5 Ways to Become a Better Climber

Good Pain/Bad Pain

The key to climbing is the same one that time-trialists use on the flat—putting the maximum amount of pressure on the pedals, while remaining just below the anaerobic threshold. To simplify this: a burning feeling in your legs means you have exceeded your threshold and are accumulating lactic acid in your muscles This accumulation causes intense pain and acts to short-circuit the nerve impulses that tell your muscles to move—both of which will defeat you before the summit.

Soreness and dull pain are normal effects of high-level efforts and are ignored by top climbers because the sweet spot, the place were a climber knows he or she is pedaling at peak performance, lies at the threshold between dull pain and the lactic-acid burn. Once you discover it, this place will be your new mental home on the bike.

More: 4 Tips for Cycling Uphill

Mental and Emotional Preparation

There is a French saying that roughly translates to: "Put a frog into boiling water and he will hop out and dash away. Put the frog into cool water and heat it slowly, and he will swim around happily until he is cooked." Arrive at the climb as fresh as you can. Stay relaxed as you begin ascending and work on establishing your breathing and pedaling synchronized into a smooth, relaxed cadence.

Watch ProTour climbers in action and you will discover that most climb at about 70 to 85 rpm. Don't stress on a particular cadence, instead, pedal at the rpm that allows you to meter out power as smoothly and efficiently as possible throughout the pedal circle.

More: 5 Ways to Become a Better Climber

Minimize your suffering by remaining seated as long as possible, and when you stand, relax your body and use your weight to turn the cranks so that the out-of-the-saddle interval is actually a resting period for your lungs and heart to catch up with your legs.

Never attack a mountain, instead, let the climb come to you. The key is to add pressure slowly, know that suffering is inevitable, but it is best served in increasing increments. Pile on the pain one tablespoon at a time as the climb progresses. It will be a lot easier to overlook intense suffering when the summit is within sight—and the top of the mountain is where a maximum effort cannot defeat you.

Tip: Remember that you must always climb alone—it is a dance between your will and your body's power threshold. Be prepared to let rival climbers go ahead. Most often, the early leaders are reeled in and crushed well before the summit.

More: Defying Gravity: Climbing with the Pros

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