The most common way to coach hills in a Spinning® class is to simply “turn it up”. Starting off in a Seated Climb with a moderate cadence and a light hill resistance, we instruct our riders to increase the resistance in increments, perhaps until we feel the need to transition to a Standing Climb. We increase the hill some more when we enter a Standing Climb, hit the top of the hill and unwind through a downhill and then a flat. But how often do we think there may be more to a hill than just adding on resistance? Have we ever considered how many different ways we can work a hill?Here are a few ideas for making more of your hills:
Steady Resistance, Changing Cadence
One way you can change the intensity of a hill is to adjust the cadence. Cadence is the speed at which your feet pedal, measured in revolutions per minute (RPM). Ordinarily, riders settle into the cadence that is most comfortable for them at the given resistance. But the cadence guidelines for hills are between 60 and 80 revolutions per minute. That gives you a whole range of 20 revolutions you can work through with your riders. In your next class, try the same resistance level at different cadences so you can become familiar with how the intensity of a hill can change with added cadence rather than added resistance, and how you can coach that feeling for your riders.Try coaching a hill where you set a moderate resistance and a slower cadence (closer to 60 RPM). Then add 5 RPM every minute or so for 4 minutes. Holding that hill’s resistance steady, you can increase a rider’s heartbeat by speeding up their pedal stroke. Play with that cadence some more; turn it up 10 RPM for a minute, and back down for 30 seconds. Up 15 RPM for a minute, back down again. The possibilities are endless. Your class may be surprised at how challenging a “moderately challenging” hill can be just by increasing the cadence. An easy way to teach this is to repeat the same hill (never touching the resistance) while increases the cadence each time you repeat it.
Resistance Isn’t All Upward
In the same way you can adjust your cadence to increase or decrease the intensity, you can also adjust your resistance. For example, switchbacks are steep, sharp turns in a hill. A rider who encounters one usually comes up out of the saddle for a Standing Climb and hammers through it, knowing that it is a short burst of extreme intensity, and then returns back to their less intense climb in the saddle once they’ve made the turn. You can simulate this in a Spinning class by transitioning your Seated Climb to a sudden, steep switchback, adding a significant amount of resistance that requires the rider to stand and push through it for 15 to 30 seconds. Then bring your riders back down to the saddle and continue the less intense portion of the hill in a Seated Climb. These little spikes of intensity, repeated a few times on a longer hill, are enough to make a moderate climb much more challenging—and interesting—for your riders.
Change Their Position, or Not
It only seems natural to transition from a Seated Climb to a Standing Climb on the hill. However, you can switch it up by leaving the saddle and start Running on a Hill for 15-20 seconds. This is just long enough to break through the added load, then return to the saddle to continue the climb. You can also couple Running on a Hill with a burst of cadence. You can alternate Seated Climbs and Standing Climbs for set periods of time as you lead your class up a steeper hill. Or you could try the opposite, building your hill either entirely in the seated position or entirely in a standing movement. This would invoke your riders’ need to focus and concentrate on holding on to the hill for a period of time that they might not be used to committing to while remaining in just one position.
Shorter, Faster, Rolling Hills
Instead of a few longer, steeper hills in a profile, you can lead a ride that has several smaller, less steep hills. Starting with a flat road, increase resistance incrementally for 2–3 minutes in a Seated Climb. Add a bit more resistance and transition up and over the crest of the hill by Running on a Hill for 15-30 seconds. Then take it back down the hill to the flat for a minute or so. Repeated several times, rolling hills like this are great aerobic tools that keep the riders moving and bringing up the heart rate without overexerting themselves or pushing pas their anaerobic threshold.
Let Them Ride “Their” Hill
One of the most popular parts of my rides is when I step off the bike, shut off the microphone and let them ride their hill. This is “their ride” after all. Before I turn the hill over to them, I remind them that this is 5 or 10 minutes to ride it their way. This usually comes at the end of a ride, after we have worked through the goals of the profile and a powerful song is supplying riders with extra motivation. They can make their hill as fast, slow, steep or flat as they want. Whatever they choose to do is fine with me as long as they work safely, staying within 60-80 RPM. So with that in mind, I turn the hill over to them and, as long as I don’t see anything unsafe that I need to correct, I enjoy it with them silently.With all of these hill options in mind, the next time you add a hill to your profile, think about making it more than just flat to steep, seated to standing. Think about adding some variety, it could make all the difference!