steps to becoming a faster hill climber

steps to becoming a faster hill climber

Before you can think about climbing faster, you need to make sure that you have first built your aerobic foundation. As the saying goes, “you can’t run before you learn to walk”.  To read more about building an aerobic base please go back to the newsletter titled, Building an Aerobic Base.

So once you have set your aerobic base, how do you get faster on hills?

1. Ride lots. Ride lots of hills.

2. When climbing think of form: efficient pedal strokes and relaxed upper body.

3. Learn to pace yourself for the entire length of the climb. Learning  what your pace should be will come after riding lots of hills ūüôā

4. Give the appropriate amount of effort for the type of hill /ride/workout you are doing that day.
Example: In a Spanish Banks workout of 5 hill repeats, you will likely be putting¬†out maximum effort on each ‚Äď that‚Äôs the goal of the workout. But for a long training ride, where Spanish Banks is just one of many on the ride,¬†slow down your pace and take it easy or ride at a pace you can handle, as you still have a long ways to go.

In this newsletter, I‚Äôm going to focus on point number 4, which relates to effort.

During training it is important to give the appropriate amount of effort, appropriate for the workout.

In the Kits Energy workouts, your coach will tell you how much effort you should be exerting. If you want to get faster, and get the most benefit from the workout, it is important to follow the instructions. To improve, you need to work beyond your comfort zones into new territory, which should feel uncomfortable. Through proper and adequate (24-48hrs) rest and recovery, your body will adapt to the stress and grow stronger. It is through this process, repeated over and over, that you will gain increased strength and endurance.

BUT….. here is the caveat.

But, if you try adding intensity without a solid base, other rides to support your intensity ride, or you try to progress too quickly, you run the risk of breaking down the body, instead of building it up.

You may get away with it for a month of two but eventually, if you try to increase intensity without a solid base and other rides to support it, it will catch up with you. Your speed and strength will become stagnant and/or you may notice that you are actually slowing down! 

When this happens, the tendency is to do more training, with exacerbates the problem.  

You may also notice several nagging symptoms that don’t seem to go away. These symptoms are usually a combination of: loss of strength/endurance, chronic fatigue, chronic muscle pain, insomnia, depression, irritation, weight gain, and frequent illness such as colds and flus. If are feeling any of these symptoms, back off on your training for a few weeks until they subside.

When you return to training, build up slowly and create that base again. Always listen to what your body is telling you. If it is too much – back off again. Use the weekly workouts as endurance training instead of a interval training. I know it‚Äôs hard on the ego – but your body will thank you in the long run.

Remember, cycling is a lifestyle choice and one that you want to do for as long as your body will let you. Think long term.

Building an aerobic base

Building an aerobic base

Before you start worrying about being a fast(er) climber, you first need to develop a solid aerobic foundation or base.

This is the key to any and all endurance sports.

The time it takes to build your personal aerobic base will be different from other riders and will depend on:
1. the distance you are training for
2. how many years you have been riding
3. how much time you have to train
4. age

But generally speaking, if you are training for an event, you should be comfortable riding a minimum of 2 to 3 hours at a steady state, before you start worrying about being fast(er).

You develop this base by riding slow (HR or Power zone 1 and zone 2) steady rides, and increasing the distance by no more than 10% each week, until you get to or close to your goal distance. Through proper and adequate recovery, your body will adapt and grow stronger. The process, repeated over and over again will result in increased strength and endurance OVER TIME. 

Building a base takes time and can’t be rushed so it is vital that you start at least 3-6 months before your event.¬†Sorry,¬†but any last minute “cram training” for endurance sports doesn’t work.¬†Once you have developed a comfortable and solid base, continue¬†maintaining and/or increasing¬†your distance throughout your season.¬†

The workouts that we do in Kits Energy are designed to specifically build strength and power, not endurance. If you are willing to go there – these workouts will push you into new power/heart rate/ pain zones that you aren’t willing to do when you ride alone.

Every time you push yourself to new levels, your body recognizes that it needs to adjust and adapt. As your body gets stronger, your ability to do more work also increases. So if you are waiting for a time for when the workouts will feel easy – that’s not going to happen, because as you get stronger you continue to push yourself harder (hopefully). But, you will notice, that throughout the season your regular riding friends will be having a harder time keeping up with you! Trust the process.

what to wear for spring riding

what to wear for spring riding

Riding in Vancouver, we plan for the worst and hope for the best.

The most difficult part of spring riding is dressing appropriately. Every day it’s a bit of a gamble. Will you wear too much and have to carry it? Or will you not bring enough and feel chilled all the way to Steveston? Even when you do dress well and appropriately for the weather, it can¬†change quickly, even within one¬†ride.

If you are new to riding or new to riding in Vancouver, please take a moment to watch this short 4 minute video, outlining the clothing and layering you need to stay warm. In this scenario, the temperature is 6 degrees celsius or warmer, and as usual, we expect it to be wet. 

