Photo by Hannes Glöckl on Unsplash
Every year, more and more amateur cyclists are traveling abroad during winter months for training camps. The purpose of it is simple- put all attention on training. During such camp, there are no distractions, such as work or chores, this means that you can create a much higher training load on your body than at home. This of course, requires proper recovery and post-ride routine. In this article I am going to cover key mistakes that me and my cycling buddies used to make and hopefully, you will be able to avoid those.
1. Take it slow in the beginning
This might sound controversial, but let me explain myself. Cyclists usually schedule cycling trips during winter months and expect to go ham from day one. They usually live in countries that cannot provide suitable weather conditions during such months, therefore destinations such as Mallorca, Gran Canaria, Girona are chosen. This already creates at least two stress factors for your body:
Temperature differences. Your body needs acclimatization, coming from a -10 Celsius country to train in +15 Celsius creates a shock for your body. During first days you should not do hundred kilometre rides, this will only create unnecessary high stress on your body, which will compromise upcoming days.
Terrain differences. Typical training camp destinations offer mountains or long/steep hills. If you live in a relatively flat country, you need a process of adaptation, so you should not focus on elevation gain during the first days of your camp. This can easily create an overwhelming amount of fatigue which will result in poor fitness gain during cycling camp.
Take your first days easy, see how your body reacts to the changes and adjust accordingly. It is much better to take your training camp slower and consistently than start hard and fade in the middle of your training block.
2. Fuel properly
Every serious rider has experienced a so-called “bonk” at one time or another. In order to avoid this, it is usually better to take more food on a ride than you think you will need. If you would like to learn all about bonking, here is a a complete guide on bonking- symptoms, causes and prevention, give it a read afterwards if you are serious about your training camp. I would advise on consuming whole foods, leave sport gels for hard rides during the season. Typical cycling camp destinations have a big variety of fruits that are dirt cheap, take an opportunity and consume those, your body will process them much easier than gels. If opportunity presents itself- stop at a coffee shop, have a sandwich and a hot beverage, you will never go wrong with these. I have also written a short post on cyclists’ breakfast suggestions, that are easy to make and doesn’t require a lot of effort.
3. Recovery is what makes you stronger
According to Joe Friel, endurance sports coach:
A hard workout only creates the potential for fitness. It’s realized when you recover afterwards.
Remember how I emphasized a lack of chores and other distractions in the beginning? There is a reason for that, during a training camp you can focus on recovery better, taking a nap is not a problem, a book with your legs up or a friendly card game with your buddies will make you restore your strength for the next day much faster than raking having a three hours tourist hike around the city you are visiting.
Post workout nutrition
Post workout nutrition is something that determines your recovery success. You should eat enough to be ready for tomorrow. To remove guesswork from this, I suggest myfitnesspal app. Register, connect it to your Strava or TrainingPeaks and it will show how many calories you should aim for during the day. It will calculate your primary calorie needs and then will add what you must replenish after your daily workout, aim for that and you will be fueled properly for the next day.
Photo by Polina Rytova on Unsplash
4. Keep track of your progress
The goal of cycling training camp is, of course, to get fitter and become a stronger rider for the upcoming season. The only way to know if what you are doing works is to track your progress. Here are some of the tools that will help you stay on top of your progress.
Heart rate monitor and powermeter
This goes without saying, you should be using HR monitor or powermeter. Ideally both. Data that you gather using these tools will be used to calculate fatigue and fitness gains. I personally use Assioma power meter and I am extremely happy with their product and customer service. HR strap is cheaper than powermeter, you can get one for around $50 and it would work fine, although training results will not be as accurate.
TrainingPeaksTrainingPeaks is a training platform that can be a main hub for your cycling journey. For cycling camp, the main features you would be using is a scheduler, where based on TTS (Total training score) you will make a schedule and when training sessions are completed, they will be synced to the platform and gains, fatigue will be calculated based on your HR and power data. This platform has a free version, but unless you have a coach, you will not make most of it. Another, open source option is GoldenCheetah. You will have to spend some time setting it up and learning it, as it is not as intuitive as TP, but by the end of a day, you can benefit from it as much as from TrainingPeaks. I used both of these platforms and although TrainingPeaks is easier to use, I had no problem with GoldenCheetah for two years that I used it.
5. It is okay to take a day-offFear of missing out, or FOMO, is hitting home hard in training camps. You have a limited amount of days, so naturally you want to make the most out of it. Problem is that you are already creating daily increasing stress for your body, so if you feel like having a day off, it is much better to recuperate and continue with your energy replenished than keep on digging a hole for yourself. Getting a day off will only reduce the amount of fatigue, while fitness will remain on the same level. If you continue pushing yourself with a high level of fatigue, you will hit a ceiling and will not improve, or in the worst case- get sick. This is why keeping track of your progress with previously mentioned tools is so important.
6. Have fun
Remember why you started to cycling in the first place. Cycling training camps are hard work, but you cannot force yourself constantly, especially mentally, as you might lose motivation. Make sure you are enjoying your trip, it is much better to take a day off or an easy-spin day around the city with coffee and local cuisine, recover and then continue with your training block. Happy cyclist is always performing better than a burned out one.
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