As we move into the second half of January the festive season is well and truly over and dedicated athletes turn their attention to early season training.

At this time of year we see many age-group and pro athletes escaping the European and North American winter to attend off-season camps in warmer climates. Not three weeks after Christmas and already I’ve had three of my own pro athletes attending such organised camps as part of sponsor or team duties.

While that’s fine, I often find that the training schedules at these little getaways have one thing in common:

Everyone is killing themselves with over-work in preparation for their summer races.

My athletes have long been an in-joke among age-group campers as they aren’t seen to be the hard workers they’d expected. In fact, some come away with the observation that my guys ‘aren’t really that tough at all’ and ‘may not have a great year’ based on what they’ve seen at camp.

It’s music to my ears. Truth is I won’t let my guys do all the organised training at these camps because, to put it bluntly, the training you see at some of these places is just insane.

Let’s look at it this way:

Age-group athletes pay good money to get out of their own environment to train in a beautiful setting, with warm weather and training facilities second to none. It’s an opportunity to eat, sleep and train side-by-side with some of the best athletes in the sport without distraction.

It should be a training heaven.

Except nearly athlete attending seems to think they need to swim so hard that by dinner they can barely hold up their knife and fork. Or ride so much that their neck muscles struggle to keep their heads out of the regulation spaghetti served at these places. On the shuffle down to breakfast if one’s legs don’t feel like concrete or sore with every step then ‘I mustn’t be getting my money’s worth.’

I’m not trying to be overly harsh here. Of course you want to train hard. However, I’m genuinely trying to give some advice to people who are booked into a camp over the next 3 months so that you come home in better shape than you arrive.

If you normally swim three times a week at home and go to camp and swim 7-10 times you are not going to improve your swim but SLOW IT DOWN and risk a shoulder injury.

If, because of winter weather you are keeping fit by riding 100-150km, going to camp and riding 400-500km over the week is going to effect your bike in the following way: SLOWING IT DOWN. Same deal on the run with the added risk of knee tendinitis or a host of other run or bike related injuries that I see with satisfied, but either slower, injured or ill returned age-group campers year after year.

Celine RestCeline taking it easy during her recent camp.

It’s a great thing to be able to have a 7-day or 10-day training break during winter. It honestly is. However use it to help yourself recover from the stress of mixing work, family and training. Take pleasure in training in the sun, instead of in your basement or on dark, slushy roads while enjoying the freedom to train when one wants. Enjoy getting up refreshed and with a spring in the step as you pursue your passion for exercise. Because the athlete that takes this attitude will go home both revitalised to cope with the rest of winter and their early season training, and more importantly improved both physically and psychologically by their early warm weather camp.

Surely that’s the reason you should attend camp in the first place?

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