A little about climbing. A little about learning.

As I rolled up to take my first look at last weekend’s cyclocross course on Ski Hill in Leavenworth, my long-time ride buddy (who’s always positive in nature) said to me: “it’s evil”. 


A demanding climbing course is a great opportunity to gain feedback about our fitness and skills sets, and feedback is precious! Use that information to guide what you focus on next in your training. Some of these elements take time and persistence to see gains, others you can see a change with a single, focused practice session. Where do you want to focus your energy this week?


Find your sweet spot gearing.

Spinning out and getting bogged down both take a toll—one zaps momentum, the other zaps energy. Use momentum to your advantage by finding the sweet spot in your gearing. This takes practice in anticipation.  

Build your tolerance for sustained discomfort.

Courses like Ski Hill that keep our heart rate pinned for much of the race can sometimes make us question our weekend recreation choices (as my father put it: why don’t you just go lie down in the freeway?).

Going long is the foundation-builder for developing sustained aerobic fitness, but progressing to hard intervals is necessary to continue developing both physical and mental comfort in this area. Add volume or decrease rest as you progress through the weeks. And take care not to over-cook yourself—take a week off when you need it (and you will).  


Eliminate stall points.

Steep grades require immense amounts of power. If you find yourself getting stalled out over short, steep climbs, you need time in the weight room or bike workouts to emphasize max power.  Quality—not volume—is the key for power development workouts.  

Perfect your climbing position.

In the saddle or out?  Back of the saddle or perched on the nose?

Experiment in practice to find your style of riding. Personal style will depend on height, body weight, bike geometry, and predominant muscle fiber type (are you naturally a sustained aerobic rider or a power rider?). 

Be willing to experiment—and even fail. That’s how we learn!


See the line.

The worn line is not always the best line. Through mindful practice, train your brain to question the path most traveled (a good lesson for life, too).

We all learn best when we narrow our focus. Pick one thing to work on in your next practice session, then give that area intentional, deliberate practice time. Once you see or feel the improvement, go home and cheers to that positive change! Always take time to celebrate small wins—that’s what keeps us motivated in the long haul.