With the exception of a waterproof jacket, the Kits Energy store has all of the items you need to stay warm this spring. Please watch your inbox as the store will open the first week of April, with discounts from April 3rd to April 15th. Kits Energy clothing can only be ordered online.


Base Layer

  • long dry-fit or merino wool socks 
  • dry-fit undershirt – tank top, tee shirt, or long sleeve
  • padded cycling shorts or padded long bib pants

Second Layer

  • long tights over padded shorts if not wearing padded long pants
  • short sleeve or long sleeve jersey or dry-fit shirt


Outer Layer

  • waterproof rain jacket (if not raining, carry it with you)
  • long finger light gloves
  • small beanie or headband to keep your ears warm
  • helmet
  • glasses with clear or light coloured lenses (or dark if sunny)
  • Gortex¬†booties over shoes¬†

streak challenges can be a recipe for injury

streak challenges can be a recipe for injury

I understand the allure of joining a streak challenge as simple as doing one activity every day for one month, several months, or even years. And I’m all for any gimmick or trick we can use to entice ourselves to exercise more.

However, some of these challenges are not always healthy and often lead to injury.

The most dangerous streaks involve a repetitive activity or sport done every day for a total number of repetitions, distance, or time. Such as completing X number of pushups or running a certain distance or time daily. 

Pushing yourself to participate in an activity every day, no matter how tired, injured, or ill you may feel, goes against all training advice. Many athletes ignore the body‚Äôs signals telling them they need a day or two off, and even more so when they have committed to a streak challenge. The constant repetition often leads to burnout, overtraining, and repetitive strain injuries. Common injuries suffered from athletes participating in a daily running streak challenge are achilles tendonitis, plantar fasciitis, or worse yet, a stress fracture in the leg or foot. 

But, not all streaks are bad. 

Healthy or “good” streaks are those that allow for flexibility and encourage rest days. These challenges usually require you to complete a total distance within a specific time frame. Even better are streaks that include a variety of activities or allow you to choose for yourself,¬†as in the case of a yoga or weight training challenge; the classes are different every day, and vary in intensity and volume.

If you are choosing a streak to help motivate you to exercise, try to pick one that allows for flexibility in how often you need to do it, and ideally some flexibility in what activities you are doing. Not only will you be healthier overall, but it will also make you faster in your preferred sport and help prevent injury. 

If you want to use the challenge to get you riding more, the Strava streaks sampled in this article are good examples. However, it will still require some planning to make sure you give yourself enough recovery days throughout. As well, the challenge you chose needs to be appropriately placed within your overall yearly training program. Don’t get coerced into signing up for a challenge just because your friends are.

Take an Epson salt bath for recovery

Take an Epson salt bath for recovery

The more you train, the more you need to recover.

Many athletes get so caught up closing activity rings, counting steps, competing in Strava challenges, or reaching a distance goal, that they forget to make recovery a priority. 

One form of recovery, that often gets overlooked is an Epson Salt Bath.

Especially in the cold winter months, a hot sudsy bath does sound pretty inviting. But, besides being relaxing, how else does it help you recover?

We don’t have many concrete scientific studies that support how an Epson Salt Bath helps recovery, but we do know that it works. On the most basic level, taking a warm bath helps calm the nervous system which has a ripple affect, allowing your body to direct it’s energy into repair mode.

If you want to take it a step further, if the athlete also uses this time to focus on breathing, or follows another form of relaxation technique such as listening to music or reading a novel, your brain has time to shut off and recharge. Think of your body like your iphone; it has a long battery life, but the more you use it, the longer you need to stop to recharge.

So what is it about the Epson Salts?

Dissolving epson salts in water releases magnesium and sulfate ions, which can be absorbed through the skin. Magnesium plays many crucial roles in the body and is required in more than 300 essential metabolic reactions in the body. Some of the most important roles for an athlete are:

regulates energy production aka improves performance

regulates muscle and nerve function

regulates blood sugar levels

regulates blood pressure

reduces inflammation

strengthens bones

reduces depression

improves digestion

helps release melatonin which helps you sleep

So, instead of thinking of your bath as a guilty pleasure, you can add it to your arsenal of recovery tools to make you faster, stronger, fitter, and healthier overall.

In the summer, we will talk about ice baths and contrast baths, which also have amazing benefits in aiding recovery, but much harder to convince when it is already cold outside.

10 tips to break sugar addiction

10 tips to break sugar addiction

scroll to bottom for cookie recipe

After several weeks of indulging over Christmas, it can be challenging to return to our usual, healthy way of eating. This is not just due to a lack of willpower. Physiologically, your body and brain are now programmed to want more sugar, making the cravings almost impossible to ignore. 

The brain demands sugar

Sugar fuels every cell in the brain. Your brain also sees sugar as a reward, making you want more of it. You reinforce that reward system every time you eat sugar, making it a tough habit to break.

