Training Camps...

Here is a two-part article on training camps; I cut and pasted it here so the formatting is a little off. j


Preparing for a Training Camp

A couple months ago I wrote an article about incorporating a training camp into your next (which is now) season. Late February and most of March is high time for triathlon and cycling camps in the Northern Hemisphere. This probably results from the assumption that most people have trained moderately for a couple months (mostly indoors for many) and are looking for a camp to really get their cycling rolling. This is a great idea and I encourage people to do this if time permits.

Ok, so you have sat on the trainer and ran in the snow for a couple months and now the camp is coming up. Chances are the camp will have a) significantly more cycling volume than you have done this season (perhaps 15-20 hours more than a usual winter week) and b) it will likely have more intensity. Both of these things are perfectly ok so long as you can ease back into your normal routine when you go home. Gordo and Alan have a great phrase: “Judge the success of a training camp by how quickly you bounce back.”

Here are some things you can do before, and during, the camp to make it a success:

1) You came here to ride. At most camps, cycling might make up 75% or more of the entire training volume (by hours). This might strike you are being heavily unbalanced, but remember why you are here: because you cannot ride like this at home; either because of time, weather, or both. It is ok to slow down on your runs and go easier on your swims this week.

2) Moderate your run training, but don’t cut it out. I like to keep the normal frequency of running by doing easy runs first thing in the morning or by doing quick, steady runs off the bike (15 minutes is great). I also suggest cutting your typical long run by 25-50% in duration to avoid excessive soreness.

3) Maintain your swim frequency and, potentially, your normal volume. Most triathletes regularly swim 2-3x per week and going below that amount is not something I would suggest. However, I do advocate the extra use of paddles and pull buoy during these camps if you do not have a swim background. Many athletes will find themselves too tired to generate enough stress for their swimming muscles and I think this is a good supplement during a cycling-emphasized training camp. Your swimming coach might be shaking their head at me right now, but I’m ok with that.

4) Prepare the office for your departure. One of the greatest benefits of a training camp is being able to isolate where your stress is coming from. Stress comes at you from every which way while you are at home, but hopefully at these camps it can come almost entirely from your workouts. Make your office well aware of your upcoming leave so that no one finds this news unexpectedly. Being able to immerse yourself entirely at the camp is essential to its success. Training like a pro is the easy part; recovering like one is the real challenge.

5) Learn something about yourself. I tell this to athletes on the first night of our training camps. This might mean something different to everyone that reads or hears this and that is perfectly alright. I believe that every training camp provides us with various opportunities to discover something new about ourselves. Don’t pass up on that when it prevents itself.

In my next article I will address how you can affectively recover from a training camp. I have made more mistakes in this area than any other and I want you to avoid similar pitfalls.


Absorbing a Training Camp

In my last article I touched on how to approach an early season training camp (with a cycling emphasis). Now I would like to address what to do when the camp ends and you head home. Chances are; this is the area where you are most likely to make a mistake.

I would say that the average triathlete that attends a training camp typically trains about 8-12 hours/week in the early season; and if anything, it might be even less when averaged out. On the flipside, I would say the average training camp last 5-7 days and has a median training day length of 5 hours. Given this, you are looking at a 200% increase of volume for some athletes. Often times, achieving this increase in training is not that difficult to execute when you take away the normal daily (and weekly) occurrences of the working-athlete. However, when they/you get home, the challenges begin to present themselves again.

On the one hand, you want to allow yourself enough recovery from the camp before returning to normal training. On the other hand, the whole purpose of these camps is to get a boost in your fitness to use for further training and racing. You want enough recovery to absorb the camp, but you don’t want to fall off the wagon and negate the gains of the camp.

How much recovery should be taken? I think it depends on how big the camp was in relation to your average training load (for that time of year, not the whole season). A good rule of thumb is:

1) 1 day of recovery for every two training camp days (including travel days) if the camp was no more than a 50% increase of typical volume. 2) 1-1.5 days of recovery for two training camp days (including travel days) if the camp was 50-100% of your normal training load. 3) Equal amount of recovery days to training camps (including travel days) if the camp was over a 100% increase from your normal training volume.

To put this in practical terms: If the training camp ended Saturday, you traveled home Sunday and began recovery on Monday, you would either a) train easily until the weekend b) train easily for the entire week or c)you train easily until the middle of the following week.

If you trained an average of 10 hours per week, attended a 25-30 hour training camp, took a 5-7 hour recovery week and then managed to return to normal training, you would be looking at a very nice boost over the course of a two-week period. If you are taking 2, 3 or even more weeks to recover, then you are beginning to negate the benefits of the camp and you would have been better off stringing together 4-5 of your ‘normal’ training weeks instead.

The most successful training camps you do are the ones that allow you to return to normal as quickly as possible; only now your normal training loop is getting done a little faster than before. If you arrive home and don’t unpack your bike for a week then you might keep that in mind for future camps. Don’t cash in all your chips before the season even starts.