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How to get ready to cycle 500 miles

If you know me, you are aware that I’m really not the fittest person. I am very conscious of what I eat, but I often lack the motivation to work out. Apparently abs are made in the kitchen but strong legs are definitely not. Problem is, if I do make it to the gym I never manage to push myself hard enough. So it seemed rather surprising for me to take on such a challenge!

Cycling 500 miles around Scotland. With ultimately 10.000 m elevation. What?!

I would like to share with you my journey to have this crazy fun experience and show you that really anyone can do it. I wasn’t 24/7 in the gym or stuck to a hardcore regime. After all I am a PhD student and spend most of my time in the lab! Even with a busy lifestyle it can be possible to increase your fitness when you are working towards a specific goal. Could I have trained harder? Yes. Was it necessary? Certainly not.

Weekend cycling into nature

I started with pretty much no fitness and huffing and puffing up my first 250 m hill close to tears in February, wondering what I had committed to just 2 months before. The good news was I had time on my side to prepare for my trip starting at the end of May.

Most weekends we cycled 60-80 km until I felt comfortable cycling this distance. I then added 1-2h evening cycles either along the canals or in the gym once or twice a week, depending on the weather. I could feel I was getting stronger, but I still had a hard time getting up hills. My legs could do it but I couldn’t catch my breath, meaning I needed to improve my cardio-fitness. I then included small 3km runs to improve this and not long after this I surpassed my first fellow cyclist boosting it up a hill! I felt exhilarated, I was finally making progress.

Lastly we went on a ‘practice weekend cycle’. About 80-100 km each day and 800 m elevation to ensure I was ready for the distances we had to cover on our trip. And I was ready – we had a blast!

We are all motivated differently and truthfully I could have prepared more. The reason I barely worked out in the gym is because I just can’t be strict enough with myself to push myself if it is just as easy to get off the bike and walk away. This is why it was crucial for my prep to do most of the exercise outdoors. I had to cycle further or over the next hill if I wanted to get back home on the same day.

My mind was focused, because I only had the option of pressing forward. This ultimately made cycling the 500 miles so much fun! You see, I didn’t but huge amount of effort into training and still had a great time. Now I need to just find a way to motivate myself for indoor exercise to improve my overall fitness.  If you have any tips let me know!

Training timeline:
  • Feb-April: Weekend Cycling 70-80km a day
  • March-May: Additional 1-2 short fast cycles during the week
  • April-May: Short runs to build cardiovascular fitness
  • May: Hill climbing – training elevation gain
  • May: Long distance: consecutive 100 km days
Training for the north coats 500 - Perks include evening sunsets!
Evening cycling has its perks!


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