And the body wants it’s share as well

As if that wasn’t enough, now your body also demands that you give it another hit. As insulin moves glucose out of the bloodstream and into your cells for energy, this rapid drop in blood sugar leaves you feeling wiped out and shaky, searching for more sweets to regain that sugar “high.”

Starch equals sugar

Think you don’t have a sweet tooth, but crave bagels, chips, crackers, or french fries? Highly refined starches are complex carbs that the body breaks down into simple sugars. When eaten without protein, fat, or fibre, starches can make blood sugar levels surge and crash, similar to a simple sugar bonk. 

So how do we break this cycle?

  1. Start Slow

January is notorious for making massive commitments to change our lives and diet, only to fail by February and give up.

Instead of going cold turkey on quitting sugar, do it gradually. Try cutting out one sweet food from your diet each week. For example, pass on dessert after dinner or eat one cookie instead of two.

2. Retrain your taste buds

Over time, you can train your taste buds to enjoy things that aren’t as sweet. Start by putting less sugar in your coffee, oatmeal, and baked goods. Over time your taste buds will change, and you will experience the same pleasure or “high” with less.

3. Change up your sugar choices 

Include more fruits and vegetables containing natural sugars, fibre, antioxidants, and essential vitamins. 

4. Educate yourself 

Check food labels. Watch out for items that list any form of sugar in the first few ingredients, or have more than 4 total grams of sugar per serving.

The word “sugar” sometimes goes by another name, like these:

  • Agave nectar
  • Brown rice syrup
  • High-fructose corn syrup
  • Dextrose
  • Evaporated cane juice
  • Glucose
  • Lactose
  • Malt syrup
  • Molasses
  • Sucrose
  • Honey

5. Add more protein and fibre

High-protein and fibre foods digest more slowly, keeping you feeling full for longer. They also don’t make your blood sugar spike the way refined carbs and sugars do. Good protein sources are chicken, yogurt, eggs, nuts, or beans. Good fibre sources are soaked chia seeds, oats, beans, lentils, berries.

Food combining (eating a high protein or fibre along with a high sugar food) will slow the release of insulin and help prevent a sugar crash. But the brain will remain in the same “sugar = reward” feedback loop.

6. Do NOT substitute with artificial sweeteners

Some studies suggest artificial sweeteners may leave you craving more sugar, which doesn’t help break your taste for sweets. Pay attention to your body. Are sweeteners making you crave even more sugar? 

7. Get enough sleep and rest

Many times we crave sugar because we are tired and looking for energy. In addition, if we are well rested, we can make better decisions and, therefore, better food choices.

8. Snack on exercise

It is usually around 2 or 3pm when our blood sugar drops and we start to crave something sweet. Instead of reaching for a cookie, get up and complete a short but vigorous form of exercise. Run up and down the stairs or whip off 10 fast push-ups or do burpees in your office. The quick adrenaline rush will boost your energy levels and curb the craving.

9. When baking, cut the sugar by half

Unless the recipe was designed for weight loss or a low-sugar diet, EVERY recipe I have found uses way too much sugar. As a general rule, I cut the sugar by half. If it is just for myself and my husband, I will continue to cut the sugar until I find how low I can go before he notices. 

10. Make it easy

Have tasty snacks and food available and easy to access, for when your next sugar craving hits. Some snack ideas are: celery sticks with peanut butter, yogurt and blueberries, hummus and any vegetable, apple and almond butter, raisins and almonds. Eat foods that you enjoy so you don’t feel deprived.

Here is my favourite healthy cookie recipe courtesy of Dr. Leslie Wicholas. Leslie is a psychiatrist and an avid cyclist who rides with Kits Energy. She also designed the food as Medicine program to treat depressive mood disorders and fibromyalgia at the Mood Disorders Association of BC.  I love these cookies so much that I double the recipe, so I always have a few in my freezer.

Chocolate Spice Cookies (gluten and dairy free)

by Leslie Wicholas, MD

2/3 cup baked cooked garnet yam. Remove the skin from the yam before using. (You can bake yams ahead of time and freeze them to use later)

1 egg

4 Tbsp mild flavoured olive oil

3 Tbsp dark maple syrup

1/3 cup coconut flour

1/4 cup oat flour

3 Tbsp cocoa powder

1.5 tsp cinnamon

1/8 tsp cayenne pepper

1/4 tsp baking powder

1/8 tsp salt

3 Tbsp dark chocolate chips

Bake yam at 400 degrees for 1 hour or until really soft. Fully cool in refrigerator before using.

  1. Pre heat oven to 350 degrees
  2. Mix the wet ingredients well.
  3. Combine dry ingredients and add to wet ingredients. Mix well. Batter will be sticky with a cake like batter consistency. It will firm up after baking.
  4. Grease cookie sheet with coconut oil. Scoop a spoon full of batter onto the sheet. Gently shape into cookies
  5. Bake for 20 minutes. Cookies should be firm, with a little “spring” when you touch it.

Makes 15 cookies

Keeps well in fridge for 3-4 days. Freezes well.

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