The Key to a Relaxed Training Plan

Below is an excerpt from the book "Distance Cycling: Your Complete Guide for Long-Distance Rides" by John Hughes and Dan Kehlenbach. The 257-page book covers the six essential factors for success in cycling as applied to riding a century or double-metric. These include self assessment, physical training, nutrition, equipment choices, technique and mental skills. The book also covers ramping up to an ultra event including double centuries and bike tours. For more information or to purchase to book, visit

When I start coaching a rider, I ask myself, "What kind of rider is this? What kind of training plan will be most effective?" I consider several points:

  • The rider's goals. Does the rider aspire to (a) finish first in a 1,200-kilometer brevet or (b) enjoy the local fall century?
  • Are the rider's goals (a) almost exclusively related to cycling or (b) inclusive of family and work priorities?
  • Does the rider (a) give me years of training stats or (b) guess about how much he or she has ridden?
  • Is the person (a) new to the sport or (b) wearing shorts shiny with age?

The more someone tends toward being the first type of rider, the more she or he will benefit from a structured program; the more the person tends to be the second type of rider, the more the rider needs a loose program. These days I'm the second type, although when I was training for the Race Across America (RAAM), I was definitely in the first camp.

More: 4 Ways to Speed Up Your Century Rides

To improve, every rider needs goals. What kind of training plan will most effectively address those goals? My goals are to go credit-card touring with a friend and to ride the Buff Classic century again.

To improve, each of us should honestly assess our weaknesses. I should lose my winter fat and build power so that I can carry some gear when touring and climb comfortably during the Buff Classic.

To improve, cyclists need either specific daily and weekly objectives or a set of training principles. I don't have a specific plan, but I apply these principles:

  • Limit intake. I'm not counting calories, but I am pushing away from the table before seconds.

  • Exercise consistently. To improve, I need to exercise at least four days a week; three days a week is sufficient only for maintenance.
  • Increase slowly. I increase the hours I work out each week so that I get fitter, but I ramp up slowly so that I don't become injured or burned out.
  • Train specifically. I need leg strength, so I hit the gym. I love riding and ride for fun, but I also focus on my weaknesses.
  • Make cookies. Muffy Ritz, who finished second in the RAAM three times, says that training is like making chocolate chip cookies. You need the right ingredients, but you can mix them in any order. And it's better to underbake the cookies than to overdo it. Each week I get in my strength training, intensity work, stretching, and cycling without worrying about the exact order.

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