Training camps have been a routine for pro cycling teams during the winter for many years. The purpose is to get a good base foundation and make training as controlled as possible. On the other hand, winter usually brings bad and rainy weather, which is another reason why pro teams choose nice sunny places with quiet roads.
While the pro cyclists started racing in February and March, many amateur racers will not truly begin their season for several weeks and some of you may have your A race well into the summer. There are many great reasons for a training camp, and they can be used throughout the year.
Spring Training Camps
Many think of training camps as a way to get away from winter weather. While true, the winter is not the only time a camp can be valuable. The spring is also a great time to increase your volume to build your base. Many athletes benefit from capping their long winter rides to two to three hours and focus more on building power and strength. Then, during the spring, when the weather is consistently warm, they can finally get out and ride those long miles. Using this structure allows you to have enough miles in your legs to execute a good training camp while keeping you from burning out. Additionally, many camps are based on specific events and the organizer must wait for predictably warm weather to hold the camp.
Done correctly, a training camp allows you to accumulate high training volumes in short periods, which means a really good stimulus to your body. That over-reaching or fast ramp rate in your Chronic Training Load® (CTL®) will produce big results a few weeks later. Just how much you should increase your volume by is very individual. It is based on current fitness, fitness goals, consistency of past training and other factors.
To get the most from a training camp, you need company. Being in a larger group of riders while with a scheduled workout agenda creates a perfect environment for you to improve. This is especially true during the later sessions of the camp when fatigue begins to build. Having other campers can also motivate you for the upcoming training period and racing season.
Choosing the right time to go on a training camp is very important. Start training too close to an important race date and you might not have sufficient time to recover from over-reaching, while training too early may mean that you haven’t acquired the base fitness needed to complete the training camp. Again, a spring camp works well since you can still come into the camp with enough miles to be able to push yourself. Give yourself a minimum of 6 weeks or more from the end of your camp until your big event.
There are two ways to approach a training camp- the organized or DIY way. For a more relaxed or holiday approach go with the DIY option. This can potentially be more expensive and, most importantly, it can be tricky to go out and ride your bike without knowing any routes to take. However, you will have the freedom to do what is best for your schedule, and you can bring the family if need be.
Organized camps usually offer different levels to accommodate for every level of rider and are often set up around a specific event. These camps are typically full service, meaning you simply show up with your bike and they will have the routes set, food taken care of, mechanic available and other amenities. The groups are usually larger, and riding in a larger group means higher speeds and more miles. An important aspect of an organized camp is that there will be a coach available. Every day will have a structured plan for each level so you can avoid overriding. Getting instant feedback from your coach about how a session went and planning the next day based on how you both feel the session went is really valuable. Again, these camps are often found during the spring since the weather is more predictable and they are set up for events that are still months away.
Be smart this season and book your “dream training camp”, it will be worth it when racing season is in full effect. Boost your base period fitness with a good training camp, you´ll enjoy new roads and keep on track to make all your scheduled workouts.