Well I don’t know about you guys, but where I live winter is well and truly here. I have barely been able to see my hand in front of me for the last five days due to the fog! Embarking on a ride means taking 20 minutes plus just to get dressed and wrapped up ready to ‘brace the elements’. Not to mention the time taken to thaw out and clean up after. It’s either this or head into the virtual world of Zwift / RGT / CVR Cade etc. So no doubt many of you will either be planning or already have booked your Winter / Spring training camp to get away to warmer climes. There are many favourite destinations, be it Majorca, the Canary Islands or even further afield such as South Africa or Australia. Wherever your destination, some thought needs to go into it to make the week (or more) really successful. So below is my guide to planning a Winter training Camp.
It’s really tempting when ‘freed’ from the drudgeries of normal life to properly live like a pro for a week or two. This is great and I encourage it. It may be with the family (if they are very understanding or conversely just want rid of you for a few hours a day!) or with your mates or cycling pals.
There are however many pitfalls that can scupper what should be a great week, so watch out for these. I’ll list a few things below and delve into some more detail later.
YOUR WINTER TRAINING CAMP – PLANNING AHEAD
- Training and sessions
- Kit & Travel
- Food and nutrition
- Photo stops!
So lets have a think about the 5 key things to plan:
1. Training and Routes
Don’t just go away for your winter training camp in the sun without planning. It’s very likely you will just ride junk miles with no structure. It’s also possible you will massively over do it.
The above Training Peaks screenshot was my planned week in Tenerife last December. It’s structured and in line with my current fitness and macro build plan.
• Don’t just plan the week. Plan both the lead in and the recovery afterwards.
• Go into the camp rested and fresh. The last thing you want is to go in tired and below par.
• For the week after you return home, plan some recovery. Let you body absorb and adapt to all the great work you have done.
• Think about the sessions you do on the lead up to travelling. Don’t do anything too intense. Intense sessions can suppress the immune system. Add to that to 2-6hrs on a plane, probably in winter, in a closed loop air con environment with coughing and spluttering holiday makers and you have the recipe to get ill quickly!
• Give yourself a day off during the camp! It is very likely you will be doing way more than you would in a normal week at home. Yes you can recover well whilst out there, but still think about days off or an easy day where you can truly allow the work to soak in.
Check out www.epicroadrides.com/destinations/ for some great hints and tips on where to go and when
2. Planning your winter training camp routes
The above graphic is of my Wednesday ride during the December camp. Knowing the island well I worked out three suitable uphill sections, which you can see on the elevation graph, to ensure the best quality work.
If you have not been to where you are heading before, research routes. Strava is a great tool for this. This allows you to have an idea of what your days profiles will look like. Planning a ‘100 mile ride’ in Tenerife for example is a whole new ball game than one in the Fens in England! You will cover (likely) 7-10k ft of climbing and will be way over six hours. So be aware!
3. Plan your kit and travel
• Will you take your own bike and use a bike box such as the VeloVault2 available to hire from Bike Box Online for example? If so, be ready for the extra airport and flight costs and likely ‘subsidy’ from taxi drivers / coach drivers at the other end!
• Or will you hire? Many popular cycling resorts have shops where you can hire a high quality, high spec bike for the week. This choice may be easier?
• Are you covered with Insurance? Both you and the bike! This is very very important. I learnt this the hard way a few years ago. I had let our cover expire and crashed whilst competing in an off road triathlon. This resulted in two nights in hospital and a very expensive bill!
• Transportation to and from the airport. Of course it’s obvious but if travelling with bike(s) in tow how will you do this?
• Kit? Ok you are going to the sun in February. Great! But is it truly full shorts and short sleeve weather? In Majorca it can get very cold (especially in the mountains) so full cover up may be required. Even in Tenerife where the mean temperature may be 20 degrees plus, it’s quite likely to be single figures the higher you climb. And if descending for a long time (From the top of Mount Tiede it’s over an hour to sea level) you will get cold! So a gilet or wind proof thin jacket, arm warmers and knee warmers would be a good choice to pack.
4. Recovery – planning this often neglected aspect of a winter training camp!
The hotel pool has multiple uses! It’s likely to be cold in winter / spring so acts as a sort of cooling recovery bath which is great for the legs.
• Focus on the old adage many a pro will tell you. Why stand when you can sit, why sit when you can lie. Rest those legs!
• Don’t get too much sun. As tempting as it is, remember how dehydrating it can be after what is likely to already have been a tough session in the heat for you.
5. Plan your food and nutrition
Here not only do I mean your on bike fuelling, but also your meals during the day.
• On the Bike. Do you take all your usual energy foods of choice? A definite YES if you can. Unless you know you can get your preferred choice of product out there, don’t take the risk. Don’t change something so critical to performance as it could ruin your week.
• Recovery and general food. If you are going to a well established cycling destination its likely the food will be catered towards a western generalised palette. But if going further afield for your winter training camp this is surely a consideration to include in your planning.
• How much to eat? Its quite easy, on a camp to do two things, either not eat enough or over eat! I was on a camp with an athlete once who was in great shape and very diet conscious. However, he was under eating relative to the workload we were doing. This culminated in a spectacular ‘bonk’ in one tough session. Lesson – be aware of the extra calories expended on these big days PLUS the cumulative effect.
• Over eating is actually very easy too! Many planned cycling ‘camps’ or holiday hotels have the ‘all you can eat buffet’. It’s very easy to over do it here as the ravishing hunger from the ride takes over. I’d recommend the use of some calorie counting app. To be clear I am talking ONLY about making sure that you are eating enough and the right macro calorie balance relative to your exercise. Getting this wrong either way is a sure fire way to ruin a good camp!
As well as planning your training for a winter camp I can also plan and recommend your nutrition. This ensures you get maximum training and recovery benefit from your weeks(s).
6. Plan your Photostops!
After all reminding everyone what a great time you are having whilst everyone else is working is what Social Media was invented for isn’t it?!
7. Finally, enjoy it!
But just watch out for the pitfalls and the dangers ,
– Don’t over do it!
– Don’t over estimate your fitness. No one can go from doing 1 hr a day to doing back to back 5hr days in the heat and mountains!
– PLAN properly. Use the tips above to help.
– Have a fabulous time!