The trick to holding an affective training camp or choosing from the many prepackaged camps is to first have a goal for what you or your team wants to accomplish. That goal may be tons of flat steady miles, or hours of climbing or dozens of team work drills. Or it may be to learn all there is about training with power or some other training methodology. If you have a goal for your camp it will be easier to decide where and when to attend or hold your camp and what how much this camp experience might cost.
You may feel like you want to attend or run a training camp this year, but you may not be sure what to do next. If you know your goal you can make your plan. Some things you might consider focusing on are:
Team Building – This kind of camp involves riding with the folks that you plan to race with. The rides should be interesting and challenging so that you can learn about your teammates strengths and weaknesses, but easy enough to allow time talk and get to know one another. This kind of camp can involve team strategy and skills drills like leadouts, pace lines, team time trialing and even off the bike activities that can help to instill a bit of trust in your teammates and help them to learn that they can trust you.
For this kind of camp, your location should allow for riding in a way that allows the riders to talk and move around. If the courses are too challenging some riders may end up riding alone either off the front or off the back and that is not really working toward this goal.
Endurance – This is a great goal for an early season camp. Long steady miles with a group of similar paced riders followed by some solid down time to recover so that you can do it again. To make gains you need to stress the limits a bit, but with the knowledge that you are at camp and really have nothing else to do other than recover and eat, and with the support of your team you may be able to go longer than you expected. Remember that rest time is a big factor in scheduling this kind of camp.
For an endurance camp, finding a location where you can map out courses with some variety as well as a the ability to shorten the ride in case of emergency or bad weather is a good idea. If you are planning to ride with no sag support, then being able to plan for food and water stops is also a must.
Mountains – Heading out for some solid challenging climbs with riders who are close in ability can make for a great way to get in some great work in the mountains. Riders can push each other to go higher and faster than if they were riding alone. The shared experience or taking on the challenge of a big climb or bunch of climbs can not only go a long way to building some team unity, but also allow you to tackle climbs or routes you may not consider doing alone.
Doing the same climb over and over again is not much fun and may not hold everyone’s interest for a camp. Finding a location with some long sustained climbs as well as challenging and fun descents will keep everyone motivated.
Education – A great thing that can also come from a training camp is learning about racing and training. This can be good for riders of any caliber. This kind of camp may include rides and routes that emphasize climbing, endurance, sprinting, handling skills and much more. You can learn what kinds of workouts other riders or coaches use to improve different areas of your fitness and skills base. This is also a great kind of camp for learning about your individual strengths and weaknesses as well as those of your friends and teammates.
This kind of camp can really benefit from the experience of a seasoned rider or even a coach. If you work with a coach or experienced rider, your location should allow for a variety of workouts. Long routes, flat stretches of roads, long and/or steep climbs and even an empty parking lot to work on skills may all be needed to get the most out of this kind of camp.
These are just a few things that you make use as your primary goal for planning or attending a training camp. Decide what you want to get out of the experience and then make your plan or choose your camp accordingly.
If you are considering running your own camp or planning one for your team, contacting a coach with experience in running and organizing training camps is a great idea. There are plenty of things that need to be considered and working with someone who has done the job before can save you money and time.
If you are considering a prepackaged camp, contact the promoter and talk about what you are hoping to get from the camp experience and see if what they plan for the camp meets with your needs. Remember you are paying for something that should be what you want, not what someone says you want.
Without a goal, planning your camp can become a guessing game. Write down your goal and as you make your plans, refer back to that goal and make sure that as many of your plans as possible will contribute to reaching that goal.