As many of you are starting to plan and get ready for the
first training camps of the year, it seems appropriate to produce a
factsheet to cover this ever more important area of your season's
preparation. So here goes...
Pre-trip Preparation First things first. Why are you going on a training camp?
Obviously (probably) the primary reason is to get fitter, but there are
many facets to fitness that we may need to consider. Do you want to
use your camp to kick start your season’s training or do you want to be
faster, stronger, lighter, climb better, get more endurance, a good
pre-season tan(!) or just ride somewhere warmer/drier/different?
Some people use them as day one of their training season and just go
along to ride their bike for a few consecutive days to blow away the
cobwebs gathered over the winter. Others use them as a pre-season
top-up to get some mileage in to their legs to make up for all the
days lost in February when it seems to rain for three weekends out of
And some use them as a sun on the back, pre-race speed
fest. Where they can ride in shorts a couple of weeks before anyone else
and get in some quality hours on the road.
Everyone's different; there are as many reasons to be
there as there are makes of bikes. So the chance of you meeting up with someone
who's exactly the same fitness level as you, with exactly the same
training requirements as you, at the same stage of their training
program as you, are about as slim as me the week before New Year.
sure you know why you are going before you get on the plane. Otherwise
you’re just paying a lot of money to go for some hard rides on someone
else’s training plan.
Once you've decided why you're going to a training camp
you need to prepare yourself to make best use of your available time.
Understand why you're there, go with a plan, and make sure you get what you want to get from your time in
If you've read some of the other winter factsheets on this site I'm sure
you're familiar with the stresses imposed on your body when you train.
You'll be familiar with my views on coffee stops during hard training
cycles. If not, please take a few minutes to read this
it could save your early season.
Welcome back. So now you know not to train hard, lower
your immunosuppression system, then sit in a big room full of people you
don't know and the great unwashed. If you think a warm cafe's a bad environment, imagine what sitting in an
aircraft full of ne'er do wells is like?
Three hours trapped inside a sealed, air
conditioned cabinet, breathing in what everyone else is breathing out
and no chance to open a window. Not good when you’re as fresh as a
daisy, so definitely a no-no when you're run down and open to infection.
If you have a training plan, slide your rest week to make
sure you are at the right training point in your training cycle before
going away. Everyone has different ways of organizing plans and many of
you will be familiar with my Green/Amber/Red system so I'll work with
that for now.
Green is easy, Red is hard. You don't want to get
on a plane after riding a hard week. Your immune system is
compromised, you're getting on a plane with others of dubious hygiene
habits, and your about to go
and give your body another week's worth of a hiding! Not good.
don’t get ill when you’re there, you most definitely will on the way
back. So give this area some serious thought.
Your training camp week should, ideally, be timed to
coincide, or your training plan adjusted the month before, to ensure you
are there during an amber week. You're not going in to it "cold" from a
grey week, and you're not hitting it at the end of a training cycle when
you’re tired and potentially running in to over-fatigue.
point arriving for a weeks training when you are two days from the end
of a 21 day training cycle. You need reserves in the tank. So an Amber
Week it is. We'll talk about what happens when you get back later.
you've landed and are all settled in, take it easy; you've got seven
days to go. We've all seen the people who rush to the beach on the
first day of their
holidays, having never taken their shirt off outdoors in the previous fifty
weeks of the year.
They get all their kit off and spend seven hours in the sun on
day one. They then spend the rest of their holiday covered up, in
a darkened room,
suffering from heat or sun stroke, feeling and looking terrible. Don't be
You've just got off a plane and the chances are you're
dehydrated and your immune system is working like a Trojan to keep you
in some sort of condition. Don't give
your body any more stress than it needs on your first day there.
Get some fluids in to
yourself and get out for 60 to 90 minutes maximum, at a nice steady pace, to get
your metabolism fired up and make sure everything is in working order;
for both you and your bike. Get a good night's sleep and hit the ground
running on day two.
Hire? It maybe that you're going to hire a bike for the time you're away.
Don't leave it until the last minute.
Make sure you book the right size, and
get confirmation. Send your setup measurements if you can, with the
basics, seat height, reach, drop, crank length etc.
I have setup sheets I can
send you. If you email me I'll fire one back so there's no
Pack your own pedals and saddle and get
down to the shop as soon as you arrive, before someone else (a German!) gets
"your" frame. You don't want to be left with the runt of
Don't end up with a bone shaker or a
bike that doesn't fit. And don't let them talk you in to taking
something you're not comfortable with. You'll be spending up to 18
hours at, say an average 75 rpm, on this bike. That's 81,000 pedal revs.
If it ain't right (and you've got 170 cranks when you're a 172-er) you'll know about it when you get back!
Finally, check the brakes. Some
people have them cack handed. I think it's me! Make sure
that the front brake on your hire bike is in the same position as the
one on your road bike.
If it's not, there's not a lot you can
do about it. Just find out in the shop, not at the roundabout at
the bottom of the hill on the way back to the hotel.
