The Benefits of Training Camps
You may have noticed that the European pros have headed en masse to Calpe, Spain over the winter for their pre-season training camps before the start of the season. After the Classics, they they’ll reconvene at the high altitude locales of Tenerife, Andorra, Sierra Nevada, or Livigno, for their pre-Gran Tour Training camps. In the last decade or so, professional riders have spent an ever increasing amount of time at training camps. Some pros spend as many, if not more, days at training camps as they do at races. It begs the question, why do pros spend so much time at training camps?
What are the benefits, and could you benefit from a training camp as well?
At a training camp, if you train for 4 hours, you have 20 hours left to recover. You don’t have work (hopefully) and have minimal responsibilities other than to recover between training sessions. There’s plenty of time to pay attention to the recovery activities that are often neglected in day to day life. Riders can ensure they eat well, stretch, put their feet up, have a nap, maybe a massage, get to bed early and let the hard work soak in. With no stress, your body can fully recover day to day, allowing you to do a bit more quantity and quality training than in your day to day life where other stress and responsibilities can interfere with those recovery activities. This way, riders can add in just that little bit more work over the course of the camp while recovering properly that wouldn’t be possible in “normal” life.
2. Power of the Group
No matter how hard you try, it is near impossible to train as hard alone as it is with others. The sense of healthy competition and support can take you just that little bit further in your training, be it learning new techniques from others or just being able to push that little bit deeper for a little longer. Pacelines, race simulations, it’s like a group ride everyday, except everyone has the same ride goals in mind (in contrast to the average weekend group ride which can get out of hand in a heartbeat), making any quality work you do extremely efficient as well as higher quality than is usually possible alone.
3. Access to Information
Even if you don’t have a ProTour sized staff on hand, being around coaches, riders, biomechanics, etc. can accelerate your learning in the sport, no matter how experienced you may be. I’m now closer to 40 than 30, but the latest training camp was both a reminder of old ways of training and new techniques that have developed and evolved considerably since my first camps in my early to mid 20s. From running quick bike fit questions by coaches or biomechanics to little tricks and tips in racing situations, it is difficult to find so many great cycling minds in the same place as you’ll find at a cycling training camp.
Cycling is one big family, living in a very small world. The connections and bonds you’ll make with other riders at team camp will last a very long time. This can serve extremely well when you’re in a bind at a race or looking for a team for next season. It’s always best to be surrounded by strong allies, and making connections year after year can help you in ways that go far beyond cycling years down the road in ways you’d never have expected.