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Training Center: How to choose a winter training camp — or make your own

  • By Neal Henderson, Boulder Center for Sports Medicine
  • Published Dec. 24, 2010
  • Updated Jan. 3, 2011 at 9:12 PM EST

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Q.Dear VeloNews Training Center,
My friend and I are considering signing up for a winter training camp this year and wanted to ask a couple of questions. First, we are both Category 4 racers and we both ride mountain bikes as well. We are looking to possibly bump to Cat. 3 next year and also want to increase our fitness level and generally feel more confident in races. What kind of camps should we consider? Is a week long enough? What camps do you recommend?

Thanks for your help.
— Phil

A.Phil,
Training camps can be a great way to significantly increase your training and bump up your fitness level rapidly. Keep in mind though, that in bike racing increases in fitness do not directly yield improvements in race-day performance, possibly with the exception of hillclimbs and time trials — neither of which count toward category upgrade points.

In addition to working on improving your fitness, you should also spend some time concentrating on improving your skills and tactical awareness. In some cases a simple home-based training camp with a few extra days off work can help when done a few times throughout the year. I have found that the best
of intentions to increase training while staying at home don’t often provide the best results because regular life demands take extra time and reduce the ability to recover from the increased effort. Training camps in winter-training destination locations for cycling such as Arizona and California are excellent places to get away and find some fantastic riding. I always recommend athletes both reduce their training dramatically before and especially after the training camps to make sure that you are relatively well rested coming into the camp, and more importantly are able to recover from the increased training once you get back home and into regular life.

Remember that going to a training camp doesn’t mean that you can train an unlimited amount — I typically limit the increase to a maximum of twice your average weekly volume. Even more important than the increased training is the ability to spend more time recovering, relaxing and sleeping, which will help you get the most from your training camp. A week-long camp is definitely plenty, though I would recommend varying your training from day to day. I usually like to have riders perform one or two days of training with some higher intensity, followed by a day or two of longer volume rides at lower intensity, followed by a day or two of active recovery and rest. I do not recommend any specific camps, but there are a number of reputable bicycle camp businesses that cater to riders like you.

Happy riding and racing,
— Neal Henderson

Boulder Center for Sports Medicine was founded by Andrew Pruitt, EdD, PA-C, in 1998. For the past 12 years BCSM has been providing athletes from around the world with the highest possible level of care. BCSM offers a wide range of services, including Orthopedic Clinics, Physical Therapy, Expert 3D Bike Fitting, Running Gait Analysis, Coaching & Training, Nutrition Services, Performance Testing, and more. For more information, visit www.bch.org/sportsmedicine, or call (303) 544-5700.

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