Monday, February 1, 2016

Training Camp FAQ

Q - Is the upside of a camp worth the time and expense of doing it? Is there an objective or subjective measure of the benefits?

In terms of areas where money can buy you actual fitness, camps are among the highest return per dollar. That said, I recommend that you have the following before you consider laying out a big sum for a camp: aerobars, wetsuit and powermeter.

As for time, that comes back to where triathlon sits in your larger life. Assuming you are talking about a week long vacation - five days vacation - many of us would benefit more from splitting five long weekends between sport and family.

The benefits are straightforward to quantify -- pace/power versus your benchmark heart rates. When these don't improve following a camp then you likely over-did-it.

Q - When is the ideal date to do one in preparation for an "A" race and is it worth participating in one outside of this window.

I like to place camps (roughly) eleven, seven or three weeks out from a goal event. As I said above, the closer you are to your goal race, the less room you have to correct mistakes and mistakes WILL happen early in your athletic career.

Another consideration, that Alan talks about in the blog post linked above, is that the further away you are from your goal race, the more "room" you need to allow yourself to lift your training load later in the year. Probably the most common mistake that we see (and have made ourselves) with early season camps is athletes smashing themselves at a training load that they will never be able to sustain/repeat for their specific preparation period. We spend a lot of time managing the efforts of our return customers downwards -- so they are able to achieve superior late-season results.

Q - I always hear people asking about options. What if I cannot/do not want to do "that" ride or do I have to run after. What other options are available?

Great point. You should speak with the camp director in advance. In my experience, most camp organizers are willing to cater for individual needs. With our camps, we have a policy that we will either accommodate you, or tell you why we can't.

Two issues flowing from this question:

  1. To get the most out of the camp, you are going to have to self-moderate. There will be athletes there that are far stronger than you. Sitting on, say, Lieto's wheel... that would be fun (I've done it myself as a neo-elite). However... if your goal for athletics is performance then you need to know your mission for the camp. I like having my mission written as that helps me hold myself accountable.
  2. We don't always know what we need. One of the neat things about being exposed to new athletes/coaches is that they might notice aspects of your fitness portfolio that you hadn't considered. Make use of the camp environment to learn from your fellow campers -- there are often some VERY accomplished people there.

If athletic performance is important to you then now is the time to start thinking about how you can use training camps in your up-coming season, especially to give yourself a quick boost.

Five things to remember with a training camp:

  1. Keep it simple!
  2. Swim, bike and run on as many days as possible - you'll surprise yourself.
  3. Find a low-cost, convenient location with minimal distractions.
  4. Schedule your least favorite sport, first.
  5. Don't change time zones unless you are traveling to good weather.

Tips for when you get there:

  • Warn your clients well in advance that you'll be off-the-grid and don't check in with the office. You'll be AMAZED at the energy boost this gives you.
  • Pay your support people -- don't con your family into a "vacation" providing sag.
  • Avoid sustained high-intensity efforts in the first two days -- you'll probably ignore this tip... and learn why it important to remember for next time.
  • Overload volume, or intensity, not both.
  • Arrive with a set of written goals -- read them each morning.

Judge the success of your training camp by the speed of your recovery. After each camp, write yourself notes on how you'd improve next time.

When I was starting out, my "camps" were overnight adventures where we would swim in the morning, ride to a destination, run then return the next day. As my stamina increased, I was able to dream up bigger adventures.

Dream Big!

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