8 week training program
Finishing a century ride is a goal that almost every cyclist wants to attain because let’s keep it real: there are some serious bragging rights involved. The problem that stops most of us from achieving such a feat is time. Most women are involved in many activities helping others which often leaves no time for ourselves. The following training program, adapted from Bicycling Magazine, will have you ready for those 100 miles with just 3 training rides per week: one long, one steady, and one speedy.
LONG RIDE: In your first week, you will want to ride 1.5 to 2 hours, or about 20 miles. Let that serve as your foundation which you build upon. You want your long rides to be at a steady pace, typically about 70 to 75 percent of your maximum heart rate (MHR). If you do not have a heart rate monitor, think of this as a 7 on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being your maximum effort. You should be able to carry on conversation, but you would get winded if you tried to sing (leave Lady Gaga off the playlist). Most cyclists find that Saturdays or Sundays work best for this long ride, but it really does not matter which day you do it, as long as it gets done.
STEADY RIDE: During these rides, you want to strive for 2 to 4 intervals which are 15 to 30 minutes each. These intervals should be difficult enough to increase your breathing and raise your heart rate to about 80 to 85 percent of your MHR, or an 8 to 8.5 on that 1 to 10 scale. If you wanted to talk, you could only get out a few words at a time, no long conversations happening at this rate. You want to imagine you are trying to keep up with someone ahead of you, so you are consistently pushing yourself. After the 15 to 30 minute interval, you will want to give yourself 15 minutes before the next interval where you let your heart rate recover and pedal at a nice comfortable easy pace. What is the purpose of the steady ride? These type of rides will train your body to ride more briskly, yet still maintain a comfortable state, which in the end, will help you finish that century a little faster and feeling a little fresher.
Speed Ride: Those riders that love the distance, often skip the speed workouts thinking that they need more and more miles to prepare, not speed. Au contraire my friends. Speed work will actually help your endurance by raising your lactate threshold, the point at which your legs burn so bad they are screaming for you to stop. When you raise that threshold, you can peddle longer, harder, and faster before your body gives up. The goal with speed rides is to do 4 to 6 very hard or maximum effort intervals (a 10 on the 1 to 10 scale) for 30 seconds to 2 minutes. After you’ve given that maximum effort, recover by doing an easy spin for twice the amount of time as the difficult interval. As you progress over the weeks, you can add more difficulty by doing these into a headwind or up hills, because let’s face it, no century is completely flat with no wind (ahhh man!).
If you aren’t quite ready for 100 miles, and instead are choosing 20, 40, or 60 miles, the schedule stays the same, just adjust the amount of time and/or miles on the bike. You’ll still want to complete the three different training rides weekly, simply cut the time and distance according to the diagrams below.
On the other 4 days, you can choose what works best for you, but it’s always good to rest and cross-train. You can even do an active recovery on your rest days by adding in a yoga or core class. Cross-training could include running, swimming, strength training, or anything else you’d enjoy (Zumba anyone?)
Bottom line when it comes to training for a century is to increase your overall mileage week by week. This will help you avoid injury, burnout, or fatigue. You will also be able to detect any issues with your bike or other equipment that you would like to change before the big day. Now, enough talk, let’s get out and ride!
*To figure out your maximum heart rate, take 220 minus your age. That is your predicted heart rate maximum. Then take that number and multipy it by the various percentages, i.e. 70% or 80%, etc. That is the goal for your heart rate for the specific training day.