The Ultimate Indoor and Outdoor Training Plan for Long Distance Cycling

close-up photo of cyclist’s hands on a road bike handlebar

Not everyone is lucky enough to live in Florida where there’s beautiful weather for training year-round.  If you live where cold and ice are regular visitors and you’re struggling to figure out how to train to ride with Pan-Florida Challenge look no further! 

Training for any long distance ride can be done indoors. I know this from experience, having trained for the Race Across America on a CompuTrainer while living in London. One thing that makes an indoor trainer great is that it will give you killer workouts for training at a high cadence. The downside is that riding on an indoor trainer does not prepare you for riding outdoors at all. 

While I’m going to assume you’ve already been doing some riding to get prepared, I’ve outlined a guide with a mix of indoor and outdoor training to help you stay ahead. This guide should have you at the start line with Pan-Florida Challenge ready to have fun, cover 180-miles without injury, and arrive at the finish line with a big smile on your face!

The goal is to get you riding 3-5 days per week, averaging 4 days each week for an average of 20-30 miles. Do not ride just once a week, even if it’s for a longer ride than mentioned here.

Week 1 — Five Weeks out From the Ride

  • Workout for one hour indoors 3-5 times this week. Warm up for 15 minutes each time. Then, do progressions with your gears. Warm up for 15 minutes. Practice progressions with your gears.  Start in the small ring in front and gradually progress from the easiest to the hardest gear every 10 minutes. At the end, cool down for 5 minutes. Then walk or run 5 minutes to detox your legs. 
  • Recruit a neighbor, friend, or family member to ride outdoors with you in the coming couple weeks. If no one steps up, post a sign at the YMCA, neighborhood gym, or on local cycling or triathlon boards to find someone. 

Week 2 4 Weeks out From the Ride  

  • Continue workouts 3-5 times per week. Continue with last week’s progression exercise while riding indoors on your trainer for one hour and then ride outside for one hour. When you head outdoors, bring along whomever you recruited to keep you company and practice riding in a line 3 inches apart. Spend this week attending to bike handling skills and take turns leading.

Week 3 3 Weeks out From the Ride

  • Continue the indoor or outdoor workouts with progressions, riding indoors for one hour while bumping up your outdoor ride to 2 hours. You’re still working out 3-5 times per week. One person in your outdoor group needs to be the coxswain to yell out the agreed upon count for changes in progression.

Week 4 2 Weeks out From the Ride

  • Continue the indoor and outdoor workouts with progressions, but this week ramp it up to 3 hours outdoors for the first ride and 4 hours for the remaining rides this week. If you start to think that 180-miles is very far and doubt whether you can make it, remember that time in the saddle is the greatest psychological training tool there is. 

Week 5 1 Week out From the Ride

  • With four weeks of progressions and mid-distance rides under your belt, you should be feeling strong. With only one week to go until the Pan-Florida Challenge ride begins, be careful not to do anything that might result in an injury. Ride only 3-4 times this week. Practice your one hour of progressions indoors and then head outside for 5 more hours. Practice progressions and sitting in a pace line with others.

Aside from the training itself, there are a few other considerations to bear in mind:

  • While you’re training, practice drinking an 18 ounce bottle of water each hour. Set your watch to beep once per hour, and swallow a salt table or similar supplement every hour as well. These can be purchased at a drug or health food store, as well as many cycling and triathlon shops.

  • Don’t forget the 5 minute run after each ride. I can’t promise you it won’t hurt, but you will recover much faster from your ride. 

  • Don’t wait to replenish your food stores after your rides. Consume sufficient carbohydrates within 15-30 minutes of riding. If you can’t stomach whole food right away, find a liquid replacement that will reload your carbohydrates.

  • Find your friendly local bike shop and tip a mechanic to watch you change your tire. After you’ve mastered that, get together with your cycling friends or just crack open a bottle of wine or a beer and change your tire again and again. You should do this at least twice, but the truth is the more you do it, the better you’ll get.

Please let me know if you have any questions. If you follow this program, you will be well trained for the ride!

See you down the road, 

Celeste Callahan

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