Training for century event - Century Specialty vs Polarized Plan

Hi there!

I’m interested in thoughts on the century specialty vs the polarized build plan.

I’m planning to participate in a century event at the beginning of March. I’m currently starting the polarized base mid volume plan and was intending to continue with the polarized build mid volume plan leading up to the event.

Does this sound appropriate, or would I be better off using the mid volume century specialty instead? Would it actually make any difference?

FWIW, I’ve done ~2200mi. non-structured riding over the last few months with regular 40-60mi rides, TR virtualFTP ~250, and I have relatively little background in structured training. Just looking to be as prepared as possible!


Since you are relatively new to the sport, I would receommnd the century plan over the polarized plan….not because it is “better” but simply because you are still building your aerobic engine.

The best advice, IMO, is for newer riders to simply ride….make sure you have sufficient volume to achieve your goals, but don’t worry too much about intervals and such for now. Simply riding your bike will make a massive difference.

You are going to get a lot of opinions both ways on this subject, so if you came looking for a clear-cut answer, you are probably gonna be disappointed. :crazy_face:

But the good news is that either plan will get you through the century just fine. :+1:t2:


Thanks for the response!

I actually feel pretty good on the bike right now, and I’m confident I could complete a century if it were this weekend, the trouble is maintaining and ideally improving my fitness throughout the miserable Minnesota winter that has just begun :cold_face:

I did notice that the longest ride in either plan is around 2 hours. Would there be any benefit to extending or swapping out any of the rides for longer 3-5 hour sessions as I get closer to the event? (I say that now like it’s a walk in the park to sit on an indoor trainer for 5 hours)

Thanks again for the help!

While it seems like 2 hours on a trainer is not enough time to get ready for a 5 hour ride - it really is. The biggest thing you will need to worry about is nutrition as 2 hours on the trainer will not help you get that ready. The 2 hours trainer workouts will have your aerobic system and legs more than enough ready.

Nice welcome to winter yesterday in MN!

Another important question is what are your goals in terms of the Century ride?

Is it going to be flat, hilly or rolling?

Are you looking to simply complete it at a relaxed pace, or are you planning for a spicier ride, maybe trying to hang with some faster riders in groups?

The steady Z2 rides in the polarized plans will really help to build your base fitness, which will not only help come March, but if you keep up with them will be really helpful in your evolution as a cyclist in the years to come. If you are feeling good and have the time, you could certainly extend some of the rides on the trainer, but remember to keep the big picture in mind and try not to burn out from being on the trainer so much. The polarized plans sprinkle in some high intensity work as well to help balance things out. Focusing on building that aerobic engine and getting those mitochondrial adaptations in your muscles is going to help build that solid foundation for your cycling future.

If you are looking to ride more aggressively in the Century, then you may have to adapt the training somewhat leading up to the event to get a little more specificity in.

Again, you will get lots of different answers here, but IMO, you should 100% do longer rides than 2 hours. Sure, testing things like nutrition and clothing on longer rides is critical, but my experience has shown that volume is the great equalizer.

Do you need to do 5 hour rides? Probably not if you goal is just to finish (strong)…but certainly some 3-4 hour rides will be beneficial.

Can it be done on rides no longer than 2 hours? Yes. Is it ideal? Not in my opinion and experience.

*waves in Chicago :rofl:

Since you are in MN, and if you are on Zwift, consider the BMTR ride on Saturday mornings at 7:10. 100 mile ride, but you can go as long or as short as you want. Pick the right group / pace that you need for a long z2 ride and join the fun. Based on your 250w FTP, I would say the C group is the right option for you. Will feel pretty easy to ride in the Yellow Beacon group. They usually finish the full 100 miles in a smidge over 4 hours (thanks, Zwift physics!!) and take a brief stop at 100km to refuel, pee, etc.

The B group will finish in ~3:50 and go straight through with no break.

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Hi John,

I’m currently training for Ride London which is a century next Summer.

