By Sam Hudson
I have always heard of the benefits of training camps; how great it is to go away somewhere awesome and get in 7 days of solid training under the watchful eyes of a coach before coming back in the form of your life.
The barrier to me has always been time and expense. Triathlon is an expensive enough sport as it is: between race entry fees, the gear and travel to said races, it’s not cheap and so I’ve always thought a training camp would be fun, but I’d survive without.
This year, through a combination of needing to kick training into a higher gear and pure happenstance of having a perfect long weekend of good weather, free time and days not working, I decided to throw myself in the deep end and plan a 3-day intense training camp. Through this blog I’ll explain why I planned it the way I did (caveat I am a self-coached athlete and what I say below is just my opinion on the subject), my experience during it and what I’d change if I did it again.
How did I pick when to do a camp?
I decided to do a mini training camp about a week out from it happening. My fiancée was going away for a long weekend, the weather was going to be perfect, and I would be coming out of a recovery week.
To me all these elements need to come together for a solid at-home camp:
1. You need to have a free schedule with no distractions. If you want to get the most out of the experience you need to not only be able to train a lot, but also recover. You can’t be coming back from a 4-hour session and then need to run errands the rest of the day.
2. Without the luxury of heading to an exotic location with guaranteed good weather, it’s best to try and pick a time when the weather should cooperate as much as possible so you can be outside as you would on race day.
3. Don’t decide to do one after a massive week of training. Going into it as fresh as possible will help you get the most out of it and more importantly reduce the risk of injury.
How did I plan out my days/sessions?
After deciding how many days I could commit to heavy training (three) I then looked back over my previous block of training and allocated the same amount of average weekly hours to those three days. This gave me approximately 11 hours of training to play with.
Unfortunately with swimming still impossible in Canada, it was all going to be focused on the bike and run with some added strength work thrown in. The focus of most sessions was all endurance; I didn’t want to ruin my legs with a track session and so limited the minimal intervals to tempo work. In the end my sessions panned out as below:
Day 1: Long 4-hour bike in the morning. Evening run with two 16-minute intervals at half ironman pace.
Day 2: 1 hour 45 minute run in the morning. Recovery spin on the bike for 45 minutes to flush the legs.
Day 3: Long brick including a 40km bike interval at half ironman pace followed by an easy 30 minute run. 30 minutes of strength work in the evening.
The key sessions for me were the tempo run and bike sessions. Completing both these on pretty fatigued legs gave me a solid indication of how my form was holding up with race season only 6 weeks out.
What I learned from the experience & what I would change
The main thing I took away from the experience was the confidence that I was seeing gains from my training. Putting myself through what for me was a tough three days of training -- and not only surviving but performing well -- did a lot to boost my morale.
The biggest lesson I took from the whole thing was to eat way more than I did! In between sessions, especially on day one, I wasn’t refueling enough. This definitely made some of the workouts harder than they needed to be. We often forget the importance of recovery, and this goes for eating as well as sleeping.
Overall, it is definitely something I would do again and recommend to others. Even if you only have three days you can gain a lot not only in endurance but being able to mentally assess where you are at.
Sam Hudson is an MX Endurance Race Team ambassador.