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Hill Climbing Repeats Develop Power

Athletes have been doing variations of this workout for decades, and in recent years technology has made it easier to quantify the effectiveness of the efforts. Whether you are training with a heart rate monitor or by perceived exertion, it is important to complete these prolonged climbing intervals at the correct intensity. It makes sense that to get faster and stronger on climbs you need to spend more time climbing hills, right?

Note – Although the following write-up details formalised Hill Repeats, the same principals can be used on less formalised training – i.e. Fartlek – where the hill repeats can be done during a normal, hilly, club ride.

There are a lot of ways you can climb a hill. You can take it relatively easy and stay at an aerobic pace. You can use a big gear and low cadence to achieve a muscular endurance workout, or you can ride a more moderate gear at your maximum sustainable intensity to develop your climbing power at lactate threshold. These Climbing Repeats are designed to develop greater climbing power at lactate threshold.

You can get a reasonable approximation of the correct intensity by monitoring your breathing and rate of perceived exertion. When doing a Climbing Repeat interval correctly your breathing will be deep but laboured. If you transition to uncontrollable panting you are going too hard. On a scale of 1-10 where 10 is a maximal effort, a Climbing Repeat should be about an 8-9. It should feel hard, but not like a full-on time trial effort.

The Purpose of Climbing Repeats

Like any lactate threshold workout, the key to Climbing Repeats is accumulating time at intensity. If you do 3×8 minute Climbing Repeats you’re accumulating 24 minutes at CR intensity. You could also achieve those 24 minutes by doing 4x6minute intervals or 2x12minute intervals. Generally, less experienced and less fit athletes should start with more, shorter intervals (4x6minutes) so that each interval can be completed at higher quality. As you get stronger – and as the training plans progress – the individual intervals typically get longer even if the total time at intensity stays the same. Recovery between intervals is the time it takes to get your breathing back to normal.
“Time-at-intensity” is important over the course of a week as well. You could do two or even three of these workouts in a single week. It’s not the single climbing effort that leads to improvement, but the cumulative impact of several efforts. But the payoff is definitely worth the small investment in time. Especially useful for those with limited time available for training.

Climbing Repeats (CR)

This workout should be performed on a road with a steady climb. The intensity is around your lactate threshold power. It is critical that you maintain this intensity for the length of the CR.
Pedal cadence for CR intervals while climbing can vary between 70 to 95 rpm. A lower cadence enhances leg strength, but higher cadences are generally more effective to improve endurance for longer climbs. However for CR repeats, maintaining the training intensity is the most important factor, not pedal cadence. Try and avoid interruptions while doing these intervals. Recovery time between intervals is typically about half the length of the interval itself.

Here’s a Workout to Start – 56 Minutes Total Ride time:

A 10 minute warm up – Interval Sets of 4×6 minute Climbing Repeats on a moderate hill with 3 minute easy between efforts – 10 minute cool down. You can for example ride up for the intensity and back down for the easy bit. And repeat if you do not have a suitable long hill.  A very effective workout in less than an hour! And great preparation for those who are joining Denise for the Anerley Away Days in the hills and mountains of Snowdonia this summer. Or for those who will be entering our local, hilly sportives.