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In A Few Short, Fun Weeks You'll Be Ready To Ride!

Start of the Century

By Fred Matheny

Whether you're interested in getting in better shape, completing an organized ride like the MS-150 events, or excited about trying your first metric or full century (62 or 100 mile rides), there's a great way to get started. It's worked for countless riders over the years. It begins with this simple declaration:

"I'm going to do the ____________________ century ride."

Fill in the blank with the event you plan to do. By choosing one that's at least 2 months away, you can make tremendous strides in your endurance before the big day. This article explains how.

The benefits will extend far beyond the event you're training for. When you're able to ride a century with strength and energy to spare, you'll have the fitness and confidence to ride any distance shorter than 3 figures, too.

It's important not to underestimate the challenge. One hundred miles (or even 62) is a long way on a bike, no doubt about it. It'll likely take 6 or more hours — a daunting prospect if you're a first-timer. But it's also important not to overestimate the challenge. Building up to a century isn't the overwhelming task that you may fear. In fact, if you can spin along comfortably for 60 to 90 minutes right now, you can get century-fit in only 8 weeks of training.

Your Century Training Plan
The 8-week training schedule below will get you through a century with a smile on your face. I'm assuming that you can ride about 30 miles when you start the program. I'm also assuming that your training time is limited. Isn't everyone's? The plan starts with only about 4 hours a week on the bike and gradually builds to 9 hours.

A century can be done on such a modest time commitment because it's a one-day ride, not a multiday tour requiring consecutive long days in the saddle. As a result, each century training week includes one long ride. It accustoms you to the endurance demands of the event.

I've also included a weekly fast ride. Studies show that short-but-brisk training sessions provide as much benefit as dawdling through long rides, good news for time-challenged cyclists. Adding intensity to one workout each week develops the power to combat headwinds and hills, and you'll be able to join a fast paceline if you choose. ("Pacelines" are groups of cyclists riding together to save energy against the wind.)

In addition to each week's long ride (for endurance) and fast ride (for fitness), add 3 easy spins of about an hour each, for recovery. Separate the endurance (long) ride and the speed ride by at least 2 days. Take 2 days completely off the bike. You can do light exercise such as walking or upper-body weight training if you like.

Get your doctor's permission before you start any training program. This is essential if you've been sedentary, are over 35, or have had any medical problems.

Once you're cleared to begin, always start rides with 15 minutes of easy spinning before doing harder efforts.



Notes: The long and fast rides are shown because they change each week. Separate them with at least 2 days, choosing from your 2 rest days and 3 easy days, depending on how you feel.
Week 1 Long Day: 1 hr. and 30 min. at moderate effort (75% of max heart rate)
Fast Day: 1:00 including 3 miles at a brisk pace (about 80%)
Week 2 LD: 1:45 at moderate effort (75%)
FD: 1:00 including 5 miles at a brisk pace (80%)
Week 3 LD: 2:00 at moderate effort (75%)
FD: 1:10 with a long climb (15-20 min.) or against a headwind for 20 min.
Week 4 LD: 2:30 at moderate effort (75%)
FD: 1:10 including 5 miles at a fast pace (85%)
Week 5 LD: 3:00 at moderate effort (75%)
FD: 1:15 including 4 short climbs 20-45 sec.) just below max heart rate
Week 6 LD: 3:30 at moderate effort (75%)
FD: 1:15 with a long climb (15-20 min.) or against headwind for 20 min.
Week 7 LD: 4:00 at moderate effort (75%)
FD: 1:30 including 8 miles at a fast pace (85%)
Week 8 You're almost ready! Here's how to taper during the final week to ride your best.
Monday Endurance: 4:30 at moderate effort (75% of max heart rate)
Tuesday Speed: 1:30 with 5 short climbs (20-45 sec.) at a hard pace (85%)
Wednesday Spin: 1:00 at an easy pace (65%)
Thursday Rest day
Friday Spin: 1:00 at an easy pace (65%)
Saturday You're ready to ride a great century!


Eat Right to Ride Strong and Recover
During the long training rides, get in the habit of nibbling and sipping throughout. The key to endurance is your stomach, not your legs. Even the best-trained riders pack only enough fuel (glycogen) in their muscles for a couple of hours of strenuous cycling. Fluid stores evaporate even faster. Eating and drinking before, during and after the ride is crucial. Remember that fluid replacement is essential during training, too. Routinely drink at least 8 big glasses of water each day.

Make Sure Your Equipment is Up to the Test
Training isn't just for accumulating mileage. Long rides help you sort out all the logistics and comfort issues that accompany a day in the saddle. Use your endurance training to test your equipment and food. Do your shorts chafe? Is your seat comfortable enough on those longer rides? What kind of energy bars and sports drinks go down easily? Training is also the time to get comfortable in a group. If you're apprehensive about group riding, opt to ride the century on your own or with a friend.

Don't Overdo It
Resist the urge to cram extra training into the week of the event. You're much better off riding fewer miles and starting the century rested rather than rolling out with heavy tired legs. Cut your mileage by at least half in the 6 days before the ride.

Be Sure to Check Out the Course Beforehand
Find out about the course too. Is it hilly? Are headwinds probable? Severe conditions can add more than an hour to your finishing time. Pack emergency food and make sure your gearing is low enough for the terrain. Check to see how many rest stops are provided, where are they and what's on the menu. If you can't stomach the foods or drinks being offered, carry your own. Or make arrangements with non-riding friends to supply you along the way. Usually, they must not drive on the course because vehicles pose a hazard to riders, but they can use adjacent roads to meet you at rest stops or in towns

Train smart, have a great ride and let us know if we can help with a tune-up, accessories or a nice new bicycle!

 Fred MathenyThis article is provided courtesy of and was written by its co-founder Fred Matheny. Fred was the Training and Fitness Editor of Bicycling Magazine for a decade, has written many books on cycling including Fred Matheny's Complete Book of Road Bike Training; and is a world-record-holding roadie. offers 59 eBooks and eArticles for road cyclists and a free weekly e-mail newsletter full of riding tips, tech tips and news. Download a copy of the eBook “29 Pro Cycling Secrets for Roadies” by subscribing today. No cost or obligation.