Question: I confess – I didn’t ride very much during the winter. But I want to get in shape for a metric century on the Memorial Day weekend. Is there any hope? – Calvin R.
Coach Fred Matheny Replies: Don’t panic, Calvin. You and everyone who had a less-than-productive off-season can gain sufficient fitness for a big spring event.
If you want to do a 62-mile (100-km) ride then, let’s assume that you have 9-10 weeks to prepare. That’s enough time if you start now.
Do it by consistently increasing the length of your long weekend ride about 10% each week. Your weekly mileage – or time on the bike, if that’s how you measure – should increase about the same percentage.
On one or 2 weekdays, include some intensity in the form of group rides, intervals, hills – whatever is fun to do without cooking yourself.
Why do I recommend intensity if you’re not training to race? Because a moderate dose will boost your speed and power, making long rides more fun. Would you rather struggle on those hills or spin up, smiling?
The good thing about this type of mid-week training is that it doesn’t require lots of time. Warm up, spend 30-45 minutes mixing in some intensity, then cool down as you spin home. You’ll find highly effective workouts as short as 30 minutes in the RBR eBook Training for Busy Cyclists.
Important! Here’s a key to this training progression: After each fourth week, cut back your mileage and intensity by about 20%. This helps ensure that you don’t overdo it. It helps you recover, assimilate gains and make greater improvement in the next 3 weeks.
By late May you should be fine for a metric century. To make sure you are feeling strong for the big ride, taper during the final week. Cut your mileage by about 50% but do short, fast workouts on Tuesday and Thursday (assuming a Sunday event). A good routine (after warning up well) is 5×2 minutes hard on Tuesday and 3×2 minutes hard on Thursday. Spin easy for 2 minutes to recover between each effort.
The final week’s lower mileage will help your legs recover. The intervals will enable you to retain your increased cruising speed for a faster and more comfortable performance in the big event.
Using this basic plan, you’ll do fine in the metric century and it will serve as training for your next long ride, and on and on through the season.