Quite often, at this time of year, domestic riders will take flight to warmer climates and longer climbs. Be this using up some of your annual leave or coinciding your training camp with holidays from school or college this is a valuable training tool and when used correctly can kickstart your season in an amazing way!
But often we fall into the trap of the more is better and hammer it out approach, effectively doing the equivalent of a 7-day stage race without any specific prep for such load. Throw in longer climbs, more total elevation gain and often a group of mates egging you on this can end is disaster.
The idea of this blog is not to tell you what to do on camp but rather give some pointers and practical examples of how the camp can be laid out and organized to best suit you, bearing in mind enjoyment and the want to get faster.
Rest into the camp
This is probably the most commonly used advice, but it is worth mentioning. Do not train with massive intensity and volume right the ways up to the camp and hope to keep it rolling over there. Treat it like a mini race where you’ll bring back the intensity and have an extra rest day or two beforehand. You can read our blog on tapering here. You may ask why do we do this? Well, the number one reason is not to compromise immunity before a long or even short travel day. Airports by their nature are a breeding ground for bugs and viruses, we want our immune system functioning well when travelling to minimize the risk of catching anything that will put a stop to our training. High training load and high intensity has been shown to compromise immune response in the short term1. So, as a rule of thumb without getting too specific lay off the intensity training and decrease volume slightly a couple of days out from your travel date.
Make sure your equipment is working
There’s nothing worse than searching for a bike shop in a foreign country or paying to go somewhere only for your bike to break from a preventable problem. Service, or get your bike serviced a week or so out from the camp that way you’ll be confident it’s running 100% before you head away. On a similar note if you are renting a bike at your destination ensure that you bring your own shoes and pedals along with a detailed note of all your key measurements to replicate the same position.
Don’t smash it on the first day
So often people make this mistake, they arrive after their travel day have one look around get so excited at the looming mountains that they launch into a massive training day. Personally, we never recommend this, it’s always better to think longer term and ease into the block with an endurance ride at an easy pace. The intensity can come later.
Know your goal
If your priority is hitting form right from the start of the season, then this is a great time to get some key intensity in while being afforded the luxury of coming back to your accommodation and putting your feet up to rest. If your target event is months away then this camp may be better suited to getting a higher block of volume in then you are used to at home, naturally with more volume the intensity will come down – in the real world this looks like lots of longer, endurance rides at a pace that is sustainable from the first hour to the last. Oftentimes where these camps are placed a mix of both is required but, in these cases, try and split it up into specific days i.e. one day where you’re doing your target intervals and the next where you’re riding endurance. Don’t get sucked into the trap of riding at a steady hard pace kilometer after kilometer with no aim or goal in mind, this may get you strong if it’s something you’ve never done before but it won’t lend itself to the majority of events that your targeting.
Adjust your nutritional intake
Energy output is going to be higher for these long blocks of training and as such energy intake needs to come up to match it. Ensuring we are meeting our energy needs is crucial in backing up hard training day after day. Be prepared and get to a shop on the first day to stock up with what you need.
Take a rest day
No this doesn’t mean you cannot ride your bike but take an easier day every so often. Ride to the coffee shop and have a little explore around the area, at the time these camps are happening we quite often do not have the tolerance to execute day after day of hard training and in most cases that simply isn’t the most beneficial way to adapt to a block like this. Go for a 3 to 4-day block, a rest day and then repeat. This is slightly more but not massively more than what we’re used to at home meaning we’ll push into an over—reached state but never to an extent that a day or two off won’t allow us to recover.
You’re in a new country, riding roads you more than likely haven’t been on before or maybe only saw on TV. Enjoy it. Stop once and a while to take a picture and have a coffee, there’s enough time for racing once your back home!
1 Gleeson, M. (2007). Immune function in sport and exercise. Journal of applied physiology, 103(2), 693-699.