Improving Endurance On Hills

By Voler Staff | 01/11/11

We’ve teamed up with Marilyn Trout, certified USA Cycling Elite Coach to answer Voler Newsletter List members’ training questions. You can view her coach profile at Send your cycling inquiries to Marilyn, and for a limited time, if yours is selected to be answered in our Training column, Voler will send you a $20 gift certificate that can be used towards any purchase from the Voler Store at To submit your inquiry, e-mail her at, and type “Voler Training Question” in the subject line of the e-mail.

Voler Newsletter member Peter Taylor is our 62nd winner of a $20 Voler Store gift certificate!  His training question that follows was answered by Peg Labiuk (nee Peggy Maass), a colleague of Marilyn Trout, and a certified NCCP level 3 coach with a career in international road and track racing. She is a World Championship medalist, World Record holder, U.S. Olympic Team member, former British national team coach and Kreb's Cycle co-founder (British Columbia, Canada).

Improving Endurance on Hills

Dear Coach, 

Last semester, I rode to school, (10 miles) took a swim class (usually, less than 700 yards), took a weight training class, (limited to the upper body), and rode home (minimum of 10 miles with one half mile climb a mile from home).  I did this twice a week, on Monday and Wednesday. This was the first consistent riding I’ve done in about six or seven years.

After twenty or so days like this, I could never “attack” the aforementioned hill.  Actually, my body felt like it was the hill that attacked me!  The best I could do is survive it, pedaling in the saddle, at no more than 4 m 

Next semester I plan on riding to school for two swim classes and the weight training class.  Between the two swim classes, I hope to swim at least 1000 yards, then lift weights and take the long way home (10 to 25 miles), again, twice a week. I'll get in other riding when I can, but it won't be on a consistent basis. 

I'm doing all of this for cardio-vascular fitness, to lose weight, AND to finish every century that I enter this coming spring and summer.  Because there’s no shortage of hills here in northern California, I need to better at attacking hills in preparation for the April start of the season.  What can I do in the next four months to improve my endurance on the hills so that I can ride 100 miles in a day? (Mounting a large O2 tank on my bike may be out of the question!) 

By the way, I’m 55 years old and have no health issues.  I’m 6’ 2” and weigh 226 pounds (and trying to lose the extra 26 pounds).  I ride a Madone 5.2. 

Thanks in your advance for your input. 

Peter Taylor 
Oakland, CA

Dear Peter,

To me there are two parts to your query.  First, last year's training and why you began to go “slow mo” uphill.  Then, what you could do differently this year. Regarding last year's training, you went at it pretty hard after a life cycle layoff.  Even though it was exercising just two days a week, it's predictable that you would hit the wall.  99% of athletes I have coached need rest breaks every 3-5 weeks. They hate the idea at first, but soon feel the benefit of taking a week off.  It's time to let your body recover, rebuild, and rebound stronger.  You needed rest, not more training.  On top of that, you did multi workout days that would drain much younger athletes.  How was your nutrition between workouts?

For 2011, you are off to a good start already.  You have set goals - finishing every Century Ride you enter and getting better at hills.  You have asked for help and are on the verge of planning ahead - two of the most important things you can do.  Last year your training showed that you are a good fit for a peaking pattern.  You tired after 3 weeks - right on schedule.  Now, if you plan for that, you can insert rest breaks to help you avoid overtraining and set yourself up for outstanding performances when you want.  The trick is to work backwards on your calendar, from the date of the Century you want to peak for.  Peter, you indicated that the first one, April 11th, is the one you would like to peak for.  Because it is the first of 7 and you are still on the comeback trail, I recommend you set up the peak for the May 1 Century to manage your energy over the season.  So, working backwards from May 1, your mid-week training, long rides/Century Rides, and rest pattern could look like this: 

January 17-23 -  5 day rest break 
24-30 -  regular training plus weekend 20 mile ride

Jan 31- Feb 6 - regular training plus weekend 25 mile ride 
7-13 - practice peak  - try out the pattern in the peak week below 
14-20 -  rest week 
21-27 -  rest/easy week

Feb 28-Mar 6 -  regular training plus weekend 25 mile ride 
7-13 - regular training plus weekend 35 mile ride 
14-20 -  regular training plus weekend 50 mile ride 
21-27 -  regular training, no extra rides 
28 -  regular training and

April 3 -   Primavera Century Ride April 2 
4-10 -  rest week:  5 days in a row off 
11-17 -  regular training and Tierra Bella Century Ride April 16 or Diablo Century Ride April 17 
18-24 - regular training and 85 mile weekend ride, preferably on course

April 25-May 1  Peak Week:  rest 3 days, long easy Friday, short hard Saturday, Peak Sunday for Grizzly Peak Century Ride

May 2-8 -  rest week 
9-15 - easy week and Care Classic Century Ride May 14 
16-22 -  regular training plus weekend ride 50 miles 
23-29 -  regular training plus weekend ride 70 miles

May 30- June 5 -  regular training plus weekend ride 85 miles 
6-12 -  rest week and Sequoia Century June 11 
13-20 -  regular training plus weekend ride <50 miles 
21-27 -  regular training plus weekend ride >50 miles

June 28-July 4 -  regular training plus weekend ride 75 miles 
5-11 -  regular training plus weekend ride 100 miles 
12-18 - regular training plus weekend ride 85 miles 
19-25 -  5 day rest break 
26-Aug 1 -  regular training plus weekend ride 90 miles

August 2-7 -  peak week ending with Aug 6 Marin Century Ride 

Perhaps school ends in June and you can focus on cycling only.  It would be great if you could do some group rides instead of your swim lessons and weight training.  Your cycling is your most important preparation, especially the long weekend rides.  You can work on your hills during your commutes.  This should help you improve without overtraining and let you try out peaking!

Coach Peg

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