Eight tips for having a successful triathlon training camp | EP#174
Training camps are great (and fun!) ways to increase fitness and build up towards a strong triathlon racing season. But there are several important do's and don'ts you must pay attention to if you want to make the camp a successful one from which you come out the other side stronger. The main reason many age-groupers do not benefit from training camps is that they are unaware of, or do not adhere to these triathlon training camp commandments.
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In this Episode you'll learn about:
- The objectives of a training camp.
- How much volume can and should you do on a training camp.
- How much intensity can and should you do on a training camp.
- Training tips for swimming, cycling, and running when on a training camp.
- Nutrition, hydration, workout and post-workout fuelling, and recovery tips for a training camp.
- How to resume training after a training camp.
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Tip 1 - Know your objective for the camp
- One key reason is to have fun and experience warmer weather, particularly if you come from winter climates!
- From a performance standpoint, we are looking for an overload in training, but also a recovery overload.
- This recovery load applies both physically and mentally.
We want to sleep more and nap more, and mentally relax.
- Although the net recovery won't be a recovery overload due to the high physical stress from training, in absolute terms it will be more recovery than normal.
- Getting food prepared for you can help, as you don't have to worry about it.
- Another part of the objective is being within reach of recovery when you finish the camp.
You don't want to dig yourself so deep in a hole that getting a super compensation effect is not possible.
Super compensation refers to you having put your body under a big load, and it then adapting to this to become stronger and fitter as a result.
- You want to finish the camp in a position to resume usual training as soon as you are home.
Tip 2 - Do not kill yourself
- If you kill yourself (figuratively speaking!) it won't be of any benefit as you won't achieve super compensation.
- Coming in fresh for the training camp can be helpful.
The few days or even whole week before should be an easy week, so you begin the camp well-recovered.
If you start the camp in a fatigued state it's more likely you will overdo it.
- Training camps will typically involve 15 hours or more of training, especially if it's an organised training camp.
- If you are increasing your training volume this much, you don't want to also be increasing intensity.
I would say limit, or avoid, intensity as it won't be any additional benefit and will just dig you deeper into the hole.
- Keep your main objective in mind and remind yourself how this will benefit you in race season.
- In terms of how much your training load can and should increase, I would advise increasing it by no more than 50%.
If you are used to training 8 hours a week, you shouldn't be doing more than 15-16 hours on a training camp.
This is still a big increase compared to what you're used to.
- When using TSS, do not do anything more than double your TSS, but it may be easier to focus on volume as not all TSS's are created equal!
- If you train 8 hours per week, but only 2 of those are cycling, remember this proportion should remain for the training camp.
Don't go on camp and try to cycle 10 hours a week as your body will not be used to this.
- Check your training in advance and make sure you train for the training camp.
You will most likely do a lot of cycling on the camp, which means that in training you want to be building up to a specific threshold of cycling volume so you're prepared for the camp.
The same applies for the other disciplines, particularly running for the injury risk.
- You should feel confident skipping sessions completely and opting for recovery instead when on camp, particularly in the early days.
You can always add them in later if you are feeling strong and able to recover appropriately.
Tip 3 - Recovery after training camps
- You should have at least one complete rest day after a training camp, and two is fine if you need it.
This is individual for athletes - some prefer active recovery (e.g. a short ride or an easy swim), but avoid anything long or intense.
- If one of your rest days after the camp is a long and stressful travel day (decided subjectively), take the second day as a complete rest day as well.
- The week after the camp should be an easy week, with low volume and intensity.
However, do keep up the training frequency! Ideally training as frequently as you do in your normal routine.
- This week will keep you consistent, and allow your body time and space to recovery because the overall load is low.
- If you overdid it on the camp, even keeping up the frequency may be difficult, and you may be both mentally and physically too fatigued to train.
- During this first week back, your body will be going through the super compensation response.
- At week two after training camp you can resume normal training.
Tip 4 - Consistency around and after the training camp
- If you get so fatigued that you end up missing planned training as a result of the training camp, then you overdid the camp.
- If you are self-coached, it will help to plan the week after the camp before you go on the camp, so you know what you have coming up.
- This will act as motivation and awareness to not overdo it on the camp itself.
- If you find niggles and illness appearing after the camp, this could also be partly because you overdid it.
The overload may still cause these effects on the system, but the risk is much higher if you overdo it on the camp.
- If your consistency after the camp is derailed, the overload you got from the camp will no longer be worth it.
You want to keep the consistency up at all costs.
Tip 5 - Training
- Know your objectives for the camp and keep these at the front of your mind as it will help you focus and not push the intensity.
It will curb the desire to get involved in races with others or with yourself.
- Take the opportunity to work on technique.
If you're at an organised camp you will have coaches around you so ask for their feedback on your technique across all three sports.
They can help you correct any potential issues and let you know what you're doing well.
This is especially important in swimming as it is such a technical sport.
- For swimming, if the camp offers video analysis or 1:1 private swim lessons, go for it! They are so worth the investment.
- Also try and do 5 minutes of mobility before swim sessions.
This is great regardless, but particularly important during training camps as you'll be doing more so may be more stiff or have restricted mobility.
