How to train for hills...when you don't live near any hills


Adam replied to an email
on training for Endurance events : 
"Hi Matt, 
First up a thumbs up for the daily emails, they're always a good read on my coffee break at work and I've learnt a lot from them. 
So, I'm doing an event, first one and I'm buzzing for it. Mega busy life so it can be a struggle getting the miles in some weeks. Anyway my question is this, the event I'm doing has a lot of climbing in it and its relatively flat where I live, how can I train so that the climbing doesn't wipe me out completely. 
Cheers mate, 
Adam"
Great question...and there are definitely things you can do to
build up your fitness for the hills despite not living near any.
First up...you need to go find some hills! 
The first, and somewhat obvious advice, is to go find some hills as often as 
you can. Whether it's once a week on a weekend...or every other week. As 
often as you can manage pop the bike on the car and go find some hills 
to ride up. 

There's plenty of training you can do to replicate the hills but nothing
matches the real thing. Little things like getting into the habit of balancing 
your bike to get the optimal traction in tricky conditions while still being 
able to steer...tensing your upper body against the bars on the way up...and 
learning how to alternate between attacking the steeper sections to get up 
and over them and then slowing the pace down to get your breath back can
all only really be learnt on the hills.
So, as often as you can, you need to get out and go ride some hills.
Now...here's some tips to use when you can't get near any hills to ride on. These
are in no particular order - so 1 isn't a better tip than 4 etc.  : 
1. Weigh yourself down
One way to make yourself fitter is to handicap yourself
and make your bike harder to ride.
Tie a few kg's of weights to the frame.
Run heavy winter tyres with loads of drag.
Wear a backpack with a load of weights in (assuming no back issues)
Tow a mate...or your other half...or your kid, behind your bike.
I can't find it, but there was a video that went
​​​​​​​viral in the cycling community recently of a pro-ride
​​​​​​​dragging a full on 4x4 car tyre behind him tied 
with rope to the back of the bike. 
​​​​​​​Any of the above are just ways of making 
it harder to ride, forcing you to get stronger
and fitter.
2. Intervals 
​​​​​​​You can replicate hill intervals quite well on a spin
bike, rollers or an exercise bike in the gym
Here's one workout to try in the gym on a bike : 
​​​​​​​5 minute warmup on a low level 
​​​​​​​3 minutes of real hard effort at around 60 rpm. The resistance 
​​​​​​​needs to be high enough that you can only just maintain 60rpm
for the 3 minutes. You should find the first 2 minutes tough but not
insane...then for the last minute of the interval you should be really 
struggling to keep the RPM at 60. The last 20ish seconds should 
​​​​​​​be minging...you should be nearing max heart rate and needing 
to dig deep to finish it off.
When you hit 3 minutes, drop the resistance right down to the kind 
​​​​​​​of level that feels like a chilled canal ride and then keep at 60rpm
​​​​​​​for 3 minutes. This is your rest period. You should find your heart rate 
​​​​​​​drops right back down, your legs ease off and you get your breath back.

​​​​​​​When the 3 minute rest is up...go again. If you do this 
5-10 times you'll have a workout that lasts 35-65 minutes
and you'll really feel it by the end.
​​​​​​​(I recommend these intervals even if you ride hills often too)
3. Weight train
Your legs and upper body need to be strong to tackle the 
hills. The best way to complement your training on the bike
is with weight training.
I say this all the time...and it's for a reason...it works
Alternate your training every 4-6 weeks between heavy lifting, such
as 5 sets of 5 reps on deadlifts, squats, leg presses etc. and do 
a typical strength session for 4-6 weeks.
Then work on your lactate tolerance for 4-6 weeks doing some 
high rep workouts. Think 20/30/40 reps on exercises. Dropsets.
Giant sets. That kind of thing.
If you already lift weights in the gym and have an interest in it 
​​​​​​​then the above will probably sound kind of familiar.
If you don't go to the gym right now then sign up and just get 
​​​​​​​lifting weights 1-2x per week on top of your riding.
You'll learn more and more as you get into it...but just start
There's some good tips there for improving your hill
climbing fitness when you don't live near any hills.
Use them all and you'll be surprised how much your fitness
 increases when you do hit the hills! 
Matt Mooney