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How to train for the hills of GA in a flat state like MI!

kjg's picture

Does anyone have any thoughts or experience on ways to train for hills (both up and down) when you live in a place without very many?

My particular areas of concern:

- Downhills - fear of out of control speeds and speed wobbles

- Up hills - lack of cardio strength and good hill climbing technique

Of course Tanglewood will help with this but I fear it may be too little, too late!

p.s. moving is unfortunately not an option!!!!!


skatey-mark's picture

interval training

Being an ex-Michigander, I can certainly attest to the lack of hills, especially compared to North Carolina...  But there are hills there, you just have to look for them.  There's even a ski "mountain" (I use the term quite liberally there) in Brighton...


There's no real substitute for hills, unfortunately...  Especially for developing your climbing technique.  So the best thing you can do is find a hill and just go up and down it.  Do that for an hour a week as one of your training sessions and you'll be fine.  The hill doesn't have to be particularly long for developing climbing skills.  But if you're concerned about long downhills and speed, you should try to find a hill where you can practice that too.  (Although that's less important in my opinion.)


Now, if you want the cardio training without the actual hill climbing, just do interval training.  There are tons of different ways to do it, but essentially you want to alternate very high intensity efforts with low intensity efforts.  I do my training on an outdoor asphalt track at a nearby school, but you can just as easily do it on the road or a trail.


I usually do a 4-lap (1 mile) interval, which takes a little over 3 minutes.  This is long by interval standards.  I skate leisurely for about 10 minutes between each interval.


Intervals can be as short as 30 seconds...  You obviously need less recovery time between intervals when they are shorter.  Hopefully you have a heart rate monitor already.  (If not, get one...)  You want to be 90-95% during your effort, and recover down to 70% (or less) between intervals.  The shorter the interval, the higher you want your heart rate.  So if you're doing a 30-second interval, you might shoot for 95-100% even.  For my 3-minute intervals, I'm in the low 90s because any more than that is not sustainable for 3 minutes.  (For me, anyway.)


A lot of the heart rate monitors can be put in "interval mode" where they'll beep when you should start & stop each interval...


Look around, though...  I'm sure you can find a suitable hill somewhere.  It just won't be a "hilly route" where you can skate multiple hills as part of a longer skate.  You'll just have to go up & down the same hill...


I'll also add that for my first A2A, I did zero hill training.  In fact, I trained on perhaps the flattest trail in my area.  (The American Tobacco Trail in Durham.)  It was only 3.2 miles long at the time (6.4 round trip), so I skated back & forth.  I worked up to about 57 miles (9 round trips) as my longest skate before A2A.  The hills in Georgia certainly weren't fun, but I managed.  Also, at the time I just fancied myself as a recreational skater and my only goal was to finish A2A, I was not trying to go fast.  In fact, I purposely kept my heart rate low when skating A2A to pace myself, since I knew if I stayed under 80%, I could pretty much skate all day long...


Now if your goal is to go fast at A2A, then you'll definitely want to do some hill training, otherwise you risk getting dropped from the paceline on every uphill (or having to work too hard to keep up.)  Also, if you plan on skating in a paceline at A2A, definitely find some people to practice that with too, so that you're comfortable with it.


 - SM -

eebee's picture

Parking Decks & Overpasses

During A2A one year I heard a Florida skater say her group would climb parking decks for hill practice. Of course this isn't any good for practicing how to bomb it downhill, or for preserving your wheels! Maybe there are some more pedestrian/biker/skater friendly overpasses or bridges you could find that'd also give you a run-out for practicing being in a tuck and getting your weight back on your heels to avoid speed-wobble.


In my experience I don't succeed in building the muscles I need to skate more easily up many steep hills unless I actually skate up many steep hills!


I remember in 2000 (A2A2K) being slide-tackled on the soccer field and ending up with a fractured bone & ankle sprain in August. This took me out of my A2A training of course. However, I believed I could handle the local US10K classic that Labor Day weekend - 6.2 miles of either 1/2 mile steep uphills, or 1/2 mile steep downhills (rinse & repeat for 6.2 miles). I thought my ankle swelling would have gone down by Labor Day, having gone through ankle sprains before, but I couldn't skate until the swelling went down. So what did I do? I pedaled like fury on my stationary bike, trying to simulate alternating steep uphills with long downhills in a tuck (I'd jump off the bike and get down into a tuck beside it! Must've looked crazy to any onlooker, but hey I was obsessed with still having a good race time for the 10k). I tried burning the blazes out of my quads to simulate the uphill quad burn, but in the end, I think the only thing it did was to keep my endurance up, and prevented total deterioration of my muscles. When race time came I found I did NOT have the leg muscles I needed to get up the hills like I could pre-injury.



skart's picture

Kim Perkins Article on Skating Down Hills on InlinePlanet.com

Note that there is a brand new article about going down hills on InlinePlanet.com written by Kim Perkins. The main idea - commit to a hill and just stay calm.

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