For some, it may seem like a vacation, but for others, training camps are very serious. For competitive cyclists, or even for those who want to start the season strong, training camps aren’t a game.
The ultimate goal of these camps is to accumulate as many kilometers as possible. Of course, in 2021, everything is uncertain in terms of race planning depending on the restrictions in place, but here’s a glimpse of what training camp life is like.
For Canadians who wish to stay on the continent, the most popular destinations are in the United States, specifically Virginia, North or South Carolina, or even Tucson, Arizona. Many collegiate cycling clubs have their classic destinations that they return to every year because they already know the routes, climbs and distances they must travel depending on the day. If you’re lucky enough to join a running group that knows a destination well or a training center that organizes fitness trips, you won't regret it! These trips require a lot of preparation when venturing to a new destination, especially when it comes to a diverse group featuring participants of different levels.
Depending on the length of your stay, your level of endurance and the organization, you can expect very different routes from one day to the next. The important thing to remember is that this trip serves as physical preparation, both for the races and for a more leisurely return to the road in the spring.
Knowing that the goal of the camp is to accumulate volume, expect long days. Therefore, a strict and precise schedule is required. Get up early, have breakfast, prepare your snacks for the day, fill your water bottles, ride, ride some more, ride some more, and finally get home, have dinner, shower and sleep. This is often what your schedule will look like, with little lunch/convenience store breaks along the way. It's demanding, but satisfying.
If you have a foam roller, it’s highly recommended to bring it with you or to do post-workout stretches to avoid tight muscles day after day.
When you have a busy schedule of tens or hundreds of kilometers per day, you can expect to expend a lot of energy. To refuel, you must eat!
A basic rule of thumb when you know you're going to spend many hours in the saddle: don't drastically change your diet. Your body is used to working with the foods you give it on a regular basis, so don't start trying new recipes on your trip because you can't predict how you’ll digest them.
Think about what’s familiar, easy to digest and will give you energy for the next day.
Carbohydrates will be your best friend during your recovery meals: pasta, rice, bread. Don't forget your protein sources, your vegetables and a small dessert as a reward for your big day.
During your long rides, it’s very important to bring snacks. Don't wait until you feel hungry or thirsty before consuming something that’ll make you feel hungry. Consider bringing gels, bars, peanut butter and jelly on toast, bananas, electrolyte powder, whatever works for you. If you're going to be gone all day, it's a good idea to stop for a real meal, not too heavy, but to get a real energy boost.
Depending on the organization you join, you can expect to pay anywhere from hundreds to thousands of dollars. Each group will have its own way of managing the trip, depending on whether it’s all-inclusive (flight, hotel, food) or if you opt for a shared Airbnb, a common kitchen between participants and a long drive to get to your destination.
Whichever option you choose, there are ways to have fun and make great memories. Before you leave, take the time to find out about the group you'll be joining or the organization that's running the trip. Do they offer several levels of courses or is it only for the more advanced? What is the estimated average speed of each group? Do people ride every day or are there rest days planned?
Think about your winning recipes: what kind of snacks, meals, liquids work for you. Finally, define the budget you’re willing to invest and don't forget to take out travel insurance!