What do you think when you hear “training camp”? Maybe an all-inclusive warm-weather winter getaway for a week of professional training? While those camps are possible for some, they’re not realistic for many. But that doesn’t mean you can’t create your own personal training camp and get many of the same benefits. Let’s discuss some of the reasons you might want to plan a personal triathlon training camp and what factors you’ll need to consider in order to plan and execute a week of focused training.
Why perform a training camp?
One of the most beneficial reasons for holding a training camp is that you’re committing to a focused period of training for a specific period of time. You want to dedicate this week to training and recovery, limit outside distractions in order to make significant forward progress toward a goal, whether that be your end of season “A” race performance or an important process goal along the way like improving a particular weakness. If you’re working toward peak performance, you’ve likely performed a post-season review and should know what your areas of weakness are, what you need to improve on or do differently to prepare for the next season, and what your goals are for each phase of training along the way. Use this information to define what you want to get out of the training camp so that you can measure its success at the end of it.
Knowing your goals is the first step. Just like a road trip, you have to know your destination in order to plan your route. Some important questions that you need to ask include:
When and where is the best time to hold a camp? If your goal is to increase aerobic capacity, you’ll want to do it in the pre-season. If you want to peak for a race, do it 4-6 weeks out. What training sessions are key to improving the specific fitness necessary for achieving your goal? If you need to gain strength because your “A” race is very hilly, you’ll want to include some hill climbing and strength training. Do you need a running track or a pool for speed work? What about open water swimming? Where is the best place to do these specific training sessions? Can you stay at home or do you need to travel? If you need to run on hills, then south Florida may not be your best choice. Do you need to do all of your training outdoors, or can you perform key sessions on an indoor trainer? You can save some time in planning and ensure that you meet the goals of those sessions by making the most of training tools like the SYSTM Training App.
Workouts? One problem with performing interval sessions outdoors is that the terrain may impact your workout. For example, you hit a stoplight in the middle of a key interval, or the road pitches up and requires more power than you are targetting. If you have a smart trainer and the SYSTM Training App hitting power and heart rate targets becomes much simpler especially for the mid to long threshold efforts when you want smooth power over extended periods of time.
For your long endurance rides, however, you may want to get out and explore some new terrain. If you have a cycling computer such as the Elemnt BOLT you can upload maps and routes directly to it, giving you peace of mind once you’re out on the roads or trails; especially if you’re in an unfamiliar location. Not to mention, exploring fuels your passion to put in the hard work and affords you the ability to see the results of the hard work you are putting in.
Training Partners? Another consideration is whether you have friends or training partners who would be suitable to invite along for your training sessions. If they’re similar in ability level or a little faster, some friendly competition can push you both and make certain workouts even more productive and enjoyable. Just don’t get carried away and let every workout turn into a race. Remember that each training session should have a purpose and you need to recognize if or when you start to deviate from it. A good rule of thumb is to check in with your training partners ahead of time to see what they have planned for the day. If it aligns with what you need to do then get after it together. Keep your goal for the training session and camp first priority.
Recovery? You may also want to consider what specific recovery strategies you want to integrate into your camp week. Staying at home can be a benefit in this area, as you’d have access to your usual recovery modalities and practitioners for massage, physical therapy, etc. If you are driving somewhere to perform your camp, that allows you to easily bring your usual recovery tools such as foam rollers and compression boots, but will require some research to find services if you need them. If you’re flying for a destination camp, you’ll be more limited on what you can travel with and will also need to research to find services like massage.
Stick to the plan! You know your goals, you’ve done your research and planning, now you just have to execute. Be realistic in your plan and don’t try to over-do it thinking that your schedule has to mimic the pros or go above and beyond your normal. In fact, you’re better off sticking to what you know works for you and enhancing your accountability. Find someone that will hold you accountable for the plan you create and check in with them at the end of each day. This helps most people stay focused and motivated when fatigue begins to creep in.
There’s really no right or wrong way to perform a training camp. It’s all about commitment, focus, and doing your best at working toward your goals.