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Inline Skating Hill-Training Progression

eebee's picture

To follow up on my previous post, earlier in the summer, after I had started my hill training for T2T and A2A (Tour de Kale and Tour de Lions too, for that matter!), here are my conclusions about how I should expect my hill training to progress, based on training, performance and perception this year.


In years past I just sort of 'got on with it' and went out skating a vague array of courses, if and when I felt like it, and magically, I'd somehow be able to complete a hilly course, such as T2T or A2A. As far as conscious remarks go, I merely noticed that in the beginning of the season I couldn't really get up the hills that well, and towards the end I was able to get up them somehow, and for many hours. However, I could never say any of them were easier than before, regarding technique (+ therefore boot pain), muscles or heart rate. 


This year I wanted to see if there was anything I could actually monitor and do consistently, and I wanted to note my progress, if any. Since learning to inline skate on the roads and train for my first A2A back in 1999, I have never had a clear idea of what separates the men/women from the boys/girls, regarding long-distance hill climbing. Any thoughts that the best hill climbers and race winners must eat 50 miles of hills for breakfast were dispelled when I saw the indoor speed teams blow away the field on the US10K Classic rollercoaster-like course (I know it's 'only a 10k'). Were these speedskaters in such awesome shape leg-muscle and cardio-wise that they could just go outside and repeat what they do indoors up a steep hill without needing to modify their technique even slightly?!


I had heard one fast outdoor skater promise that once you get strong enough to skate up a hill with relative ease or speed, then you would be able to climb it with what looks like a normal classic stroke (or double push, if that's your thing). It has been about five years...but now I believe I have finally experienced that sensation, and what an invigorating sensation it is!


I mean, really, I had opened myself up to tips such as "point your set-down skate directly uphill, not duck-footed", and not only fallen many times, but come to a complete stop. It is not possible for me to propel myself up a steep hill with my set-down skate pointing directly up it, if I do not have any momentum. Where does the momentum come from? Strong leg muscles and killer stamina, of course. Where do strong leg muscles and killer stamina come from? Skating hilly courses..."There's a hole in my bucket, dear Liza, dear Liza..."


I guess if you like gyms you could bust your quads and glutes pretty hard to give yourself a kickstart on uphill momentum, and if you skate a flat course or do intervals you can build up your cardio pretty quickly too. Oh and if you can skate a little lower now, each time you skate flatland, without ruining your knee joints, that'll work too.


My hill-climbing training progression remarks: 

Feb - March = Skate slightly undulating course, building up stamina/cardio. Do light interval training (nothing extreme). Small inclines will still cause crappy strokes.

April - May = As well as keeping the shallower course for easy days, launch into steep uphills twice during week and once on weekend, waddling like a duck the whole way. At this point you will notice on the slightly undulating course that you won't need to alter your stroke much from flatland- to hilly-stroke to get up the shallower hills.

June/July/Aug/Sept = You will notice your stroke stays the same (just needs more effort) at the bottoms of hills and at the tops of hills as they level off. The steep, no-momentum part in between will still be a hopeless scramble, however.

So basically the ungainly, painful and clumsy part of climbing a hill on skates becomes increasingly smaller, the further into your hill training you get. But in the past if I made this progress, I didn't complement it with improvement in technique until this year. This to me is the icing on the cake.

So next year...perhaps I can progress to a steady stroke all the way up a moderately steep hill, and at that point, I'd like to think I can control my heart rate a bit better. I have found it futile to try it the other way around.


roadskater's picture

Good Hill Climbing Review

Hey, eebee. Good info there. I can vouch that you are less worried over climbing hills and enjoy them more than in past years! Our long distance training may be a bit less this year but the hill training is good, especially yours. Do you have any count of how many sessions of hill work this includes and a summary of what those were like? I know you started out doing relatively short loops on a very hilly circle at Tribble Mill (wish I could have been there) and opted later for a larger loop. I think people pondering this may wonder how many sessions it has taken to get where you are. Also, what is your longest uphill you regularly do in terms of distance or time? Any idea of how much work it took for you to see results might be encouraging to others. Thanks for documenting what you have done, and as much detail as you'd like to offer is welcome here.
eebee's picture

Horrible Training Hills Equal Fair Roadskate Performance!

Yeah I guess I was really vague, with no stats to back any of it up!

Starting in May I aimed to skate twice (1 hr each) on a flattish course (sorta like Piedmont Park type flat) and twice at Tribble Mill Park (check the elevation profile box) twice (1 hr each) during weekday evenings. However, I was either too busy or too tired to accomplish this. If I had pushed the issue, I probably would've either burned out or gotten sick! Looking back at my journal, I accomplished on average once a week flattish park and once a week Tribble Mill hills, plus a training ride roadskate (30 - 40 miles) on the weekends.


The longest, most murderous and migraine-inducing hill I practiced on once or twice a week was at Tribble Mill Park, and it was sandwiched in a route of up & downhills about half the length, but just as steep. This hill is about 1/2 mile long, and according to mapmyride, about a 200 ft climb. Depending on how I felt, I'd try to get up that hill twice or three times in an hour, with 'resting' by taking the more leisurely trail through the woods for about 10 mins. I think I only made it up that hill on average one in five times without stopping. I could've done it all at once all 5 times but it hurt and it was only training so I pulled over to the side for a minute. Since I was skating alone there was no competition or ego involved, and no other cyclist or runner at the park was ever nuts enough to ever go up it with me. I have no idea how many minutes it takes me to climb that hill, probably a good five. It takes me about 20 mins to do a 2.75 mile loop of these hills, which is pretty slow. However, sucking really badly on these training hills, on my own, midweek, translates to being able to keep a 12-13 mph pace on a moderately hilly roadskate for 3-4 hours on the weekends in a paceline (or just with Blake). This might not seem like much to most of you, but to me it's a heck of an improvement over last year's 9 or 10 mph.


This whole training schedule, light as it is, has lasted about 22 weeks so far this year. But it's like Snellville juggler Dan Thurmon says: if juggling 4 pins is too hard, try juggling 5 pins, then when you go back to 4, it'll be a breeze! The first "little" hill I couldn't climb back in May, only became relatively easy once I'd tried the murderous one a few times.


I just wanted to offer up something for somebody to digest, perhaps a beginner, instead of 'you'll get better at hills if you keep skating hills', or to just throw out a bunch of stats, since not everybody can translate numbers into linear thoughts.

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