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heart rate: climbing vs. flats(12 posts)

heart rate: climbing vs. flatsbikerchick
Jun 7, 2002 10:56 AM
I'm curious as to why I can maintain a higher heart rate on the flats (I have no problem staying at threshold for a flat time trial) than in hills? When climbing, I find that I have very heavy breathing even at 10 bpm below threshold and I cannot sustain threshold for any length of time -- my breathing goes out of control and my legs become super heavy. What does this say about my limiters -- am I not in good enough anaerobic shape or is my strength deficient? I live in a hilly area so I get plenty of training on hills. I have a mild form of genetic anemia (unfortunately not helped by iron supplements) and am wondering if this might be contributing? Any thoughts as to the types of workouts I might emphasize to work on this problem would be greatly appreciated.
hills can be thought of as a time triallonefrontranger
Jun 7, 2002 12:16 PM
but only if you've learned and practiced proper technique. It took me a while to "get" this. I am a decent time trialist but had a really tough time with "blowing up" on climbs, just as you describe.

As relates to racing or group rides, I'd have to say that since I've learned how to climb comfortably at LT (I do one night a week of hill intervals to train this factor), I get dropped a lot less, and can even keep up with the "real" climbers at race pace. The caveat is that I don't try to follow the attacks, because once I'm redlined, I'm sunk. It's easier to let the accelerations go and just keep on plugging. It's amazing how many of the aggressors you'll eventually pass and drop this way. Trust me.

Here's a link to the discussion thread where I've explained that a lot of climbing is based in technique. Still more is mental, but IMO the first step is to correct your form so that you're relaxed and not fighting yourself:

lonefrontranger "Hills" 5/31/02 10:40am
re: heart rate: climbing vs. flatsbrider
Jun 7, 2002 12:35 PM
Aerobic condidioning is very activity-specific. While you can maintain a good pace on flat TTs, hills require a different type of conditioning -- leg strength-endurance (specificallt quads). You're putting a specific muscle group into an anaerobic state, even though your heart rate isn't up to LT. Think of doing bicep curls. Overall, you're in an aerobic state, but your bicep will fatigue, and you'll breathe heavy. You're only using two muscles (the two heads of the bicep). But you're breathing heavy. Same thing with climbing hills. Work on hill-specific strength -- climb steep hills seated or standing. Grind them out. Your quads will turn to concrete, but you'll soon be flying up those hills and leaving people who aren't willing to do the work in your dust.
re: heart rate: climbing vs. flatsJon Billheimer
Jun 7, 2002 2:13 PM
Good answers from both LFR and brider. I'll add another take. Climbing alters certain neuromuscular ratios and firing sequences, so part of the problem is neural, hence the possible inability to generate as much power on hills as on flats and therefore the lower heartrate at critical fatigue. The other answer could lie in recruitment of muscle fibre types within the same muscle, i.e. fast-twitch fibre recruitment. These fibres don't have as much aerobic capacity as the slow-twitch fibres and therefore will generate high levels of lactic acid.

Perhaps Wayne or some of the other ex-phys types could comment.
What at your blood counts?Bruno
Jun 7, 2002 3:04 PM
I am also midly anemic and have always wondered how it affects my cycling. Hills have always been harder for me than the flats even at the same heart rate. I attribute that to the fact that I mash during hills making my legs go anaerobic.
re: heart rate: climbing vs. flatsJohnG
Jun 9, 2002 4:43 PM
I've got to believe that the anemia thing is a major contributor to your "problem". Assuming you've done everything on the medical front, have you been doing power/hill intervals like LFR mentioned??? Those should really pop up your power/strength and allow you maintain and steady pace at your LT HR.

BTW: How many ft climbing are you doing in your training each week??? I personally think 5K feet per week is the miniumum if you want to "learn" how to climb. That combined with the intervals should do the trick.

I was anemic this last winter and my hill workouts and the hilly race I got shucked from were VERY tough. Fortunately, I've responded well to iron treatments. I'd really push on the anemia front as hard as possible.

good luck
Agree, and..hrv
Jun 10, 2002 7:22 AM
if you don't already know, don't drink coffee! Studies have shown that caffeine can reduce iron absorption by 85%, and someone in your position needs to use all the iron they can.

I'm working at getting better at hills myself and one thing that's helped is forcing myself to climb in harder gears, for varying times. This required a weight lifting base for me, however.

I get anemia about once a year and when I do I can't climb a speed bump so I know for me that's a major factor.

good luck,
Agree, and.. (Iron, Anemia, & climbing)RacerVeloce
Jun 12, 2002 11:11 AM
I've been pondering many things about my heart rate and (lack of) hill climbing performance lately.
How does one know if you have anemia? I imagine a blood test can confirm, but what are symptoms?
I drink a double-capuccino/day. So maybe this is key for me...
- RacerVeloce
I'm not a doctor, nor do I play one on this board!hrv
Jun 12, 2002 8:52 PM
You know how I found out about caffeine and anemia? Went into and typed 'caffeine and anemia' and had a boatload of hits. So no real hard science on my part. Truth or not, I for one stopped drinking/eating anything with caffeine.

What I do know: when I am anemic, I am tired/lightheaded all the time, get a non-caring attitude about stuff, and any kind of riding, flats, hills, whatever, and I'm in, as Paul Sherwin says, serious difficulty. Add any kind of intensity and I dog it big time. I don't quit riding, but the pace of every ride turns out what used to be a very slow recovery ride, with much less quantity. What happens when you climb hills? Does your heart rate elevate at a much less perceived effort than before? Are you still as strong as you were in the other aspects of cycling or other physical efforts. Are you out of breath all the time?

Obviously if you think you have a medical problem then see your doctor but don't start getting paranoid only because you can't climb hills and drink coffee! From the little I read it appears that the ones who have to think about caffeine consumption (and it might only be during meals, still not sure yet) are those who are prone to being in an anemic state already.

Good luck and let me know how it goes,
I am the oppositeGV
Jun 10, 2002 11:14 AM
I use a power tap and have noticed that I can not hold nearly the watts on a flat that I can on a hill. I do OK at time trials ( top 10 cat 3 ) but consider myself more of a climber. On a flat section It is all I can do to turn over about 280 watts but up a steep climb I can hold 300+ with the same RPE. I spend a lot of time mountain biking and in the hills even during base training. Almost all of my intervals are done on a hill of some sort. Even intervals on the trainer are done with the front wheel raised.
"Even intervals on the trainer ...Wannabe
Jun 10, 2002 1:38 PM
"Even intervals on the trainer are done with the front wheel raised."

Huh? How can simply raising the front wheel on a trainer have any impact? I am no math and science guy but wouldn't you have to add resistance (like gravity) to the trainer not just simply raise the front wheel?

"Even intervals on the trainer ...GV
Jun 11, 2002 4:57 AM
By raising the front wheel it simulates the slope of a climb. By doing the intervals this way you are using the same muscles and bike position you use when you climb. Try it for a while and then put the bike level. You will notice a difference.