You're probably there for a week, so first things first, check out the
weather forecast for the rest of your stay. Sometimes you might just
have to get wet, but knowing what's coming will allow you to change your
plan early rather than on the fly. Plans are nothing if not flexible.
For now, let's assume the weather is going to be kind to us and we're
ready to go.
In a normal winter training week you may do an hour turbo
on Tuesday and Thursday, a three to four hour ride Saturday and two
to three hours on Sunday. All in all nine hours spread over seven days. So
what are the chances of completing six, five hour rides in the mountains
then coming back and staying healthy?
We've already discussed the first day being a "recovery
day." Your last day should be considered the same. And
ideally you should take
a proper recovery day in the middle of the week to allow yourself to go again,
fresh for the last section of your camp. So that leaves four days to fill your
By filling your boots I don’t mean four, five hour rides.
If the longest you’ve ever ridden back home is four hours, then fire in
a three hour ride on your first big day, then a four hour ride on your
second. A 90 minute recovery ride mid-week is then followed by a five
hour ride, then a four hour, then another 90 minute wind down on the
4 hour road
1 hr road
3 hour road
3 hour road
4 hour road
1 hour turbo
1.5 hr recovery
5 hour road
1 hour turbo
3 hour road
1.5 hr road
The above rides give a massive increase over your normal
training week. But one of the advantages you have is that you don’t
have to go to work in between sessions and can probably get quality
recovery to match your quality riding.
Split Shifts There is also the option of breaking your ride in to two
sections. It doesn't work for me but that doesn't mean it can't
work for you.
If you did a two hour ride, then took a
break with a long (but not big!) lunch, and completed another two hour
ride afterwards, you can get four hours of riding in. But this
isn't the same as a four hour ride!
Why not have a little practice before
you go away on your camp? See if this type of riding works for
you, and if it does, make use of the advantages it offers. It
might allow you to stretch yourself further than you have previously,
but in a controlled manner.
But it's not for everyone, so don't try
it on your first day there and then get the hump because it didn't give
you the results you were expecting.
Crash & Burn
I’ve seen riders come back from training camps absolutely exhausted.
They then have to take a week or so recovery back home before they can undertake heavy
training again. And they’re the lucky ones.
I’ve seen others get so
beat up on the rides, climbing and “competing” with riders who are a
level or two above them, that they get run down before they leave for
home, jump on a plane, catch a bug then spend the next two weeks off the
bike totally. All that time, effort and money wasted.
If you're going to go away and do 20 hours riding, rather
than your normal 10, then take a week off because you're ill, you might
as well stayed at home, done two ten hour weeks and bought a pair of
Zipps with the cash you've saved!
The Lost Boys I have a tale of two riders who went for a ride, all
testotseroned-up, with the A group, got shelled out, bonked, then had a
long, lonely, limp back to base. Totally disoriented, they rode
another 100k to complete the route of the day when they could have taken
a 30k as-the-crow-flies, flat road that would have saved them hours of undue
Get a map of the area and familiarize yourself with
landmarks and general directions. You don’t want to get “lost” or
separated from a group and find yourself on a five hour ride in the
mountains with no food, no drink and no idea of how to get back to
sanctuary! Believe me, you won't be the first.
With Garmins and smart-phone
GPS's these days there should be no excuse. We'll talk about the
ability of STRAVA
to encourage burn-out another time.
We’ve all seen the riders that come back heavier from a training camp
than when they went! While it’s important to fuel the engine and eat
well and regularly during your sojourn, it’s just as important to eat
the right amount of the right stuff at the right time.
your own drink and energy bars but be prepared to try other things while
you have the opportunity. Save the deserts for the “big days” and try
fruit in the morning instead of a muffin or croissant. Again, save them
as a reward for the lunch stops on your big days in the mountains.
Regarding fruit, try to eat as much as you can (within
reason!) and never be afraid to have one or two oranges a day to boost
your vitamin C levels. If you’re unsure of the food-risk, only eat
fruit that can be peeled. And if you have a juice, avoid ice in the
drink itself. But chilled drinks are okay.
Same goes for salads. If you're
not sure, don't eat anything that might of been washed in less than
Always carry a gel with you when out on the road and
stuff some local currency in to a plastic sachet in your saddle bag.
Garages always have emergency bottled water and chocolate bars!
Take your own recovery drinks or bars on the trip and
make sure you make best use of the 20 minute recovery window when you
get back from a ride. And always eat on the last 20 k run in back to
the hotel/complex/guest house. Preparation for tomorrow’s ride starts
during the finale of today’s.
When you do get back to base, get your pre-prepared
recovery drink and bar down your throat as quickly as possible. Don’t hang
around for an hour discussing the ride in your cycling kit over a
coffee, or even worse, a beer!
Arrange a time for socializing after you’ve eaten, showered and
downloaded your Garmin/SRM/Polar (delete as appropriate). Post-ride
conversations are always better if you can throw some impressive
numbers in to the fray!
