tips column. Additionally, once a month, Alison will respond to your training, riding or racing questions sent to us via the website or social media.
Got a question for Alison and her team? Simply post your question in the comments below or send it to us on Twitter or Instagram using the hashtags #weeklywisdom or #askalp.
ANNE MARIJE ROOK
“Dear Alison, I want to do the Everesting challenge. How do I become a better climber?”
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.
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 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 one (or two) 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.
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. There’s no way around it. 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!
Your questions for Alison or any of the other ALP Cyles coaches don’t need to be limited to the topic at hand. Ask them anything! Post your question in the comments below or send it to us on Twitter or Instagram using the hashtags #weeklywisdom or #askalp.
ALP Cycles Coaching is a Boulder-based coaching company with three female coaches at the helm: Alison Powers, Jennifer Sharp and Patricia Schwager.
Each coach brings her own coaching strengths and personal experiences. Roading racing, track, endurance mountain biking, time trialling, making the leap to living and racing in Europe – they’ve got you covered. Find out more about Alison Powers and her Alp Cycles coaching company at here.