Training camps have long been a part of the sport of cycling. At the high performance level and also for the recreational ‘weekend warrior’. But why spend money and time to go to a usually obscure location to ride your bike for a number of days? Wouldn’t spending time in the comforts of your own home and riding your usual training routes give you an equal training benefit? Former road professional and current MarathonMTB.com Team rider Justin Morris breaks down the main benefits of the ‘training camp’ into 3 core points.
Simplifying your existence to maximise training benefit
Contrary to popular belief many high performing athletes live quite mundane lives consisting of sleeping, eating and training. Simplicity is key to ensuring the maximum amount of mental and physical energy is devoted to pushing the pedals come race day. Current Olympic marathon champion Eliud Kipchoge from Kenya lives whilst training in rudimentary share accommodation at Kaptagat a village at altitude in the mountains of Kenya. Whilst not running here life revolves around recovery and doing the chores around the house like cooking, cleaning and doing laundry by hand. This spartan lifestyle enables a clear, organised and stable mind which in turn leads to absolute peak performance in one’s profession, in this case running.
A training camp although perhaps not to the extreme of a rudimentary camp in a village in Kenya offers a taste of this simplicity so more attention and energy can be focussed on pushing the pedals. People whom attend a training camp are often amazed at how much energy is left when freed of the usual day to day stresses and complications of home life – albeit momentarily.
Location, Location, Location
From my work as a cycling coach with Mind Matters Athlete Coaching I have often heard that being able to see different parts of the world is commonly one of the reasons people get in to cycling. On a bike you are free from the constraints of a motor vehicle and you have a greater ability to cover distance than you would walking or running. The location of the training camp is key to maximising the training and enjoyment aspects.
For the training benefits altitude is a key attribute of many high performance training camps. The thinner the air the harder you have to work to put the same amount of power into the pedals. Subsequently, training in this environment grows the cardio capacity at a much faster rate than the same work done at sea level. Isolation is another key aspect for high performance training camps, again on the lines on the simplicity mantra, the more remote the camp the more the athlete can focus on just the training. Team Sky hold many of their camps on the Spanish island of Tenerife which has both isolation and altitude aplenty. Often team managers will organise for no wifi or phone reception to ensure 100% dedication to training. The proof is in the pudding to the effectiveness of this.
The ‘audience effect’ in psychology says that many people will perform better at a task when in the company of others. The drive to impress and the competitive urge can lead to extra watts dumped into the pedals when compared to training alone.
In a training camp situation being surrounded by like minded folk can not only enable you to possibly break some PBs on the bike but also offers a healthy social situation. Many training camps I have attended always have created some memorable situations that always foster a laugh and story between those that were there. After all this is another one of those common reasons why most people sign up to this sport- to foster positive relationships.