17 Hill Climbing Strategies | Outside Online

There you are, at the bottom of a hill, on foot, or on your bike, or on skis, ready to start up. But are you really ready? Here are a few strategies you might consider.

1. Choosing More Pain for Less Time by Going Faster over Less Pain for More Time by Going Slower

Hey, whatever floats your boat.

2. Self-Pity

Seems like an attractive option until you remember that you’re essentially doing this to yourself.

3. Rage

Sometimes cathartic, not necessarily productive.

4. Reminding Yourself to Be Present and in the Moment

See “rage” and “self-pity.”

5. Checking Your Watch/Phone/Tracking Device to Determine How Many Vertical Feet You Have Left to Climb

Obtaining this data will very often do nothing for your progress or morale.

6. Wondering If It Would Be Faster If You Were Just Walking Instead of Pedaling Your Mountain Bike in Its Granny Gear

Sometimes this question can be answered by an instance of someone hiking past you as you spin your pedals at approximately 900 RPM.

7. Wondering If It Would Be Faster If You Were Just Walking Instead of “Running”

(Also at approximately 900 RPM.)

8. Using Bottled Oxygen

Seems to be more common on really big hills, but it could be advantageous, I guess.

9. Asking Someone Who Is Descending How Much Farther It Is to the Top

Very hit or miss.

10. Giving Up

Proven to be less effective at reaching the top of the hill but very satisfying in the moment.

11. Thinking About How Nice the Descent Will Be

Yes, even if the descent sucks or you crash or fall and sprain your ankle, it will be nicer than climbing.

12. Telling Yourself the Summit View Will Be Worth It

Oh yes, the view from the summit—so extraordinary and transformative that it will wash away all the sins of the climb that preceded it.

13. Putting Your Head Down and Slowly Plodding at an Even Pace Until You Reach the Top

Usually works fairly well, TBH.

14. Stopping Every 20 Feet to Catch Your Breath

Yes, I think I’ll pretend I’m just stopping to enjoy the view here, even though it’s almost exactly the same view that I stopped to enjoy 20 feet below this spot, and the one 20 feet below that, and so on.

15. Lying Down for Just a Few Minutes

Oh yeah, that’s really nice. Might have a little cry while I’m down here before I get back up and start uphill again, or not. Not at all. Maybe I’ll just stay here or make a new home here on the side of the trail. OK, I live here now.

16. Promising Yourself a Reward If/When You Make It to the Top

Examples: Pizza afterward, a Tesla Model X, not making yourself do another lap of the hill, finally accepting yourself for who you are with radical self-love.

17. Staying Home Instead

Also not effective at achieving any sort of literal summit, but maybe a more metaphorical summit, such as the pinnacle of self-care or something like that.

Brendan Leonard’s new book, I Hate Running and You Can Too, is available now.

Lead Illustration: Brendan Leonard

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