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RBR Newsletter

Using Centuries to Boost Fitness

This concept in a nutshell: Make road cycling’s classic event, the century ride, a key part of your training plan.

Most riders view century rides as goals in themselves, events to be ridden almost like a race. They train for centuries rather than viewing these 100-milers as a way to prepare for other objectives.

A century can be both—a great goal and a superb training device. It’s a long ride, for one thing. And a century can be as competitive as you want to make it, either against the other guys at the front or against yourself as you push for a time under 5 hours or your PR. In fact, I think centuries are one of the best training tools in a rider’s arsenal.

In the same way, you can use century rides as “races” to boost your fitness and help you achieve cycling goals later in the season. This week, we’ll start this 2-part series with information about building up to the century with appropriate training and nutrition. Next week, we’ll talk about formulating a strategy for riding the century.

Before the Ride

Build your base. Don’t do a century without adequate base miles. It’s okay to ride your first century on training rides of 60 or 70 miles. Most first-timers just want to complete the distance.

But if you want to get a PR or use the century to best advantage, it pays to give it the respect it deserves. This means at least 8 weeks of gradually increasing long rides on weekends. Ideally, you’ll work up to rides of 75-90 miles with speedwork during the week.

Taper. Treat the century just like an important race. Make sure you taper for at least a week before the event. You won’t get maximum benefit from the ride if you aren’t rested and raring to go.

Eat and drink. Perhaps the biggest mistake a rider can make is trying to lose weight in the few weeks before a big event. “If I were just five pounds lighter, I’d be able to climb with the front group,” a rider thinks -- and promptly begins to limit food portions.

Inadequate calorie intake is the primary cause of fatigue and poor performance. In fact, some experts say that overtraining is almost always caused by not eating enough carbohydrate to restock the muscles with glycogen after hard rides.

The basic rule: Eat a lot to ride a lot. The same goes for hydration. Down plenty of sports drink and water in the days before the event. Keep a bottle on your desk at work. You should be urinating 4 or 5 times a day and getting up at least once each night to empty your bladder. If not, you’re probably going into the century dehydrated. A loss of even one percent of your fluid weight can erode performance.

Next week we’ll discuss riding strategy for that century.

If you’re looking for some more detailed training and tapering advice for century riding, consider my eArticle Peaking for a Century.

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