Prepare to Ride 100 miles
Before starting any training plan consult your doctor by obtaining a full physical examination. In order to be successful on the bike you must be physically and mentally prepared to overcome the challenges of riding a bike. When you ride, keep training logs of your miles and take into consideration the following:
- Intensity (hills, intervals, steady pace, etc.)
- Elapsed time
- Average speed
- An assessment of how you felt during the ride
- Stretch before or after your ride
Keep a log next to your bike so that you can add the information as soon as you are back from a ride. This should take less than 2 minutes. The information you collect will give you specific data of your progress, it will keep you motivated and it will help you avoid overtraining.
Now, how many miles should you ride? When should you start? What is an easy day and what is a hard day? What are intervals? How often should I ride? Many questions like these and more will arise as you start your plan. The following plan is a general plan for the person who wants to finish a century for the first time.
Increasing mileage to your training should be proportional with your fitness level. As a general rule of thumb, increase mileage by 7% - 10% each week, if you have been cycling regularly. It is best to start as soon as you decide you want to ride 100 miles. A period of 12 weeks before a ride is recommended assuming you have had base miles of about 40 – 50 miles a week.
In order to define intensity, divide up your efforts into zones 1 – 4.
Zone 1: An easy day is a leisurely ride that will help you rest, warm up or cool down.
Zone 2: Ride at the pace you will ride the century. This is when knowing the average speed of your long distance bike rides come into play.
Zone 3: This speed is faster than your century pace. This becomes the pace you do during intervals.
Zone 4: This is the maximal effort you can do in a small amount of time (10 seconds to 30 seconds).
Once your zones are defined you can easily create different workout plans for yourself. Always dedicate one day for long rides, one day for zone 4 rides, one day for zone 3 rides and a combination of zone rides.
Incorporate strength training and stretching days to be more successful with your plan. Interval training is defined as a workout with periods of zone 4 or Zone 3 intensity and zone 1 or 2 intensity as recovery. An example of an interval to improve speed: warm up for 15 minutes followed by 1 minute of pedaling at zone 4, recover at zone 1 for 2 minutes, repeat 5 times and finish with a cool down. This workout is about 45 minutes, 15 minutes for a warm up, 15 minutes of intervals and 15 minutes of cool-down. Increase repetitions every week for three weeks by adding 2 repetitions each week. After the 3 weeks allow for one week of less intense work, so that your body can recover and grow stronger.
Ride 5 to 6 times a week even if some days are only 10 miles. Neurologically your body will adjust to the regimen and advance to a higher level. Physiologically, adenosine triphosphate (ATP) molecules in muscle cells are split to release energy that enables the muscles to contract. However, muscles respond to the commands from the central nervous system. Therefore, mind and body are a powerful connection that cannot be undermined. During high intensity workouts your mind will overpower your muscles to give that last “push” to fulfill your goal.
I highly recommend hiring an experienced cycling coach to help you attain the best results. Hire a coach in your area who can help you define your zones and accurately prepare a training plan for your success. In the mean time you can start with the following plan:
Monday: Recover from the weekend long ride by either taking a yoga class, riding no more than 10 miles or go to the gym and lift weights for your upper body and core only. Rest the legs!
Tuesday: Do hill interval lasting between 20 and 45 seconds and rest for one minute in between hill repeats. Start with 4 hill repeats. Pick a hill that is 3% to 5% incline. As training increases, add two hill repeats each week until you reach 10 hill repeats as your maximum. This will be considered lower body and core training.
Wednesday: Easy 10 – 20 miles; pick a loop near your home to do at your zone 1 pace. This will also help you mentally, especially at mile 90 during your century ride, to give you the last “push” needed to complete your first century. Another option could be to take the day off and stretch for about 30 minutes or go for a 30 minute walk.
Thursday: Lift weights and ride for about one hour at zone 2, with warm-up and cool down at zone 1.
Friday: Mentally prepare for your long ride on Saturday and ride for about 1 to 2 hours at zones 1 and 2. If you are sore from lifting weights the previous day, ride at zone 1 to allow for your body to recover.
Saturday: Go for a club ride where you will be able to chit-chat most of the ride, with occasional fast pace lines at zone 3. If the pace is too fast for your training, slow down. Another pace line might be just around the corner. The Saturday ride should be fun and taxing to your body. Use it as a day to experiment with food, taking note of the amount of water you need, discover favorite foods, find out about equipment positioning, etc. The Saturday rides should be between 40 to 75 miles every weekend. The more time you spend on the bike, the easier it will be to ride 100 miles.
Sunday: Rest day or easy 10-25 miles at zone 1. Keep it short so that you can enjoy the rest of the day with family or friends.
The following matrix shows the recommended miles you should attain as the week progresses. Note the accumulated total miles for the week is based on a gradual progression; Week 4 stays with the same total miles as week 3 to help the body adjust to the training. In some instances the total mileage increases but the daily riding miles vary according to the intensity. Some days you might need recovery at the end of the week instead of the beginning of the week. One of the main aspects to keep in mind when training is to listen to your body. If it’s too sore, then rest. Choose proper meals to recover. A healthy choice of fresh vegetables and fruits can help you recover faster than a greasy meal. If you are gaining weight instead of maintaining or decreasing weight, then you might not be fueling your body properly. Injuries and a lack of interest to ride your bike might arise as a consequence of not listening to your body.
E-mail Exercise Physiologist Susan Forsman for a Free 12 week training program to ride your first 100 miles.
Written by Susan Forsman, Exercise Physiologist and USA Cycling Coach II