Monday, February 1, 2016

Training Camp: The New Normal

by Sue Aquila

At last count, I have attended seven camps in my triathlon career. These camps can range anywhere from a three day race simulation to a seven day cycling focused camp, like Endurance Corner’s most recent Tucson camp. During my camps I can expect my training volume to increase anywhere from 30% to 200%.

My training volume is high right now in my triathlon journey. My Tucson camp included increased intensity rather than just increased training load. Increased intensity ramps up my physical stress response.

At each camp, the campers ask each other about changes they notice in their bodies. I have at one point experienced every one of these symptoms:

  • Swelling/bloating
  • Increased urination
  • Insatiable hunger or depressed appetite
  • Fatigue induced hysteria or sadness/tears
  • Insomnia
  • Muscular soreness
  • Blunted reaction response

Experience has taught me that these symptoms are the new “normal” for my week. I remind myself that they will pass but the results last for a lifetime from the podium.

I have developed a few cheats at camp that help me weather the storm. The first one is that I eat a lot starting the day before camp. Glycogen depletion can kill your ability to increase your volume and/or intensity. It also makes you moody and more likely to crack. I eat like it is my job! My job includes maintaining race nutrition goals on every ride (75g carbohydrates per hour).

I keep my room stocked with food. I have apple sauce and plain oatmeal available for early morning run training. I use electrolyte tabs in my water bottle to stay hydrated. I supplement with yogurt, almond butter and protein shakes as I try to maintain muscle during my pre-season. Despite all my attempts to increase food volume I will lose weight post camp.

My second cheat is to make sure I have plenty of reading material for the inevitable camp insomnia. I nap whenever I have an opportunity and the body is willing. If fatigued, I apply small amounts of caffeine to reduce perceived exertion.

My third cheat is making sure I have some of the comforts of home. I keep a portable small roller, stick and tennis ball with me to roll out any sore muscles. I read notes, cards, and emails from family and friends. I take time to call home and get perspective when needed.

The thing that amazes me about camp is that the strength of your team gives you the will and energy to keep going. My team mates motivate me to bring bring my best, to dig deep and to never quit. My favorite moments are at dinner each night when we share our inevitable epic stories from the day long training sessions. In an individual sport, a camp reminds me that for one week, I am not in this alone.


Sue started her triathlon journey with a 50 pound weight loss and continues as a Kona qualifier. As a successful entrepreneur, she believes that, “You can run your business like your training and your training like your business!” As a coach (USAT Certified), she helps athletes to develop success in all areas of their lives: family, health and work. She blogs regularly at fewoman.com. You can find her on Twitter @fewoman.
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