How to Plan a Training Camp into your Routine
A lot of people choose to go to the warmer climates for training and as the days get colder, so what better season to consider when is the best time to go abroad and how to capitalise the benefits that 'fun in the sun' gives you. There are so many positive reasons to go away for some training, but the key point is to make sure you understand when you are going and what training effect you are trying to generate. Finally, you must ensure you use the time away effectively to come back stronger and ready to go to the next phase, not broken, fatigued and knackered. Read on to find out more.
When to go and what to expect
There are three key times that you may consider going away for training:
1. Base Miles
The 'Base Camp' takes place when you have settled into the the routine of training after the end of season break "off season". This usually takes place after a strength and conditioning block and you can then use a training camp to improve your aerobic endurance by heading out and doing some lower intensity work (hills etc will give you the intensity and strength you need). In the Northern Hemisphere, this may be in January or possibly earlier. This works best after a good block of S&C because it helps you avoid injury. The purpose is to do what you can't do in the UK – get outside and do some good endurance work as well as maybe some slightly harder work where the warmth will mean and you won't pick up an injury.
2. Overload Block
It is time to do some harder, big efforts. This is about training smart, training hard and recovering optimally. By its very name, you will do more than you are used to doing. How much more depends so much on the individual and their strengths and weaknesses in the individual sports so it is hard to say. These blocks can be so dangerous as the athlete's focus is "more" and they forget that more also includes more recovery. They jump from a good 10 hours per week to an excess of 20 and ask their body so much more than it is used to dealing with. This is a perfect environment for injury or demotivation (if you find yourself under-recovering and therefore struggling through the sessions). However, when used effectively, athletes can jump into a big block of training and take some time out and make very impressive overload gains which carries them forwards for the season – think of this as a big step change or shift positively. The hardest thing to do is to help the athletes realise they need to turn off when they return.
3. Specific Training
This takes place in the final few weeks before an event. Everything is focussed for the event in question, pacing, intensities, format, style of training etc. It is all designed to groove the performance and squeeze out the last few performance gains before the big day. This style of work is also designed to give the athlete a mental boost that they are within touching distance of their goals. This can be considered their final tune-up pre-event.
So is it all about Volume?
In a word no. That is a positive outcome. Whereas most people spend about four parts working to one part training, suddenly, the other time constraints don't exist. This generally results in more training. However it does also mean (without athletes explicitly realising it) more recovery. The problem is that most people end up focussing on the increased volume side of the equation, rather than the improved training environment. Essentially, all a training camp is is a great location and fantastic environment to allow you to train effectively. More volume is just more of the same...can you be effective in your time?
It isn't just more of the same
Paul Ledger summarised it perfectly when he said "why go abroad and do exactly the same as what you do at home?" and it is a very important point. If you are going to spend money going abroad, you need to make sure your bang is worth every single one of your bucks. You are giving up money, obviously, but also holiday time as well as training time. When you go away on holiday, how can you make your training go further? Its not about doing the same style of sessions as you would at home. What can you do to challenge yourself to learn more and develop in this perfect environment. When you realise you have an environment of a professional athlete, you must balance it with the same high-performance attitude as well. What is the purpose of each session and how will it make you faster. Will a coached week be better and more efficient than slogging it on your own? Do you need physio support to go with your increased training work? Is there time to fix some niggles you need as well? Can you do your rolling and other maintenance work too in the added time off that you have? All these questions should be answered if you want to make the most of your time away.
Coming Back to Normality
When you arrive back at home, you will feel tired, you will feel invincible and you will start feeling fit. The only way that you will get faster and improve is by taking it easy. This is especially hard to do after a hard block of training. Inevitably, you will want to keep pushing. This is very dangerous and asking for an injury. Not least as a day of travelling can mean you seize up and can switch off muscles or systems meaning you come back and need to focus on reactivation first before you start putting the miles back in!
Remember, you get fast when you recover, not when you train! (But clearly training needs to happen first!) Life is crazy and busy and training is hard enough on its own without putting all your life stresses in the mix as well. Remember, when you return from some time away, there is a strong chance that you will end up playing catch up with chores, work and the dreaded emails! Your mind needs recovery as well as your body, so also be cautious of over-committing when you get back to ensure you stay healthy as well as fit.