Yes Virginia, you too can climb

By: Heather Nielson

In keeping with the holiday theme, I decided to use ‘Virginia’ as the heroine of my story. Just like believing you can climb can be as difficult as believing in a ‘Santa Clause’, I want to help you believe in yourself for 2016.

Climbing is one of those skills that a lot of cyclists feel is a weakness, don’t feel quite good enough at or down right dread the thought anytime the grade goes up anymore than a few percentage points. I get it because I used to be a terrible climber. Now, anything over 10 minutes and my diesel engine kicks in and I can climb for miles on the ‘rivet’. It took several years of miles, working with several coaches and just plain climbing a lot to become proficient at it.

In a way, it is that simple. If you want to be a better climber, climb. If you want to be a better time trialist, get on your TT bike. If you want to be a better sprinter, sprint more and throughout the whole year. You know as well as I do however, that two people could work on the same skill, say sprinting, for the same amount of time and one may in fact become a faster sprinter than the other. If we make the assumption that both cyclists worked on their sprint using the exact same training protocol then a lot of the difference could theoretically be attributed to genetics. You also know as well as I do that no two people are exactly the same. So, change the training protocol for the ‘weaker’ sprinter to be more specific to their strengths and weaknesses and, why wouldn’t they improve?

To start off with, all goals start with the mental game. If you tell yourself you can’t do something, well, you’re right. If you start this year off with a positive, reinforcing goal like ‘I am going to become a better climber’ then not only is that setting you up for success but it also opens the door up for defining what ‘better’ is for you.

Second, take the positive mental mantra with you on your next ride and as you see that climb approaching in the distance, instead of instantly believing you are ‘slow’, start thinking more positive. How is that not going to help?

Now that you’ve gotten over your fear and loathing of climbs, and have put in some miles that include all sorts of climbs, you can start to break down the pieces of the puzzle for you. Start asking questions and never stop. What kind of climbs do I like? Why? What kind of climbs do I not like? Why? Do I lack muscular endurance to turn over a big gear at lower RPM’s? What can I do on and off the bike to help with that? Do I lack fitness to ride on the ‘rivet’ for that long? What kind of intervals should I be doing and how often to improve that energy system? Do I have proper form in and out of the saddle? What can I do to improve my form so I waste less energy climbing? I could go on and on but I think this is a great start.

Surrounding yourself with the right resources, coaches, information and tools to help you reach your goal is also vital to your success. Cycle University specializes in coaching all levels of athletes whether in a class setting, one-on-one or through our specialized Hill Climbing bootcamps we conduct every spring.

Whatever you decide to use to help you reach your goals, just remember that believing you can climb is always the first step…..er pedal stroke to reaching the top of that mountain.

One thought on “Yes Virginia, you too can climb

  1. David Malcolm

    changing up when out of the saddle.

    I have always changed up one, or two, or even three gears when i get out of the saddle during a long climb. However, on a recent week in the Italian Dolomites (and a LOT of climbing) I noticed that the guides (mostly Spanish) did not change gear at all when out of the saddle. Is this normal? Which do you recommend?


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