Cycle Oregon Training Tips: Hills

Love them or hate them, eventually hills are inevitable when you’re getting into distance rides, especially on a multi-day ride like Cycle Oregon. For those of you who absolutely hate rides, a little preparation – both mentally and physically – will go a long way.

Top 5 Tips for Conquering Hills

Are you a hill hater? Don’t worry, eventually hills get easier. You may never grow to love them, but hopefully you won’t dread them as much as you do now.

1. Don’t Dread the Hill

The more you build up the hill as this looming monstrosity you’re absolutely dreading, the worst it will be. When you set off for your ride, focus on having a great ride and enjoying the experiencing. Don’t even think about the hills. Give them little to no thought until you’re actually riding them. The mind is a powerful resource and re-directing your attention is an effective comping mechanism.

3. Slow and Steady

They say “slow and steady wins the race” but we’re not talking about races here. You’ve got nothing to prove to anyone other than yourself. Stop looking at the people who pass you by. Focus on yourself. Slow and steady is the way to climb. The more you can wrap your brain around your personal goal of conquering – and enjoying – the climb, the stronger a climber you will become.

This is all about you.

There will always be someone faster, so ignore them. Focusing on others zaps your energy, and you need all the energy you can get in order to be a strong hill climber.

3. Develop Your Core Strength

When you’re climbing, your body wants to lean back against something in order to thrust forward. Since bikes are designed without a back rest (except for the recumbents), you need to rely on the strength of your core to provide the pole your body can rest upon. Improve the strength and stability of your abs and lower back – you will definitely notice a difference in your hill climbing ability.

4. Check Your Hand Position

Getting your hands into a good climbing position can help you feel stable and strong as you climb. There are some schools of thought as to where your hands should be when climbing, but as long as you feel secure on the bars and your body is comfortable, you’re probably in a good position.

5. Relax

A tense body is not an efficient one; tension wastes energy. Relax as you climb. Pull your shoulders back and down, open your chest so you can take deep breaths and relax your arms. Rest your hands on the hoods in a safe and secure way, but without a clenched hand.

Don’t mash down on the pedals – smashing them won’t get you anywhere. Instead, focus on a complete pedal stroke that draws the pedal up. Use your hips and gluteus to add well rounded power the stroke and your quads for overall strength.

6. Distract Yourself

Everyone has a personal favorite here. Do you sing nursery rhymes? Hum your favorite tune? Listen to non-intrusive music? Think through a new idea? Think through a complex endeavor? Recite poetry? Occupying your mind can be a fantastic way to help the climbing time fly by in no time.

You might want to focus on your breathing, such as trying to match the duration of your inhale with your exhale. Again, make sure you’re taking full, complete breaths as much as you can.

What do you Do?

Are you a hill lover or hater? How do you get through hill climbs like the champ that you are? Share your ideas in the comments section below.

We’re running a series of Cycle Oregon Training Tips all season long. Sign up for the week-long or weekend ride today at

Read more tips on preparing for a multi-day ride here >>

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