Neuromuscular Training and Hill Climbing

A lot of focus on hill climbing in either running or cycling is on building leg strength, and aerobic capacity to support a strong push up the hill. Hill climbing for me has been a real challenge; I have been training constantly to increase my leg strength. However, I did discover another piece of training that is also important to hill climbing on both running and cycling. This is neuromuscular training.
Ever go sprinting up a hill and you’re going anaerobic? Your breath is heaving and your legs are burning. You’re using up all that strength and energy to accelerate up that hill and once you get over it, your legs collapse in energy output, just happy to not be exerting any more. You find that as you crest the hill, you have no more left and you just let the back side of the hill accelerate as you coast down the hill. Or worse for running, you find that you can’t even move your legs because you wasted them and your aerobic capacity going up the hill and now you can’t take advantage of the down hill to speed up because your legs are wiped out.
In the last few months as my leg strength has increased, I have found that neuromuscular training has played a nice role in maintaining and increasing speed as I blast up the hill and crest it. How is this so? It mainly comes from training the legs to continue their movement even while you have used up some anaerobic/aerobic capacity going up the hill. Most of the time, after we crest the hill and after a hard effort, our legs are so wasted that they can’t even move any more. But this is bad. They need to keep moving so that we don’t lose speed and we can accelerate on the downhill.
Neuromuscular speed training helps us to relax and become accustomed to mvoing our legs very quickly. It becomes second nature to move our legs very fast and we learn how to do it with minimal energy expenditure.
Thus, as we crest the hill, I have found that I can relax the legs to rest after the hard effort up the hill, but keep my neurons firing to cycle the legs and either keep revolutions going on the bike, or keep my legs moving and running downhill. When I relax my legs, they recover from the hard effort and it also lets my aerobic system recover as well. I don’t slow down, which is the key thing. I can maintain speed or accelerate but also recover.
It has reinforced the need for neuromuscular training for both the bike and running. Fast one legged sets at 100+ RPM, and super fast short running sets on the treadmill – both of these really brought me some unseen benefits in hill climbing.