Done right training camps can really benefit your season – but what to watch out for? There are lots of possible pitfalls, from the food to the terrain. Listen in for the best ways to maximise your training camp, and come out kicking arse and taking names!
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It’s not just chasing the sun, and warmer weather for the sake of it – It’s what you can do it that weather. For the PROs training camps are a lot more complicated. Especially the first one of the year. Meeting everyone – new kit and equipment – press and media appointments. All the garbage that we can do without.
To some training camps are a chance to live like a PRO – or at least pretend to be a PRO for a couple of weeks. I like to think it more like a working holiday. Where we have an opportunity to just ride. That is something a PRO doesn’t get.
The focus can be even better for the semi-pro – it’s rare that you get this much time to train. Cycling is a selfish sport – this allows that little bit extra selfishness. Sure you can bring along the family, but even then – they know you are there.
I’m guessing that you’ve already figured out that I’m a fan of training camps. Even though I can’t admit to being on a commercial one, only sporting academy ones. But that’s the beauty of it – training camp is such a loose term that can describe anything from fully supported training sessions with everything taken care of, to self supported groups rides over several days, and even touring through the Alps could be considered a Training Camp if the riding matches your event, and macro cycle.
The biggest thing when choosing a camp is working out your requirements first. Then finding one to match – or even creating your own. It all starts, as most things in the competitive cycling world do, with your chosen A race and Annual Training Plan. This sounds obvious, but if you don’t have a plan, even a rough one, you’re wasting your time dropping in a training camp because you’re lured away by the seductive scenery – and thought of massages and wine at the end of each ride.
Choosing the right time to go on a training camp is crucial and this varies from one rider to the next.
PROs start a little earlier – in Nov or Dec, but they have a longer season, and the capacity, and necessity to put it in earlier. There are options to do them earlier of course – and depending on the timing of your event – it may be necessary. But then again too close to your race and you’ll be cactus for the main event.
Commonly the commercial training camps are placed between late February and early April. Of course this is in the US – If you’re in Australia something like the Bright Boot Camp is perfectly timed for the Tour of Bright in December.
4 weeks out from a big event is about the minimum I’d finish up a big block of training in the hills. That way you can taper, and carry that form into the race. Timing here is more about having the fitness to get through the extra training, but not wiping yourself out before the race.
Watching your recovery is crucial – it’s easy to get caught up in the hype of riding with others, pride is a big one that can get in the way. To combat this, have clear goals going into the camp – also have clear goals going into each ride. Know what zones you want to be in, and don’t push above. This is classic group riding stuff, just remember though, you have put a lot more effort to get to these group rides, and if it’s 4 weeks out from your A race – ride smart.
Things like massages can help with recovery, but there more for sorting out niggles that stop you from training. The old why stand when you can sit, and why sit when you can lie down definitely applies here.
Even considering what you can control, there are times that bad things happen. When you’re pushing your body so hard, and are effectively teetering on the edge of disaster (sickness). Then it’s more about protecting yourself from any bugs or viruses. That’s the stuff that hits you by surprise. My last coach used to get me buying a travel Lysol spray and spray every door knob before I touched it. . It’s good tip, and hey we already look like freaks to non-cyclists, embrace it and go that step further so you don’t have to explain what you’re doing because they’ve put you in the too weird basket.
Even watching the food you eat is important. Less important with consistency and quality of western food, but still, we talk about not experimenting on race day – don’t experiment in with race, training or any other types of food. Make sure you know what food is going to be served, and make sure you’re cool with it – meaning you know your body will handle it well. Every day is crucial at the training camp – and you don’t want to bug out with something that was easy to avoid.
Also, while I’m thinking about the group element. Keep your drinking in check – not to be all preachy preachy here – but it’s all too easy to get carried away with your new buddies, and while the conversation flows, hold back on the wine. If alcohol’s your crutch in social situations – I hope your love of cycling gets you over the line around this time. Same goes for too long at the coffee shop – get your arse out there and ride.
The group dynamic is definitely good in my opinion. They’re a challenge – and if you’re in for a hard hit out, or practice race this element will make all the difference to your preparation. Being in a larger group of riders of a similar ability will create a perfect environment for you to improve. Mentally this is a strong point – even if you’re gregarious you’re probably coming off the back of some solitude through winter training. Not to mention sharpening the group riding skills.
Finally, train for your training camp. If you’re not prepared you will suffer. A training camp is likely to exceed the 5 or 10% increase in volume or intensity each week that will keep you in check overtraining wise.
Top 10 tips for getting the most out of a training camp
Keep hydrated on the flight and avoid the booze
Match the terrain to suit your training and racing goals.
Going for an all inclusive package means you can just focus on the riding
Make sure you have an aim and communicate it; if you want to work on climbing let the team know so they can give advice and tailor sessions for you
Take it easy on day one.
Look for camps with presentations by visiting professionals in different fields.
Having a coach handy is one way to avoid overtraining
Try avoid hiring a bike – if you have to take your saddle and pedals
Have fun! It’s a holiday after all.
- Have a clean bike and positive attitude.
- Trainer Egg Cooker
- Phil Gaimon IMA
- Lysol Spray
- Garmin Training Camp
- Ted King
- A great video on how to race cyclocross
Photo Credit: thelearningcurvedotca on Flickr