Smutty Fitness: Stronger on the bike
I have been following this blog for years and you since the beginning. I was so stoked a couple years ago when you got into mountain biking and now skate skiing, two of my faves. The question I have for you is around speed in climbing on a bike and running. I will toot my own downhill horn and say between the up and the down I am way stronger on the down. I ride three to five days a week from a short 8km ride up to around hopefully one 17km ride on the weekend if time persists. Also, in that mix I usually trail run twice a week around 7-10kms with a pretty good elevation gain.
BUT... I am not the fastest peddler on my bike or the fastest runner (not as worried about running). I have been biking for years and in the last eight living in the Okanagan do a lot of XC but I don't get any faster climbing. What will get me there? Just going up a gear and sucking it up or? (Also, my husband just bought a 29'er which means I am totally doomed.) Kind of a joke but I sure would like to be a bit quicker.
Would the gym benefit me (I am sure it would)?
This isn't for racing purposes... this is so I can keep up with my pack.
Thanks in advance and TGIF!
The only way to get faster at climbing hills is to go climb hills. It is that simple really. Your fitness combined with the total weight that you are pushing up the hill (power to weight ratio) will determine how fast you can get from the bottom of the road to the top of the mountain.
I am going to take a guess that you are already a strong rider and that you have made leaps and bounds in your biking fitness since the first day you sat on your bike saddle. The problem, however, is that the more fit we become the harder we have to work to keep getting fit and the gains we see in our fitness become less and less. In other words, we work harder for smaller improvements. Not all that motivating, is it?
If you were a serious biking competitor and trying to place in races, you would have to 100% focus on your diet. An elite cyclist attempts to keep their weight to no more than 2 pounds of body weight for every inch of height. For example, I am 70 inches tall which makes my ideal weight 140 pounds. The reality is that at my fittest I weigh 158 pounds. This is how pros can ride up hills so fast: super light bodies and even lighter bikes.
The good news is you are not racing, you are just trying to keep up, which means you do not have to worry about turning your body into that kind of machine. What you need to do is find a hill that will take you about an hour to an hour and a half to climb, either on a road bike or a mountain bike. Climb that hill once a week, at a pace where your heart rate stays in its aerobic zone. As your fitness improves you can start to add short intervals into the climb, such as 1 – 3 minute speed bursts every 5 or 10 minutes. If you have time to add in another ride, find a route where there are quite a few short, steep hills and where you push as hard as you can to the top. Remember, work hard when it is hard and rest hard when it is easy.
As for hitting the gym, it is too late right now. Unfortunately strength training makes you slower, so it is something that needs to be done during the off season. In the winter months I suggest you hit the gym 2-3 days a week and focus on lower body exercises such as squats, deadlift, high step ups and lunges. After about 6-8 weeks start adding more powerful movements such as plyometrics, which will help convert your strength to speed and power. If you can supplement those workouts with one indoor spin class and/or a cross country ski workout you should find yourself flying up the hills next year.
This same information can be applied to running and the only way to run faster is to start running faster. Short hill repeats, long hilly runs, slow hikes and track intervals are all part of a complete running program as well as similar strength exercises in the off season.
For now, do what you can to hang on to the pack and see if you can find one or two more gears inside of you to push yourself to the next level. You may shock yourself at how fit you might become by the time the snow starts to fall.
I am always here to help – please keep sending your smutty fitness questions to me here.
Attached - Reese Witherspoon leaving the gym the other day in LA.