I thought I would write about my feelings towards training camps whilst I am lucky enough to be on one in beautiful Mediterranean Mallorca. Across the world, all kinds of sports’ teams from amateur to Olympic use these intense periods of training to focus on getting fitter, stronger, more knowledgably etc. free from the distractions of the daily grind. There are many obvious benefits to a training camp, but I think it is worthwhile considering the potential pitfalls of such set ups.
- “FOMO” – Fear of Missing Out: that feeling that you ought to squeeze in another training session because Mr or Mrs Rival is going out again or you feel guilty sat around, actually having proper recovery time. You have different goals and physiological requirements to your training brethren, so stick to your plan, and listen to the coach.
- “Testosterone effect” – more applicable to males, but you just know that when certain egos are involved, the easy run/cycle/recovery session turns into a race. Identify these people and steer clear: easy sessions must be easy to allow your body to adapt.
- Over-trained vs over-reaching – be careful hitting a camp too hard and fast; you may be asking your body to endure 2-3+ times more volume than usual, and if you don’t manage this increase sensibly, fatigue, injury and worst of all, deep over-training can occur.
- Over-eating – if you are staying in a hotel like this one, beware the all you can binge-eat buffet on offer 3 times a day…and then there’s the daily pasta party too; you may return from the camp heavier than you left due to over-compensating for all that exercise.
- Psychological effects – don’t feel bound to comparing yourself to all the other athletes around you in your age group; they will have different goals, more weekly time to train or simply be in a different periodisation phase from you. Remember that endurance sports (unless you really are at the pointy end) are about challenging and bettering
- Taking it too seriously – you are on holiday! Have a few drinks, ice creams, treats, and definitely have a few easy days factored in to check out the local culture away from lyrca.
- Uninterrupted training and coaching. I recommend staying in a catered accommodation to take away the added hassle and stress of shopping, cooking and cleaning. When you roll in from a long day in the saddle, you just want to be presented with food (and beer?!)
- Like-minded individuals – you have all paid to be there, regardless of which team you represent. Just try not to be too boring in conversation and please stay away from Strava and social media at mealtimes!
- Better weather than home – most Europeans book camps in early spring when the wind and rain at home doesn’t make training easy. The ability to swim in open water early in the season will pay dividends come race season.
- Race simulations – you can enjoy some low-pressure competitions amongst your group or even time your camp to coincide with a race abroad. Some camps are even designed to culminate in a race.
- Learning – squeeze out as much knowledge as possible from your fellow athletes and coaches: there will always be someone more experienced than you.
- Experimentation – try new things out with an open mind. On this camp, I had “Chinese cupping” done to release a knot in my back and I found that cycling hot and cold therapy (3 x 10mins sauna, 5mins ice-cold plunge pool) helped my aching legs feel fresh everyday.
The bottom line is that if you can spare the time and money to go on a training camp, the experience and extra training stimulus should motivate you and kick-start your season. I have always raced better when I attended an Easter training camp. I feel that 7 days is a minimum period but 10 days allows you to not cram too much in, and have a few easier days. As tempting as it is to go with your family, I believe to truly get the above-mentioned benefits, you should leave them at home: this is your time and you need the time between intense training for 100% recovery.
As always, feel free to comment or challenge my suggestions, or get in touch if you would like more coaching or nutrition advice.