Cycling for fitness is necessarily different than cyclingas training for a race or another pursuit. A racer's approach is often very hardcore, with multiple days of hard riding every week and a lifestyle focused aroundthe bike. For those of us who hop on to lose calories and develop our bodies more generally, we don't need to take the same strict, high-levelapproach as these athletes. However, that doesn't mean we can't learn plenty about how to improve our workouts by observing and considering what racers do to improve. One of the things you'll often hear moreseriouscyclists talk (and complain) about is the hill repeat: going back up and down a hill repeatedly.
If you dread tackling hills during your ride and try to avoid them, the first thing you might ask is "Why?" It sounds awful, and in truth,it can definitelybe a challengingand demanding exercise. However, athletes wouldn't work it into their routine if there were no benefits to be gained from participation. So, what do you need to know about hill repeats? Why are they so importantto a cyclist's development, and should you consider trying them out too? Let's break these questions up and answer them piece by piece.
Why do cyclists put an emphasis onhill repeats?
There's nothing easyor particularly enjoyable about racing up a hill as hard as possible over and over again, so why do it? There are several key reasons to contemplate. First, it helps riders better understand the best way to use their power and their body positioning while going up a hill. For racers, this is an essentialskill as racecoursesmay feature a substantial number of climbing sections; the more experience you have, the less likely you are to be thrown off your game by a hilly section. Even for those who race on flat ground, hill repeats can be very beneficial. The high-level intensity of the training combined with the rest interval of your ride back downhill allows you to develop an explosive level of power.
That comes in handy when you need to close the distance during a sprint section, or when you need to make up lost time on your commute to work. By incorporating some hill repeats on a weekly basis, riders gain valuable stamina and experience that they can use on the race course to greateffect. Though it can be toughto stick with them after you start, it can prove to be a boon to your abilities.
The main benefits of doing a day of repeats
OK, so for pro cyclists it's all about keeping more power in reserve and understanding how to best navigate hills. What if you're just an average cyclist who doesn't intend to be riding in the Tour de France anytimesoon? Is it reallyworth the effort to seek out hills to train on every week? Yes! The fact of the matter is that you can make significantgains in your physical fitness by folding repeats into your schedule. Think of them as any other high-intensity interval training you might do, like a HIIT set in the weight room or on the treadmill.
If you cycle for fun frequently, having hill repeats under your belt can allow you to cruise farther by making most small hills no problem to surmount. Your improved climbing abilities can even make these smaller"bumps in the road" a fun part of your trip. The practice will also put you in a goodposition to start cycling more competitively in local races if you choose to do so at a later point. Overall, though, it is an excellent method for pushing your body past its usual limits to find new gains.
The drawbacks and issues repeatsbring with them
It's important to note that for all the potential benefits you can experience from doing repeats, there are some potential downsides to consider as well. Because this is a high-intensityexercise, it can be too much of a strain for some individuals, such as those who may have heart conditions. For those who must try to minimise the impact on their joints or their knees specifically, repeats can also create a much higher risk ofa potential injury. Since a proper repeat day requires numerous sets consisting of very vigorous climbs, those who feel they may hurt themselves should stay away from this particular exercise.
Doing repeats also requires access to suitable hills, which is not always an option for every rider. While many people travel to go cycling in more attractive locations, you may not wish to drive some distance just to reach an area with hills to tackle. In a similar vein, it is sometimes a challenge to find a hill you can work on without the dangers of consistent traffic. Therefore, some days working on repeats can be more frustrating than others. It's key to weigh the risks and these potential annoyances before you decide to pencil in a day for your first session.
Should you try repeats out for yourself?
First, ask yourself if you can benefit from howhill repeats improve your body. Do you want to be able to bust out a sudden burst of speed on flat ground, or to beat your friends to the top of every hill? Even if it's about making an errand run less physically demanding, you could find it's worth trying. Once you've decidedto start, the next step is to give it a try. Test the waters before you dive in head-first.
Scout out your area for suitable hills. They should be large and steep enough that it takes you a considerable amount of effort to make it to the top. Short inclines will not allow you to elevate your heart rate to a level appropriate for a longenough period. Once you've located a goodspot, hop on the saddle and give it a try. Your goal: cycle at least 90% of your maximum effort from the bottom of the hill all the way to the top. Don't stop! The goal is to force your body to work as hard as possible. As you fight against gravity, it won't take long to see where the challenge lies.
The basics of developing a repeat day
When you decideto commit to repeats after trying them out, it's time to work out how they go into your schedule. Due to the high level of energy consumption caused by repeats, don't schedule much other fitness activity on the same day. You should usually aim for three to four sessions of maximum effort riding, with each "rep" lasting about 10 minutes. Cycle to the top of the hill as hard as you can, gently but quickly coast back to the bottom, then repeat your way backup the hill. After ten minutes, take a rest to catch your breath and get ready for the next set. Another option: do two setsof six minutes each but alternate your riding position between sitting and standing to mix up the difficulty. If you're not already a hardcore cyclist, this option is a better way to start. You can then work up to longersets as you become accustomed to the intensity. Once you finish your sets, towel off and head home for the day!
Master hills and makethem a regular part of your routine
If you live in a very flat area that doesn't offer many hills, you'll have to look for other ways to develop stamina and to train for tackling inclines. For others, though, hill repeats can offer you a new way to look at those points around your route that you typically dread as you start out for the day. While not everyone will experience the same level of benefits from working on hills, it's generallyan excellentway to boost your endurance and learn about the different ways to approach cycling up (and down) a hill. At the end of a toughday of repeats, you might feel exhausted — but it should come with a real sense of accomplishment, too! Consider trying it once and judge for yourself whether it is a good fit for your fitness regimen.
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