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Hill Training on Flat Terrain

Ask a Pro — Diane Stibbard
– Coach, Personal Trainer, and Two-Time Canadian Duathlete of the Year

Diane Stibbard - two-time dualthlete of the yearQ: I’m very into road cycling and I live in Manitoba (the prairies). I am planning to race in different parts of Canada this summer and I was wondering how I can get better at climbing for these races when there are very few hills where I live and train. To get to a good hill that is climbable takes a good 2 or 3 hour drive for me, so I was hoping you would have some good tips. – Alex

A: To be able to ride hillier terrains a cyclist needs strong, powerful legs. If you don’t have access to hilly areas there are a few workouts you can do to develop leg power that will help you out.

Workout #1  After a warm up for 15 – 20 minutes, adjust the bike into the big chain ring and towards the end of gear range at the back.  Remain in the saddle, and ride at a moderate to hard pace for 2 minutes – at a cadence of 5- 60 rpm’s.  Then adjust to the small chain ring and easy gear and spin for 2 minutes to flush the legs, repeat the sequence 4-5 times.  Finish with 15 minutes easy spinning to cool down.

Workout # 2  After a warm up of 15 – 20 minutes, put the bike into the big chain ring, and mid-way down at the back, stand up and drive hard on the pedals for  a few seconds to get up to speed, then sit down and maintain this gear for 30 seconds, riding as hard as you can. Then adjust to the small chain ring, and spin easy for 1 minute.  Repeat this sequence 10 times.  Finish with 15 minutes easy spinning to cool down.

In addition to on these “on the bike” workouts, I suggest basic strengthening exercises you can do twice per week.  The muscles you should look at strengthening are the glutes (butt) and the hamstrings. For these areas a lunge would work perfectly, as you do not need a gym or fancy equipment in order to perform them.

Lunges: Stand with one foot forward and one foot back making sure the knee when bent, forms a 90 degree angle. Then standing tall, lower your body up and down, bending down to where the knee forms the 90 degree angle. Perform 2 sets of 10 repetitions each leg, twice per week.

This in addition to some “on bike” power workouts, will build strength to power you up and over the hills.  But remember, there really is no “full substitute” for hill climbing, other than actually climbing. However, these workouts and strength exercises will help.

Have a safe and fun ride.

If you have a question you’d like Diane to answer please email it to [email protected] Diane Stibbard Ask a Pro

As a world-class duathlete, Diane Stibbard brings a rare combination of expertise, motivation and knowledge to her coaching. She knows that the driving force to reach any goal comes from a deep desire within. As a trainer, she has a unique ability to help individuals embrace this desire to achieve their athletic potential.

Diane provides training programs for recreational and competitive cyclists, duathletes and triathletes, including nutritional counseling and personal training.

You want personal training but don’t live near Diane? No problem. Diane does email and telephone consultations. To learn more, contact Diane at [email protected] or at LinkedIn.

Training for a two-day cycling event


Check out Diane’s new e-program, Training For a Two-Day Charity Event For the Time-Starved Cyclist.



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