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How To Build a Successful DIY Training Camp

BY Tatjana Bill

You don't have to be a pro to train like one. Here's how to build a successful training camp at any time, anywhere—even your own living room.

In winter months, training like a pro means going to a training camp. The South of Spain, Cyprus, South Africa, Thailand, and the Canary Islands are only a few of the popular winter escapes for the eat-sleep-train junkies. But what if you cannot travel towards the sun and have to stay home above the 40th parallel north? Can you train like a pro there? The answer is definitely yes.

Some pros do just that: ask Lionel Sanders, a Canadian pro, 2nd in Kona in 2017, who does pretty much all his workouts on a treadmill and bike trainer on his balcony. In fact, there are many advantages to staying home: from sleeping in your bed to saving time and money. And a training camp at home can bring a lot of diversity into your training, making those long winter sessions much more fun.

Here comes your step-by-step guide on how to design a DIY camp.

Step 1: Define your time frame.

Do you want to go for one week or a long weekend? With the spiral training cycle structure I offer here, you can do both—you will just need to adapt the load. You can also do two or three consecutive long weekends, which will give a serious boost to your form development. This format is helpful both in winter as foundational training and in the final race preparation period, starting 5-6 weeks before your race.

Step 2: Define your objective.

To make your camp an exercise in deliberate practice, you need to set a specific objective, for example, improving functional strength, base endurance, power endurance, etc. Ideally, you should quantify this objective and make it measurable; for example, lift 150% of your weight 1x with a HEX halter by the end of a cycle of 3 camps, run 2hrs at 5:30 pace in Z2, ride 30min at 250Watt, etc.

Step 3: Design a progressive load structure.

Take your average weekly TSS over the last four weeks of training—this will be your total load for the 3-day long weekend camp. Then, allocate this total load to each training day, following the progressive load structure of 25%-35%-40%.

For example, if you had an average of 500 TSS over the last four weeks of training, you should plan 100 TSS on Friday, 175 on Saturday and 200 on Sunday. If all your training is in Z2, then in terms of hours of training, it would be ca. 2.5hr on Friday, 4.5 hours on Saturday, and 5 hours on Sunday. With more intensity, the duration of workouts would decrease. And Monday should definitely be a well-deserved day off.

For the week-long camp, plan two blocks: 3 days load – 1 day off – 3 days load of spiral structure. Thus, for the first three days, you will start with 70% of the four-week TSS average; for the next three days, you need to plan with 80%. Using the previous example of the 500 TSS average, your total camp week will be 750 TSS, with the following daily allocation of TSS: 88 – 130 – 150 – 0 – 100 – 140 – 160.

Step 4: Allocate volume, intensity and workout types.

Load88 TSS, 100% volume130 TSS, 80% volume20% intensity150 TSS, 100% volumeoff100 TSS, 80% volume20% intensity140 TSS, 100% volume160 TSS, 90% volume10% intensity
Time2hrs3hrs4hrs 2.5hrs3.5hrs4hrs
Type1. Tempo run 2. SwimBike: hill repeats or race pace intervals1. Brick: Bike-run2. Recovery swim Brick: bike-runLong hilly ride1. S&C2. Long run3. Long swim

Step 5: Invite friends and family to train with you.

This is where a camp at home can make the biggest difference: you’ll remain a social (happy) human being versus turning into a triathlon training hermit. Find creative ways to integrate your friends and family into your training, from your kids arranging a T2 for your brick training to your partner following your runs on a bike or your cycling on an electric bike. And of course, if they are as fit as you are, you train together!

Step 6: Do grocery shopping and cooking in advance.

An increased training volume will require additional fuel. Plan it in advance and buy all necessary groceries in sufficient quantities. You can pre-cook base foods such as beans, lentils and quinoa to use in a nutritionally dense salad. Also, make healthy snacks such as rice balls and homemade muesli bars for long rides. I’ve always said, “Your nutrition strategy is your race strategy in an Ironman,” so a training camp at home is an excellent opportunity to try different fuel options and find an optimal one safely.

Step 7: Be smart.

The temptation is big to go and kill yourself on Day 1 of a training camp—but it’s a rookie mistake! Generally, for 80% of your training, the rule is that you should finish feeling that you could still have gone for at least 30 minutes (or longer). Specifically, in the training camp context, it is crucial to train progressively, with a slow build-up of fatigue and built-in recovery. At the end of the camp, the ideal state is to feel tired—but only so much that you can resume your regular training after some recovery.

The week following a training camp should be a lighter training week, starting with one or two complete recovery days and then base endurance training only for at least four or five days. After this recovery cycle, you can transition to the next level and add 10 to 20% to your weekly TSS. Do this repeatedly, and you will be super fit on your race day!

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Ultimate Ironman Training Guide

Training Guide

This guide is designed to be used as you train for an IRONMAN triathlon, with in-depth information on every part of the process. Each chapter is packed with tips, workouts, and insights from triathlon coaches, to give you all the tools you need to succeed.

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About Tatjana Bill

Tatjana Bill (Ivanova) has coached endurance athletes for more than 20 years. Her qualifications include Elite Coach A by the German Triathlon Union, Level 2 TrainingPeaks, IRONMAN and Trisutto. She is a 20x IRONMAN finisher (2xKona), trail runner and cross-country skier. All her athletes, from first-time marathoners to IRONMAN World Championship qualifiers, have achieved their personal goals and finished their races with a smile. Learn more at http://www.coachtatjana.com/

“Joy in the effort” is Tatjana´s mantra for training and racing.

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