I’ve done many years of structured training on and off and about years worth of Trainer Road. I noticed earlier this year that by just doing sweet spot 1 and 2 and sustained build that the two century rides I did this year seemed much easier. That’s with rarely more than 2 hour training rides, 3 max. It surprised me actually. Going from 2 hrs to 6 with relative ease tells me that Trainer Road works.

I just punched everything into plan builder for next year it came up with
Sweet spot base 1 - 6 weeks
Sustained build - 1 week
Sweet spot base 2 - 6 weeks (I’m on this now )
Sustained build - 8 weeks
Sweet spot base 2 - 6 weeks
Century speciality - 8 weeks

Using my past experience, I think this is a banging programme and would thoroughly recommend, Do a few long rides more to see how comfortable you are.

Also don’t forget your core ! Yoga once a week will do wonders search Phil Gaimon yoga cycling, saved me after back surgery.

Good luck,

Wow! So many responses, thank you all!

@Buckethead that’s good to know on the 2 hour rides. Normally I don’t mind the snow coming to MN, but I’ve gotten so into cycling this year that it’s really bumming me out. Now the best I can hope for is some dry days to bundle up and go for a ride :smile:

@Kuttermax my goal for this century is to be somewhere in the middle of the spectrum you described. I’d like to push myself to go relatively quickly, but I don’t expect to be hanging with the fastest riders. I’m planning to do the Solvang Century which looks to be about 6000ft elevation. It’s definitely more elevation than I’m used to on a regular basis, but I have done rides recently that were about 3-4k over 50 miles, so I don’t think it will be too far outside my comfort zone.

Thanks @Power13, I think I may try to sprinkle in some ~3-4 hour rides as well, just to keep up my long duration comfort on the bike if nothing else. I’ll have to look into the BMTR ride. I’ve never used zwift, but that might be a fun way to pass the time on the trainer.

@Michael_D Glad to hear your positive experience with these training plans! Core is definitely something I need to work on. I unfortunately sit in an office all day and have the core of a wet noodle. I actually just did my first yoga session yesterday with my wife and we’re planning to continue ‘yoga mondays’ which I’m excited about. I’ll definitely check out Phil’s videos. A few years ago I had pretty bad back pain (see core of a wet noodle) and I’ve been going to the chiropractor and doing daily stretches which has helped a lot, but I’m thinking regular yoga will be even better!

I think at this point I’m going to move forward with the polarized base, then move to the century specialty for the 8 weeks leading up to the event.

Way more responses than I was expecting, thank you all for your help. You guys are awesome!


No probs John. This is the yoga I do, only takes 20 mins. Stretching and Core for Cycling: The Ultimate Yoga Routine to Stay Strong and Injury-Free - YouTube

Great, thank you! Just saved that video for next week

Nice! Have you ever ridden in that area? No big climbs on that ride. With 2200miles of riding, including 40-60 mile rides, you could already go out and do it and have fun if properly fueled.

Yeah, I’m really excited for it!

I’ve never ridden in the area, but I have family out there and thought it would be a good break from the Minnesota winter :slight_smile: It also gives me something to work towards in the off season to keep my fitness up.

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Beautiful area. If you have extra time, the HC climb up Mt Figueroa is fantastic. Some great riding near San Luis Obispo (SLO). I thought about doing the Solvang Double that goes all the way to San Luis Obispo where my daughter lives. When in the area I mostly ride around SLO and have posted some pics on the where did you ride outside? thread.

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Some pics for inspiration, trip from March 2022:

and July 2022:

And in Santa Ynez looking up at Mt Figueroa back in November 2017:

Good to know! I’ll definitely have to check out the that climb. Sounds challenging! Thanks for the pictures too, makes me even more excited to get out there in March!

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here is the Mt Fig Gran Fondo route: Figueroa Mountain Gran Fondo - A bike ride in Santa Barbara County, CA and some of my pics.

You are going to have a great time!

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