Climbing hills is more than just the strength in your legs. With the right strategy, climbing hills can be a welcomed challenge.
Prepare yourself: You can see the road rising ahead of you before you reach the increasing incline, take a second to ready yourself. Take a drink, relax your body, and even check your pace. If you’re anxious going into the climb, you’ll only feel worse during the climb.
Downshift: Select an easier gear that allows you to keep a good cadence, meaning you can keep the pedals turning at a decent rhythm without pushing too hard. Once the chain is under significant tension, it becomes more difficult to shift.
Conserve your energy: Always keep breathing. Steady, deep breaths are best. If you start to tire of pushing down on the pedals, concentrate on pulling up. Try not to use up all your energy on the way to the top but if you feel good as you near it, give it the extra push. Challenging yourself, but with proper form, will help you improve your hill climbing abilities.
Play mind games: Climbing is just as much mental as it is physical. Experiment with different ways to distract yourself from what’s going on in your legs and lungs. Sing (to yourself is probably best), come up with jokes, test yourself on trivia, whatever you can do to forget your climbing.
Move around: Try different positions while climbing. Alternate standing and sitting so you can use slightly different muscle groups. If you’ve moved into your easiest gear and find you can no longer spin freely, move your hands to the “hoods” or tops of your handlebars and use them to leverage more strength to push down to your pedals.
Get excited: As you near the top, give yourself a proverbial pat on the back. Take a second to breathe, enjoy the scenery, and prepare yourself to enjoy the reward of the climb – the descent.
It’s always ok to go at your own pace. Your friends may be waiting at the top but that’s not your problem. Your riding buddies will understand, everyone has been where you are.
If you’re feeling like you can’t go any further, you can always get off and walk. Everyone has done it and no one will think any worse of you for taking a walk.
The best thing is that you’re out, you’re riding, and you’re (hopefully) having a good time – hills and all.