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How to improve your climbing (and get leaner)

Think you need to spend $4000 on a set of Lightweights to be a better climber?

Nope. There’s a cheaper way.

As cyclists we are obsessed by saving weight (and thus time) on our bikes, with many of us thinking nothing of spending a few thousand bucks on wheels.

If you are like lots of others, you probably look for the newest, lightest wheels, carbon drink holder, carbon pedals and so on in the quest to shave grams.

I’ve watched my friends spends thousands of dollars on flash wheels and any other assortment of lightweight weaponry, but today I am going to share a secret with you.

The more you spend, the more marginal the utility.

This means that the more you spend, the more the law of diminishing returns applies. It gets to the point where spending more money is just silly.

In my experience, the biggest bang for buck in terms of how to improve your climbing is generated by losing weight, combined with training. Add them together and you’re looking at explosive improvements in your climbing ability.

If you’re heading to France (or Spain, or Italy for that matter) and planning on riding some of the famous big mountains, it makes sense to do some training before hand as well as turning up in good condition. There is nothing worse than turning up excited as a kid in a lolly shop, and full of beans, to be destroyed by a big climb.

Turning up with a few months of training will make your trip and the climb so much more enjoyable. There is some soulful and deeply satisfying about flying up a mountain, just you and your bike.

Training for The Cols

Becoming a better climber can only be achieved by training for climbs. This can consist of doing lots of climbing and/or specific training to increase strength.

However, this doesn’t mean you need to necessarily spend hours and hours in the hills (as delightful as that is). Climbing improvements can be accomplished with short, targeted training programs.

VeloNomad’s Letape Training Program or Cycling Training Program is a perfect program for you if you are time poor and want to train smart and short. It is developed ffor those wanting to train for Etape du Tour, and is therefore a natural plan for anyone looking for strength in the hills.

There are techniques, and equipment, to help you maximise your efficiency, such as compact chain rings (unless you’re experienced and tough enough to use full size rings), and riding seated.

Losing Weight and Fat

If you could stand to lose more than 5kg or so, this is a super effective way to help improve your climbing. Let’s say you could stand to lose 10kg. I want you to pick up a 10kg weight and imagine strapping this to your back then riding up a big climb (1 hour or more). Pretty heavy huh?

Being able to drop this off will do wonders for your body and your climbing.

I am 5’7″ and once weighed 89kg. I am now down to 63kg and the increase in my climbing times is dramatic.

If you can lose weight, then definitely get cracking.

As humans, we find it easier to spend $3000 on some wheels than to knuckle down and lose some weight. Losing weight is hard and requires loads of discipline. Once you start though, it becomes addictive and also self-fulfilling to the extent that once you are eating well and exercising properly it becomes easier and easier to shed weight.

Short Circuiting the Fat Loss Process

For those interested in saving time, money and maximising their fat loss potential, I highly recommend checking out Tim Ferriss’ 4-Hour Body. I have it, and it’s bloody awesome. For those interested, Tim also has a great book called the Four Hour Work Week which I also highly recommend.

So, what’s stopping you? What are you waiting for?

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by Tim Marsh

Tim is an ex Melbournite now living near Byron Bay on 10 acres, happily growing mangos, avocados and lots of other stuff, with his wife Kate, son Arthur and adorable Golden Retriever, Whiskey (RIP our 1YO G/R Poppins :( ).

2 comments… add one

  1. where you lost me was the recommendation on weight loss nothing wrong with that but the Tim Ferris 4 hour body book you recommend, his claims seem dubious and i cant work out why having a 15 minute orgasm will improve my hill climbing, or do you loose a lot of weight while having the orgasm and do you need to be climbing durihg this

    1. Hi Grant, thanks for the feedback, and I’m disappointed a small part of a larger post turned you off.

      Tim Ferris does make some big claims in all his posts and books, but in this book he goes to pains to back his claims up with research or in-depth self testing. He also states you should test everything for yourself, so I don’t think he says “everything I say will work for everyone”.

      As for your specific comment about a specific section of the book: this is a 550 page book and the section you refer to covers 40 or so pages.

      I’m more than happy to overlook its inclusion for the enormous value it brings in weight loss and fitness.

      Many chapters will contribute to overall health and fitness, and definitely impact on your riding and climbing ability.

      As an example, the chapters that may affect your riding include:
      Subtracting fat – 79 pages
      Adding muscle – 56 pages
      Perfecting sleep
      Reversing injuries
      Running fast and farther (I find running to be great cross training for climbing and general lean-ness)
      Getting stronger

      The book overall is fantastic. Sure, it’s not for everyone, but being a NYT best seller is a great recommendation, as are the Amazon reviews.

      In any case, it’d be a shame to write off an entire book, for a small section that might make a few people question its inclusion.

      Thanks for reading, and I hope you’ll stick around. There are another 200 articles I hope you’ll find useful.



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