In a typical friend-of-a-friend story, we heard about a guy who skates up Mt. Diablo, a local mountain. Now, the road up Mt. Diablo rises over 3000 vertical feet. That's quite a climb! Even on my road bike, it's a real workout. And then there's the skate down! We've yet to meet the guy, but the story got me thinking about how I've written much about going downhill, but little about getting back up. It's time to correct that deficiency.
Climbing hills on skates is definitely work. Without good technique, going up even a moderate incline can be a real chore. But hill climbing also has its rewards:After you climb up you get to skate down! Plus, it's a great workout. Climbing builds leg strength and aerobic fitness.
To climb efficiently, you need a strong, quick stroke, a good body position and a compact arm swing. Since you don't glide much uphill, a powerful stroke with a quick recovery is essential. Work on an explosive extension. Starting with your leg well bent, extend strongly to the side. The steeper the hill, the more you should point your toes out. On really steep hills, they should point almost straight out to the side. Recover the stroking leg quickly to be ready for the next push.
Lean forward into the hill, but try not to bend at the waist. Keep your shoulders square to the hill and move straight up the slope. I swing one arm at a time across my chest, making a punching motion as I climb. This helps balance the forces generated by my quick strokes. Be careful not to rotate your upper body with the arm swing. If you allow your body to rotate, your stroke will suffer.
A fun alternate technique for climbing moderate inclines is what Liz called the Minuet in Get Rolling. Stroke right+crossover+right, left+crossover+left for a course that zig-zags back and forth across the road or path. This technique covers more ground, making the hill seem a bit less steep. It also provides variety to your workout. Practice on the flats first to get the rhythm down. Then move on to easy hills.
Hill climbing is great for fitness. Long climbs can help extend your aerobic capacity when used in what's known as interval training. See if you can keep your heart rate just above your upper aerobic training limit for the climb. Allow plenty of recovery time between climbs or other intervals. Recovery simply means allowing your heart rate to drop back down your normal training zone. A good rule of thumb is to allow three minutes of recovery for each minute of climbing.
On short ascents, sprint up the hill with as much power as you can muster. Short climbs are great for working on strength and speed. Maintain good form for maximum benefit.
While most people don't look forward to climbing hills, they are a part of skating and we can take advantage of them to improve fitness and our skating abilities.