Skills & Techniques No doubt you’ll be climbing some big hills when you’re away,
so why not use the opportunity to try some different gearing and cadence
Try staying in the saddle and grinding
out the gears while trying to keep your heart rate down. It does
work. Then on your next ride, try the same section in a lower gear
and a higher cadence and see how it "feels". This is
where STRAVA can be invaluable.
Now you're on big (hopefully quiet),
open descents with time to get in to a rhythm. Why not try to
develop your descending skills.
But be very careful and always remain safe; remember you'll probably be
on the "wrong" side of the road. So stay within your
If there are workshops and seminars
there, use the opportunity to learn something new. Especially on
your recovery days. Use your spare time wisely, don't be in a
learning environment and not learn anything.
I’m sure your bike is very dear to you. You’d be surprised at how many people would covet
your nicely prepped race bike while you’re away. Who takes
their winter hack to a training camp?
Normally, your bike probably never leaves your sight when
you’re at home, or away. The problem comes when you’re packing up to leave for
home and let your guard down. A trip in to the shops to buy a
donkey could prove disastorous.
A few of our lads have previously had their bike, and loads of kit, stolen
after they’d completed their training camp and were getting ready
to start the return trip.
Their bikes had been broken down, and placed inside their travel
cases, along with helmets, shoes, tool bags, and all the other things
they didn’t want to carry in their hand baggage.
The cases were, as instructed, left on
the balconies of their apartments to allow the rooms to be cleaned for
the next incumbents.
They then all went for their last visit in to town to kill the couple of
hours before the transfer arrived. In that time, their bikes (along
with many others) were taken.
Under perfect cover, (what’s more appropriate than a load
of people moving a load of bikes in to vans on transfer day) a group of
miscreants just went in, collected all the bikes from the balconies of the rooms left open, and
fired them in to the back of a van, before driving off in to the ether. Everything
Lock the bike and wheels to themselves inside the case; then lock the
case to something solid and in the ground. If you have to, lock
them to a load of other cases (as long as they're travelling companions) so
they can't be easily picked up or moved unless the lock's removed.
Even if the hotel gives you a room to put them in, LOCK THEM,
If you think this is a pain, wait until you
try to process a foreign insurance claim. Don’t ruin your holiday for the sake
of a couple of locks and a little personal aggro.
You wouldn't leave seven grand sitting in a corner of the
room, so don't do it with your Zipp equipped Colnago, with SRM and Di2.
Travelling back is even more fraught with infection risk than travelling
there. In the course of your week, you have just doubled, if not trebled,
yourTraining Stress Scores without the security and benefit of ramping up slowly.
massive week you’ve put your immune system, your body clock and your
previous training rhythm and routine under immense pressure. You’ve
seriously raised your chance of catching a bug and seriously lowered
your chance of successfully holding it off.
Be mercenary and be obsessive on your trip home. Stay
away from coughing, sneezing sick people and those with families! Wash
your hands at every opportunity and steer clear of buffets, queues and
communal gatherings. Get yourself to the chemist, and buy a
small hand cleansing gel; use it frequently.
I know it’s hard when travelling with large groups
but take as many precautions as you can. It’s only for a few hours and
it can make a massive difference to your season.
Buy pre-wrapped food and sip drinks (preferably water) constantly to remain
hydrated and to keep your nasal passages moist; they’re your first line
of protection against air borne risks. You don’t need a mask or
anything daft, but you do need to give nature a helping hand.
try not to
drink alcohol or coffee on the trip home. Save it until you’re back in
the warm bosom of your loving family. Who are just dying to hear
all the fantastic stories you have of your trip away! Honestly,
they can't get enough of them.
Next month, we'll be discussing the
etiquette of training camps and how to make yourself popular at these
increasingly important cycle-fests.
The Message Remember, the aim of a training camp is to allow you to train
for winning races, you’re not there to win the training races.
Get fit before you go but don’t get there tired or in a
final week of a training block. The extra intensity will push you over
the "staying healthy" edge.
Plan your nutrition and recovery with the same attention
to detail as you plan your training.
Don’t be afraid to try something new.
Finally, check the gearing requirements. There’s no use
going to the mountains with a 53 x 11 and a 39 x 21. Check the terrain, ask a few
knowledgeable others and get the right gearing to help you get the right
training benefit from your trip.
Why struggle climbing out of the
saddle for fifty minutes up a 10k climb, when you can remain seated and
do some serious climbing development? Do your homework. Fit
a climbing block or throw on a compact if you need to.
The idea of a training camp is to come back physically
stronger, mentally revitalized and with a passion reinvigorated after
riding with some sun on your back after a wet, cold, miserable winter. Make it an
enjoyable experience and one that launches you in to your next training
Training camps, if I haven't put you
off, are an excellent way to get fit, renew motivation and have a great
time with your mates and people who have yet to become your mates.
Just a little attention to a few details can make it a memorable
experience for all the right reasons.