- Do as much swimming as possible in the open water.
Most of us are limited in how much open water swimming we do at home, so take this opportunity.
- However for feedback on technique, either with coaches or with video analysis, it will be easier in the pool.
- You will likely encounter a lot of hills on the bike in classic training camp locations, particularly across Europe.
Make sure you prepare for this in training, and practice low cadence muscular endurance cycling in advance.
- The bike is where athletes often try to kill each other the most by going hard up hills, but it's really important to not follow the herd!
Go your own pace and keep to your objectives.
- On the run, be careful, particularly if you're injury prone.
Skip runs if needed, especially if you notice any niggles appear.
- It's also important to avoid intensity here due to the injury potential.
- As with the swim, do mobility before run sessions, as you're likely to be stiff and so it'll make you run better.
You'll then be running with better form and better economy which is always valuable.
Tip 6 - Nutrition & hydration
- Limit alcohol or avoid it completely if you can, at least until the last night.
Although you can compensate for the dehydration, alcohol will lower your sleep quality with impacts your recovery quality.
- Make hydration a top priority, both in and between workouts.
Particularly relevant in hot countries, getting in electrolytes is essential.
You will recover better and rehydrate better if you take on board enough electrolytes.
- Fuelling during and after workouts is another top priority.
A training camp is not the ideal time to try and limit your fuelling at all.
- From the start of your bike rides, fuel immediately and do this consistently throughout the ride.
- You're likely to get into a glycogen depleted state most days anyway, so it's very important to fuel properly to reduce the impact of this.
Not fuelling will make it difficult to bounce back, and also to get enough quality in your workouts.
- Even though you are not doing intensity, you should still be feeling strong on your workouts and working hard.
- After workouts make sure you take on enough carbohydrates and protein to synthesise muscle protein synthesis.
- For both fuelling and hydration, bring your own products as you can practice using what you will use on race day.
- For overall nutrition, ensure you are meeting your carbohydrate and protein demands, and you are eating frequently.
Snacking is good - get in a constant supply of energy rather than having to rely on one big meal of the day.
- You should be having protein with every meal and snack.
Tip 7 - Get your recovery right
- Sleep enough! Don't stay up too late and try to get more sleep than you usually do at home.
Most of us don't get enough sleep in day to day life, so try to take advantage of having more time on camp.
- Napping can be really beneficial - for example sleeping for 30-15 minutes between lunch and your late afternoon workout.
- I don't recommend long naps, but they can be helpful if you are not sleeping well at night, or are particularly tired coming into camp.
However try not to take naps so long that might disrupt your sleep in the evening.
- Nutrition and hydration are also key for recovery.
Carbohydrate, protein, fluids and electrolytes are key aspects to consider.
- Look for marginal gains! Foam rolling, massages and compression gear can all be beneficial.
They may add 1-2% for recovery which will impact how you feel the next day because you are under such a high training load.
- If at all possible, avoid work email and other stress inducing activities.
This will allow you to mentally recover better.
- Mikael's personal example:
2 years ago I was at a training camp with my then coach in Cyprus. It was the week I launched the first episode of That Triathlon Show, and I was working in a start up and we had just launched an app and was the only one who could answer specific queries. This meant I had a lot of stress working for my employer and launching the podcast all while on camp.
I would come in from a ride at 1-2pm, and then having a couple of hours before my next session, which I had to spend working. This wasn't ideal by any means!
Tip 8 - Gear, equipment, packing and preparation
- If you are a weaker cyclist, consider what sort of bike gearing you have, particularly if you're going somewhere with a lot of hills.
It might be worth changing your gearing so you have an easier time getting up the climbs.
- Regarding fuelling and hydration, I recommend bringing your own rather than buying at the location because you can practice with the same things you'll be using in races.
- On the swim, buoyancy shorts can be really helpful in heavy training weeks.
When you are under a heavy training load it can be easier to fall into poor swim form and swim mechanics due to the fatigue. These shorts help with this.
You will still need to focus on technique, but they can help you recover better and also perform better when you're fatigued.
- Compression wear can offer marginal gains. If you like using it at home definitely bring it to the camp.
However, if you don't normally use them I wouldn't suggest buying them just for the camp.
- Bring any other recovery tools that usually work for you.
The foam roller can be great, as well as things like lacrosse balls or trigger point tools.
- Ear plugs and face masks can also be really helpful to ensure you sleep - especially at nap time when it may not be dark in your hotel room.
Mikael's next training camp
- I do not plan to do any training camps in 2019, but possibly will offer some in the Spring of 2020.
- It will likely be in the Algarve in Southern Portugal, around March/April.
- If you would be interested in this, please do send me an email so I can add you to the waiting list and you'd get first shot at the slots.
It also helps me gauge the interest to know whether it's worth putting in the planning time!
Links, resources and contact
Connect with host Mikael Eriksson
Hi! I'm your host Mikael,
I am a full-time triathlon coach and an ambitious age-group triathlete. My goal is podium at the Finnish national championships within the next few years.
I first started the website Scientific Triathlon in autumn 2015 as a passion project to share my learnings with a larger triathlon audience. Later on, in early 2017 I started the podcast That Triathlon Show.
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