How To

Ten tips to make the most of your spring training camp

Heading off for a spring training camp? Here are ten tips to ensure you come back in top form

If you are lucky enough to be flying away to the sun this spring to get in some warm miles then you will want to make the most of your time abroad.

For many cyclists, a spring training camp is a rare opportunity to dedicate a long weekend or week to cycling, enjoying (hopefully) better weather than the UK, varied terrain (and, chances are, plenty of climbing, stunning roads and plenty of miles in the legs.

– Seven winter training camp destinations –

As a veteran of countless training camps, both as a coach and professional cyclist, I’ve picked up plenty of hints and tips over the years to ensure you come back in top form, not feeling frustrated.

Here are my ten top tips to make the most of your training camp.

Heading off for a training camp? Follow these tips to ensure you get the most from your trip (Pic: Media24)

Get your bike serviced before you go

There is nothing more frustrating than having something go wrong with your bike on day one and spending the next day trying to find a local bike shop while all your mates are out riding.

Get your bike serviced before you leave and make sure everything is working perfectly. Another great tip is to fit new tyres before you go. I would recommend fitting the same tyres you are planning to ride on during the summer – this is a great opportunity to get used to them on smooth, fast roads.

Don’t over do it on day one

As a coach I’ve seen this mistake time and time again, with riders getting overexcited on the first day, heading out for a huge ride and then spending the rest of the week on your knees.

I’d advise not doing any more on day one than you would do on your longest weekly ride at home. You are still going to have a great day on the bike but you’ll ease yourself in and it won’t affect the rest of your week.

While it may be tempting to head straight out for a long day in the mountains, resist and ease yourself into the camp (Pic: Andrés Nieto Porras / Creative Commons)

Be prepared for cool weather

Just because the sun may be out, it doesn’t mean you will be riding in shorts and a jersey day in, day out.

Training camps often include long rides into the mountains and while it may be warm at sea level or in the valley, but the temperature will drop as you climb, particularly if you’re in a region where the climbs are particularly high, like southern Spain.

For every 100m you climb the temperature will drop around one degree, so even though it’s 15 or 20 degrees on the coast it might be close to freezing at the highest point of the ride.  As a result, you need to ensure you head out for the day dressed appropriately, or with enough clothing with you to pull on when it does get cold.

A training camp normally means lots of climbing, so make sure you’re prepared for cooler weather, even if it’s warm when you start the day’s ride

Have an easy day midweek

Needless to say, when you’re away on a training camp you are going to be riding more than normal. If you’re away fro a week then seven days is a long training block.

You will get much more out of the week if you take an easy day after three days of training. Even WorldTour pros won’t train flat out for seven days at a time so follow their example and give yourself an easy day.

This will keep you fresher for the second half of the week and will finish the camp strongly when your riding buddies are struggling.

Mix it up

Training camps aren’t all about long endurance miles or death marches though the mountains.

Mix up the rides. Have some hilly days as well as some flatter days. Also throw in some sprints for town signs and why not race each other up a few hills?

If you’re in a mixed ability group try devising a handicap system to add in some competition – perhaps set off at intervals on a climb. The ‘loser’ buy the coffees at the end of the ride.

Structure your week so it has variety, with hilly rides offset by flatter rides – and think about introducing a handicap system to add some competition (Pic: Madison-Genesis)

Fuel ahead…

On a training camp, where you’re riding day in, day out, it’s vital to fuel yourself not only for today, but also tomorrow.

Any deficit in your calorie consumption when you get home from a ride is going to be carried forward into the next day, so you need to replenish.

When you’re out on the bike you never want to feel hungry or get close to bonking – running out of sugars and energy. When you’re on the bike, remember to eat small amounts regularly to keep your body topped up, and focus on recovery when you’re back from the ride.

Chance are you’ll be doing a lot more miles than normal during a training camp, so it’s more important than ever to stay fuelled (Pic: Science in Sport)

…but don’t overdo it on the hotel buffet

Most people want to lose some weight while on a training camp. However, most people also go about it in completely the wrong way, by cutting down their food intake on the bike and then making up for it at dinner time by going overboard when they’re starving hungry.

To come home leaner than you went to the camp, you need to do the opposite. Make sure you are fueling well on the bike, eating little and often, but then cut down on portion size at night.

Remember you are training more than normal – think back to the point ahead, you need to fuel ahead for tomorrow’s ride – so there’s no need to cut back on calories, but if you can keep the overall intake at the same level as when you are at home you will loose weight over the course of the camp. Step away from the all you can eat dessert buffet!

Cycling becomes your 9-5 on a training camp (Pic: Tim de Waele/EQS)

Warm up and cool down each day

Treat the first and last ten minutes of each day’s ride as a warm up or cool down.

If I am at a training camp I normally try and head out the same way each day for the first ten minutes, so I can warm up and then know it’s time to start the session.

Likewise, on the way home once you get to that same point it’s time to put it in the little ring and spin back.

Don’t go too hard on the last day

This is something an old directeur sportif of mine taught me. Don’t come home from a training camp absolutely exhausted having ridden yourself into the ground on the very last day.

This is because you are about to travel home which means packing bikes, travelling and, chances are, a flight, possibly an early morning etc. These are all extra stresses on your already tired body.

Take the last day relatively easy, enjoy that last coffee stop and take the stress out of the travel home. Your body will thank you for it when you get back.

Having packed plenty of quality training into your week, try not to go too hard on the final day (Pic: Madison)

Don’t try and keep up the same amount of training once you get home

So you’ve done your camp and feel great having followed all the advice above. What next?

Well, now’s the time for some recovery – don’t try and continue the same amount of training you were doing while you were away.

Chances are it will be quite a hectic week catching up with work and family commitments once you get home, so sit back and let all the work you have just done come through. Your hard-earned fitness isn’t going to evaporate overnight, instead you need to let your body recover and grow stronger.

Time and time again I have seen athletes have a great week of training only to come home, overdo it, get sick and miss the next ten days. This is exactly what you want to avoid. Once you are home, instead of focusing on training hard, wrap up warm, make sure you go to bed early, wash your hands regularly and avoid getting sick.

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