[This article is Part 5 of a 5-Part series in which BJ will discuss several of the aspects of choosing or planning a training camp. Leave any questions or comments for BJ in the comments below, where he'll answer them.]
Cycling Training Camps
Part 5 - Camping out in the back yard
by BJ Basham
USA Cycling Level II Certified Coach
If budget or schedules don’t allow you to hold a camp at some great location like the Lost River Barn, or head out of town to a packaged camp in the mountains of Virginia or the sweet early season temps of southern California, you can effectively hold a camp without leaving home. This applies to teams or individuals. An effective camp is all about getting in specific training with dedicated time for recovery and rest. Nowhere does it say that you have to sleep in a strange bed to make it a camp. Though being in a remote location can make it easier to avoid the distractions that may get in the way of the training and/or the rest, if you plan and do a little homework you can get in an effective block of training and rest that may be as effective as a leaving town for a camp.
For most folks, work and family commitments can get in the way of either the training or the recovery part of the camp formula. And for most of us, we cannot really get rid of either the family or work, so the trick is to make sure that both are taken care of in some way so that we are free to do to get in the training and rest for an effective “camp”.
The work part is a somewhat simple problem to solve. If you have the kind of job that does not follow you home, then it may be as simple as scheduling your vacation time to allow you to get in a long weekend of training and recovery. If you are self employed or have deadlines to deal with, then investing some extra time in the days and weeks leading up to your planned camp can allow you the freedom to turn off the work for a few days. If you have clients, then scheduling your meetings and deadlines with your camp in mind can be as simple as marking the days of your camp off on your calendar and scheduling around it. Granted that some folks will never be able to literally turn off the work, but anything that can be done to reduce the time spent working, as least during the “camp” can be the key to making the training a bit more effective.
Family and relationships can be a trickier obstacle to work around. Some of us are lucky enough to have partners who understand when we need to be unavailable even though we are at home. It may not sound like a big deal, but even walking around the supermarket or sitting in a movie theater can put a dent in your recovery process and affect how well your next day's training will go and how well you will recover from and respond to the training that you have done that day. For some folks it may just be a matter of explaining what you are trying do and getting a commitment from the folks around you to support your goals. For others it may take a little wheeling and dealing to get a free pass for a weekend or week of concentrated training and recovery with the idea that you will make it up to them sooner than later. Remember that it is better to have the folks around you supporting your efforts, and if left neglected, that support system may disappear.
Doing your homework before your “camp” can also improve how things go. Planning your meals etc just as if you were going to be away from home at a camp will keep you from having to forage for food after a long day in the saddle. Cooking some stuff ahead of time will also save on time and hassle. Most foods can be prepared and put in the fridge so that all you need to do is pop them in the microwave or in the oven to make for the perfect post workout meal without having to stand around in the kitchen when you really should be flat on your back recovering. Depending on how well you wheel and deal, you may be able to have your better half help out with the cooking and cleaning for the time you are at “camp”.
So once you have the logistics of blocking off some free time that you can dedicate to your sleep at home camp, you still need to have a goal for your camp and plans for what you are going to do to fulfill that goal. If you are training alone, then knowing what rides and workouts you want to get done and in what order is the next step. Doing an epic ride on the first day may leave you too cooked to really get in a good day of training on the second day. Planning your rides logically will allow you to get in more effective training without the junk miles that might happen if you are still tired after a hard day.
If you are going to be doing this camp with a group, then making sure everyone knows where and when the rides begin and end will save on frustration and time wasted waiting around. If you are going to do group drills etc, then planning where to get that kind of work done is also important. It is great to plan a team workout with a whole bunch time dedicated to learning to ride as a team, but if the roads do not allow you to ride together as if you were racing, it might be hard to really get a chance to practice anything.
All in all, planning a camp at home is not much different that planning a camp at a remote location. It may take a little more effort to avoid the distractions of every day home life, but just like when you were younger, camping in your own back yard can be just as good as camping in the woods. Just with a whole lot less driving.
I hope this series of articles has at least started you thinking about the benefits of attending or holding a training camp this year. Depending on your goals for the season, camps can be held at any time of the year. Late season races can benefit from a summer camp just as well as the early spring races will benefit from a camp held in the winter months.
Everyone has different responsibilities and commitments in their lives, so a camp may be a much bigger deal for one rider than for another, but if you sit down and think about it and make a plan, I am sure you will be able to find some way to benefit from the training camp experience, be it in some remote location like Spain or Bedford or on the same old roads that you train on all the time.
If you need help in planning or choosing your camp, please feel free to contact me.
See the entire Training Camp Series here.
BJ Basham is a USA Cycling Level II Certified Coach with Peaks
Coaching Group. He lives in Fairfax, VA and competes in most of the
same races you do. To learn more about his coaching practice and
philosophy, visit his website at PowerTrainingCoach.com.