IT'S A NO-BRAINER, BUT IT HAS TO BE SAID - BE PREPARED
First up, there’s a fair bit more to a cycling training camp than just all day cycling in the sun. However, it’s surprising just how many see cycling camps as a way of getting in some major miles before the start of the summer cycling season, and so they neglect their training somewhat beforehand - A dangerous game!
At a good cycling training camp you’ll learn how to ride tactically, build climbing strength and how to conserve energy, all of which will ultimately improve your efficiency, helping you to become a stronger road cyclist. So, turn up with some miles already under your belt and you’ll be in a much better place for some next level training.
Training beforehand isn’t purely just about those base miles, mind you. You should focus on building strength, particularly of the core type of kind. This’ll help you maintain a solid position on the bike and play a huge part in our next piece of advice – comfort.
When you know you’re going to be spending some serious hours in the saddle, it should go without saying that you need to give your level of comfort some proper attention.
Firstly, get yourself booked in for a professional bike fit. While you’re there get them to also give the bike a good once over. A proper service will make a big difference to your comfort, performance and overall enjoyment.
Secondly, invest in some high quality cycling shorts.
Thirdly, as we’ve already mentioned, ensure strength training is a key part of your pre camp training plan.
DON'T BE NERVOUS
You’re bound to have those anxious ‘will I be good enough’ types of feelings. You’re only human. Remember, you’re doing this for unadulterated pleasure - so enjoy it! Don’t waste time being nervous. A cycling training camp is very much about personal improvement – It’s training, not a race. The only person you are competing with is yourself.
As a sort of direct link from the ‘don’t be nervous’ point we made in the previous section. Have fun. At all times during your training camp you should be enjoying yourself. OK, at the time, that gruelling hill climb may not feel like fun, but the subsequent sense of achievement will bring you bucket loads of cheer.
Importantly, have fun with those around you too. It’s not often you have a group of like-minded individuals to have a social with, so make the most of it. Although, perhaps, not too much fun…
After a hard day on the bike, and when in high spirits among good company, drinking (alcohol) and eating too much is easily done. Not only will it likely undo some of the good work you put in earlier on in the day, but also it could seriously jeopardise you for the next day(s) of riding. It’s all about striking the right balance.
EASE YOURSELF IN.
Depending on the length of your stay, you’ll likely have close to a weeks worth of riding. Therefore if you absolutely smash it from the get-go, you’ll place your body under stress that it’ll unlikely be able to sustain for long.
Start off with riding more in zone two. A zone two ride is a steady, endurance ride; it’s not the sort that has you gasping for air and bagging QOM’s on Strava. It’s worth remembering that your heart is a muscle like any other. Riding in zone two will make your heart pump hard, so you’ll come back tired, but it won’t be your legs that are worn out. You’re legs will thank you for this later on in the week.
FOCUS ON TECHNIQUE
As well as taking advantage of fellow riders in social situations you should also take advantage of being in a group when out on the bike. With the help of the coaches aim to develop your group riding skills, this will have a huge effect on riding more efficiently in future group rides/events.
Also, if you haven’t learnt about it already, make sure during your camp you focus on pacing. Learning how to monitor your heart rate, and where possible, your power, in order to pace yourself, is a skill all riders should equip themselves with. You’ll then be able to really forge ahead with training as you can incorporate this into future training plans.
Hills. We had to mention them. You’re training camp will have hills; it’ll be a big reason for your trip there. Make the most of them, but make sure you are doing so in the correct way. Get your coaches to help you tighten up your hill climbing and descending technique. Slight changes to your technique can have dramatic changes on your performance.
Your recovery is just as important as the time you put in when out on your bike, if not more so. You’ll likely know this, but equally you’ll know how easy it is, after a gruelling ride, to slump off the bike, and crash out giving your legs – and the remainder of your body - the rest that is being cried out for. Recovery is the key word here - recovery, not rest.
Your recovery routine should begin with a recovery drink, after that get quickly cleaned up in the shower, then it’s onto some stretching (you can do the showering/stretching the other way round if you prefer. Just try and stretch within an hour of finishing your ride). After a good stretch it’s time for a massage. Granted, a qualified masseuse isn’t always on hand to turn to, so your best friend here is your foam roller. Roll yourself silly on this. Do get a massage when you can though, as good as your foam roller is, it is unlikely to be able to point out any areas of concern and provide you with some ways to guard against them.
MAKE SURE YOU’RE EQUIPPED WHEN ON THE BIKE.
On any decent training camp, your nutritional and mechanical needs, when out on the bike should be taken care of for you, by others. However, it is worth practicing fuelling and hydration when out on these longer rides, this is a skill in itself, one that you’re likely to have had limited practice of when riding at home. ‘Little and often’ is a good formula to follow when it comes to refuelling.
Adhering to the ‘before’ and ‘during’ advice should pretty much take care of the ‘After’ bit for you.
The worst thing is coming back from a cycling training camp absolutely exhausted or worse still, ill – brought on from overdoing it. Training camps are supposed to set you up for the rest of the cycling season, both physically and mentally. Being bed ridden for the first few days upon your return isn’t the outcome you are looking for.
Saying that, you should have worked yourself hard enough to know you’ve been on a training camp, so you’re immediate - post camp - training needs to take this into account, and so you should undergo a recovery week. It’s worth knocking up this recovery-training plan long before you leave for your training camp, so that it is ready and waiting for you to complete as soon as you return home.
That really is a snapshot of ‘best practice’ for cycling training camps. For any further questions, or for more information on the cycling training retreats we offer here at On the Rivet, please do get in touch.