Q+A: How can I prepare for a hilly Ironman when I live in a flat city?

Q. I live in London and am training for an Ironman-distance race in the French Alps. It's going to be hilly. Is there any way I can prepare for the climbs?  

If you're living in the city and don't have easy access to climbs, I'd recommend two strength sessions per week on a turbo trainer.

The strength efforts must be at a low cadence/rpm for a minimum of 5 minutes (increase this to 10 minutes after a couple of weeks). Start doing the intervals at 60-70rpm for the first couple of weeks and then lower the cadence to 50rpm. Match your recovery time (easy riding, normal gears) to your interval time.

Your heart rate should remain about 10 beats below your threshold. Don't produce excessive lactate; remember, this is not about maximum effort.Aim for 3-4 efforts/intervals for the first two weeks and then increase to 6 intervals per session.

Here is an example:

Have a high-carb meal three hours before the session. Stay hydrated and rest before the session. Take an energy gel 20 minutes before your start. Sip on an energy drink leading up to and during the session (not too cold, just at room temperature).

Warm-up: 10 minutes easy spinning at 100rpm, then increase your heart rate progressively during the next 5 minutes to reach your threshold heart rate - don't forget, this is only a warm-up interval. Then 5 minutes easy spinning at 90rpm before intervals; relaxed legs and breathing.

Intervals: 5 min strength effort at 60rpm: Reach your desired heart rate, which should be 10 beats under your threshold, and settle into a rhythm. Concentrate on keeping a strong core and using power through your glutes, quads and hamstrings.

Visualise being on a climb, maintain that steady breathing and concentrate on the power going through the pedals. Five-minute recovery at 90 rpm: the first minute of the recovery can be at a lower rpm, but lift it to 90rpm as soon as you can, with a lower resistance; just spin the legs without load. Concentrate on breathing and preparing for the next interval. Repeat the intervals a further 2-3 times.

Warm-down: After the last 5-min interval do a 10-15-minute warm-down at 100rpm, with a low resistance. Keep sipping your drink until you get off the bike, then make yourself a protein shake immediately. Afterwards, take a hot shower and stretch for 20 minutes. You will soon be ready to take on the Alps.

Rochelle Gilmore

Rochelle Gilmore  is one of Australia's top athletes. She's a Commonwealth Gold Medallist and captain of Team Lotto Honda. Gilmore contested her first cycling competition at the age of three. Soon after taking up cycling seriously she became the U15 national champion and won junior and senior World Cup and World Championship medals on the track, before turning to professional road cycling. Visit rochellegilmore.com.