Training camps are super-awesome fun: they are like Disneyland for big people! You get to take your bike somewhere spectacular for a handful of rides, with few adult distractions, and with a lot of other people who really like to ride bikes, too. You get to spend several days riding, talking about and learning more about bikes. In short, you get to go on a total bike binge!!
Having fun on your bike is reason enough to attend a training camp. However, when scheduled into your training plan with the right timing, they also serve as effective training to increase performance. Training camps will generate super-fitness before a peak race, or they can generate an early season fitness boost during base training. These are very different uses of training camps and as such fit into your training calendar in different places.
When using a training camp to peak for an *A* race, schedule your training camp 2-3 weeks before your peak race. Go into the training camp rested and take a rest week post camp.
When using a training camp for an early season fitness boost, schedule your training camp during your base training period at the end of a training block, immediately prior to a rest week. Schedule a rest week post camp.
If you can’t invest time or money in a destination training camp, run a DIY camp at home. Invite your friends and other racers for the camaraderie and motivation part, and set the schedule and routes. A great camp format is to plan rides for three days, with each day getting longer and harder than the prior day. Four hours on day one, five hours on day two, and six hours on day three. This will be sure to send everyone home ready for a rest week.
Ten Tips for the perfect training camp
- Enter the camp rested and take a rest week post camp.
- Ride conservatively for the first half of the camp and gradually build up effort level and fatigue during camp.
- A training camp should be training, not racing! A few short drag races are fun but for the most part ride steady and aerobic.
- Use a heart rate monitor or power meter with specific power level governors in place to keep your intensity levels in check. At the start of camp the motivation boost of being surrounded by other racers will switch off your perceived exertion much like the start of a race.
- Take time to check out everybody’s bikes and equipment. Camp is a great time to share gear knowledge.
- Confabulate lots at dinner about the days ride J
- Absorb inspiration from others post season stories, motivation and plans for this season.
- Go big at camp!
- Finish camp on empty. Go home tired.
- Keep your post training camp hunger monster in check to avoid post camp weight gain.
Competition and personal intensity are often high at races when athletes have their race-face on. Training camps offer a perfect venue to get to know other athletes, share ideas, and form friendships while away from the race site. I run a 3 day training camp every January, scheduled 3 weeks before 24 Hours in the Old Pueblo. The timing of this camp is perfect for athletes aiming to peak at Old Pueblo, and also for those in their early season base training period. My favorite post camp quote from one of my campers sums up the training camp experience:
“I met a lot of really cool people this weekend! It was a great opportunity for me to ride with experts and pros in a non-competitive atmosphere; it was totally inspiring, thanks again!”
Mountain biking really is filled with first class people, and training camp is where I have met some of my best friends. Quite often, training camps turn out to be a true season highlight.