Booking yourself into a training camp can accelerate your tri progression. Joe Friel explains how to pick the right one...
One of the fastest ways to grow as a triathlete is to attend a camp. Throughout the year camps are available in the UK, as well as in exotic and excellent training locations like the Canaries, Tuscany and Colorado’s Rocky Mountains.
Before choosing a camp, however, you should decide what it is you hope to get out of it. Camps offer a wide variety of benefits. The most common are greater fitness, improved skills, training and racing knowledge, and fun.
When choosing a camp, you should also consider your race distance, seasonal periodisation, level of ability and experience. Another consideration is the length of the camp. Some take only a day while others last a week, even a fortnight in some cases.
With all of this in mind let’s take a look at the common types of camps. (The If The Camp Fits… box (above, right) summarises how to pick a camp based on your seasonal periodisation.)
There’s no better way to start your season than to attend an athletic-growth camp. These are best done 20 or more weeks before your A-priority race (you main race of the season).
The typical growth opportunities that such a camp offers include refining your skills in all three sports, physiological testing, bike-fitting and classroom time. When scheduled in the off-season, which is the best time for such a camp, the training is usually low-key and easy. These are excellent, regardless of your experience, ability or race distance.
If you find it hard to get motivated in the winter when your periodisation calls for base fitness training, then this is the camp for you. The training will likely include some long workouts done at a slow-to-moderate pace, muscular force training with weightlifting or hills, and skills refinement in all three sports.
If you’re an advanced athlete, this is a great way to kick-start your training for the season. These camps are also highly recommended for novices since training at a basic ability is what they most need.
With less than 12 weeks until your A-priority race, it’s best to choose a camp that is specific to the distance and terrain of your A-priority race.
Weather may also be a strong consideration if race day is expected to be hot or humid. The workouts at such a camp will focus heavily on muscular endurance training with moderately hard tempo sessions, threshold intervals and hill climbing.
This type of training is valuable for racing at every distance. Short-course-focused camps may also include anaerobic-endurance training with fast-paced intervals in all three sports.
Race fitness camps usually also help to refine your transitions, and are often held at the race venue, especially for long-course events. This is valuable as it gives you the opportunity to train on the course you will race on, and will pay huge dividends on race day.
Probably the most common reason athletes go to camps is because they are fun. They offer an opportunity to escape from wet and cold winters, make new friends and get motivated.
Some provide unique experiences such as bicycle tours, sampling the local food and wine, training with a well-known pro triathlete or learning from a knowledgeable coach. Many of these camps are intended for specific types of triathletes, such as Ironman competitors, beginners or women.
For some camps, everything is included – meals, housing, local transportation, and even entertainment and massages. As expected, these camps have higher fees. Others may appear to be quite inexpensive at first but they could require you to make your own arrangements, greatly increasing the cost. Be sure to find out all of the details before committing.
Packing for a camp can be a challenge. Most camps will tell you what kit and equipment are needed. But even if not suggested, it’s generally a good idea to take extra layers of clothes, even if it’s a warm-weather location, and a rain cape, even if the area is not known for rain. It’s better to have these things and not need them than the other way around.
Be sure to take plenty of clothing as laundry facilities may not be available. Also, find out what sort of gears you will need on your bike. In mountainous terrain, obviously expect the steepest possible climbs and come prepared with low gearing. If the camp focuses on fitness, arrive well-rested.
For a week-long fitness camp, pace yourself on the first couple of days. The most common mistake I witness is campers training at much too high an intensity early in the week and then struggling to finish the last few days.
To avoid the sag wagon later in the week, pace yourself by holding back the first few days so you can finish strong. If you find yourself completely wasted, skip a workout but let the camp staff know.
After a particularly hard camp, you may need several days of rest on returning home. While at such a camp, put a premium on nutrition, rest, naps and sleep. For more information on training, visit Joe Friel’s blog at joefrielsblog.com.