Training for Your First Century Ride

A great goal for many newer cyclists is to train for their first century (a 100-mile bike ride). I remember my first one—a 102-mile day during a week-long bike ride across our state. It took some training, and I was happy I adequately prepared. It’s always a good idea to implement a gradual and structured approach to building endurance, strength, and confidence. Here are some suggestions if you’re considering training for your first 100-miler.

Assess Your Current Fitness Level: Start by evaluating your current fitness level. How often do you currently ride? How far can you comfortably ride? This will help you determine a baseline from which to start.

Set Realistic Goals: Establish a realistic timeline for your training and set achievable goals. This could include increasing your mileage gradually, improving your average speed, or completing longer rides.

Build Endurance: Since a century ride is a long-distance event, gradually build endurance. Begin by incorporating longer rides into your weekly routine. Aim to increase your mileage by 10-20% each week, with one long ride per week. It’s a good idea to build up saddle time.

Incorporate Variety: Include a mix of rides in your training plan to avoid burnout and overuse injuries. This could include shorter, high-intensity rides to improve speed and hill climbing ability and longer, slower rides to build endurance.

Interval Training: Intervals are short bursts of high-intensity effort followed by rest or lower-intensity periods. Incorporating interval training into your rides can help improve your cardiovascular fitness and overall speed. Everyone does this differently.

Strength Training: Don't neglect strength training, as it can help improve your power and endurance on the bike. Focus on exercises that target your legs, core, and upper body, such as squats, lunges, planks, and push-ups.

Practice Nutrition and Hydration: Proper nutrition and hydration are crucial for long-distance rides. Practice fueling and hydrating during your training rides to determine what works best for you. Aim to consume a mix of carbohydrates, proteins, and electrolytes to fuel your ride and aid recovery. (And don’t forget the SPF!)

Rest and Recovery: Don't underestimate the importance of rest and recovery in your training plan. Make sure to incorporate rest days into your schedule to allow your body to recover and adapt to training demands.

Simulate the Event: As you get closer to your century ride, try to simulate the conditions of the event as much as possible. This could include doing longer rides at a similar time, practicing your nutrition and hydration strategy, and familiarizing yourself with the route. My road ride happened in the Midwest in the middle of July. I had to acclimate to surviving the heat and humidity for that 6-hour ride. 

Taper: In the week leading up to your century ride, gradually reduce the volume and intensity of your training to allow your body to rest and recover before the event.

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