Thursday, March 20, 2014

The Importance of Training Camps

This has been a long winter! Athletes that live in places like Boulder, Arizona, and California likely cannot appreciate the challenges that winter can impose on their snow-bound competitors. Amber has worn through a pair of tires while on her trainer staring at a concrete wall in a poorly ventilated closet at the YMCA(or -MCA). Triathlon season comes so early that it's likely that Amber's first time out on her tri bike with be when she races Florida 70.3 in a few months. Tempo runs are nearly an impossibility due to the broken-hip causing black ice lurking around every corner. Open water swims? Not til late June. There are some obvious positive about where we live such as seasons, less skin cancer and the opportunity to race on snowshoes. But all in all New Hampshire is probably not an optimal triathlon training locale during the long winter months.

A way to combat the winter doldrums or to prepare for your A race is to participate in a training camp. Training camps usually range from 4-10 days and are designed to allow athletes to log high-quality training hours designed to optimize peak performance. With the camps usually comes seminars on race performance as well as nutritional consultations but just as important is what it does have: stress. At least not in the form of every day, cortisol-producing negative stress which can sap your energy as well as diminish fitness gains. You go to a fun destination and surround yourself with like-minded athletes and train. Period. When you're done training you recover from training so you can train again the next day. If you're working with a coach, this training camp should correspond with the appropriate part of your mesocycle that will allow for supercompensation. If this is all Greek to you, it may be best to consult a coaching professional. Amber talks about the importance of good coaching here.

In years past, Amber has made her own mini-training camps, staying local and just training on her own. She has always had that capacity to DO WORK.  This year however, she will be participating in two.

The first is June 12-15 in Louisville, KY and will be part of the Maverick Multisport Training Camp where she will be coaching and training with triathletes preparing for a mid-summer triathlon. Judging by the amount of sponsors and health care providers already committed to this camp, it should be amazing. You can register here.
After a quick trip to Mont Tremblant to race the 70.3, Amber will head back up there for a week for another training camp coached by Kurt Perham of PBM coaching. This camp will be part of her ramp up for the end of summer triathlon season especially as she gears up for Ironman distance races.

Now you can do a DIY training camp but here are a few things to keep in mind when setting out:
  • Optimize the time of year. You don't want to have to too close to your A race nor too far away where your fitness peaks too early and you're left either tired or burnt out come race day.
  • Turn off your Blackberry. One of the nice things about training camps are that you are there to train. You don't have work tasks, household chores or anything else that's going to prevent you from training or recovering from training. If you stay at home, try to cut out as many of these distractions as possible to ensure both optimal training and recovery.
  • Have a plan. One of the easiest ways to go astray with a DIY camp is not considering the reason behind the training. The camp is not there to beat you up but rather build you up. It might be worth having a professional build you a plan if you're not already being coached. PBM coaching and Amber both are accepting athletes.
  • Train with friends, not competitors. A nice element of training camps is that you are surrounded by like minded athletes all there to improve their fitness. The support and camaraderie is really important but trying to compete against them(and subsequently pushing yourself beyond your prescribed training parameters) is probably the quickest way to injure yourself.
It will be interesting to see how these camps affect her fitness development, because she's already made such great gains this off-season. Only time will tell. 

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