Train for Your First Century

Make Your First Century a Success! Make Your First Century a Success!

Like running a marathon, training for and riding a 100-mile "century" ride is a rewarding challenge. Here are some tips from former pro cyclist Simon Kessler to help you prepare for your first century.

Train for 100 Miles!

If you have never completed a 100 mile Century, the thought of cycling 100 miles on your bicycle may seem daunting. Not only do you have to have good fitness but you also need to have a strong neck, back and rear to handle many hours on the bike.

I recommend at least 12 weeks of consistent training to build up to your first Century. Prior to the 12 week build-up, you should have been consistent with your cycling and have already completed 50 miles or more. If you have any health issues check with your doctor first before attempting a full Century. 

Consistency is Key

In your 12 week build-up for your first Century plan to ride at least 3-4 times consistently each week. In the work week a shorter, more intense training session will work great to maximize your limited training time. On weekends, plan on 1-2 rides with one of the days designated as your endurance ride. I also recommend performing exercises each week that will strengthen your core muscles. 

Progressively Increase Distance

The training objective each weekend on your designated endurance ride day is to increase your ride distance by 5 miles. Begin with a 30-40 mile endurance ride and increase your miles each week until you are comfortable riding 75-80 miles as you approach your goal Century. Remember you are riding at a steady pace on these longer rides. This means you can always hold a conversation and the effort never feels “hard." If you live in a hilly area then there may be times when you are out-of-breath while climbing but the vast majority of the ride should feel comfortable and sustainable. 

Simulate Your Century Ride

In the final 4 weeks before your Century aim for at least 2 rides of 80 miles or more, where you simulate the intensity and your nutritional plan for the Century. If you use a heart rate monitor or power meter, become aware of the intensity you can sustain comfortably for many hours and avoid at all costs spending prolonged periods of time in the “red zone”, where it starts to hurt and your breathing becomes uncomfortable. If you go too hard early on in a ride you will most likely struggle to finish. Your nutrition is also a key component to completing your Century successfully. Begin fueling up with liquids and food starting from the first hour and consistently thereafter in 15-30 minute intervals with a quality sports drink and energy products. If you wait until you feel hungry or thirsty to start eating or drinking, you may be too depleted to restore your energy levels. 

Make Your First Century a Success!

The training for a century consists of improving your endurance and fitness by training consistently over many weeks. By training consistently and simulating the length and intensity of a Century in training, you will be well equipped to make your first Century a great success!

Simon Kessler

Simon Kessler is a former professional cyclist, 15 time National Champion and owner of Simon Says Cycling, offering training plans, coaching, and yearly Tour de France getaways with Gourmet Cycling Travel. Visit us at

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