10 Training camp tips

Training through the British winter can be tough – so going aboard to get some sun and training in can be very appealing. Warm weather training camps provide a brilliant opportunity to focus on your swim, bike and run. Pick the right one for you and the chances are you’ll meet plenty of like-minded triathletes all eager to recharge their batteries and boost their training ahead of this year’s race season.

1 Facilities on offer

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Do your research before signing up to a camp, so you know exactly what to expect. Check to see what facilities will be available and whether access to them all is included in the price. If your priority is improving your swimming, will there be access to a good pool? Will stroke analysis be included? Draw up a checklist and prioritise them against what the camp offers.

2 Cost

The price of a week long camp can vary hugely and reflects what each package offers. Many include flights, transfers and accommodation, but check to see if meals are extra. Will you have to pay extra to take your bike on the plane? Do your homework, so there are no nasty surprises for your budget.

3 Coaching

With so many training camps on offer, it can be difficult to know which one to pick. You should look for camps lead by qualified and experienced coaches. Do they have British Triathlon Federation (BTF) coaching certificates (preferably level three)? How many sessions will they take each day? Ask friends and training partners for their recommendations and advice.

4 Level

Find out what level of athlete the camp is aimed at. If you’re a novice and the camp is aimed at experienced age groupers you might find it too hard and not enjoy it. If in doubt, get in touch with the coach/camp leader and be guided by them.

5 Distance

While some camps can cater for athletes training for all distances – from sprint to Olympic and beyond, others focus on a particular distance. Be sure to choose the right one for you and your chosen event(s).

6 Location

Training camps take place the world over. Destinations such as Lanzarote and Tenerife are very popular and are good choices because not only are they a relatively short flight away, but they benefit from year round warm weather. Check climate charts before signing up if guaranteed sunshine is what you’re after.

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7 Duration

Camps can range in duration from two days to one month, so think carefully about how long you’d like to go away for. You might be constrained by family and work commitments as well as your budget, but most people find a week to 10 days is long enough to get some quality training in.

8 Size

Try to find out how many people will be on the camp and the ratio of coaches/instructors to athletes. Obviously the lower the ratio the more expensive the camp might be, but check to make sure you won’t be one of scores of athletes vying for the coach’s feedback.

9 Advice from the professionals

Lots of coaches invite elite athletes to their camps to chat to attendees and give advice and demonstrations, so check to see who, if anyone, will be present at the camp. This could provide you with just the source of inspiration and motivation you need.

10 Support staff

Check to see if there will be access to a bike mechanic and/or a bike shop. Having a physio or sports masseur on hand is a definite advantage too.

Destinations such as Lanzarote and Tenerife are very popular and are good choices because not only are they a relatively short flight away, but they benefit from year round warm weather

Triathlon Fitness Tests

Before embarking on a training programme, it’s always a good idea to do a fitness test so you know just how fit you are. This can then be repeated every four or eight weeks so you can monitor your fitness and see how much improvement you’re making – this is a great way to boost motivation.

I’ve provided three tests – you can do one, two or all three. Always make sure you’re well rested before the tests and warm up and cool down before and after each respectively.

– Swim test – 100m ‘golf’ test Swim 100m front-crawl and record your time and your stroke count (i.e. total number of strokes for the 100m). Combine the two figures to get your final score, e.g. swim time of 1:30min and 88 strokes: 90 + 88 = a score of 178. Aim to lower the score on your next test. As your stroke becomes more efficient your stroke count should drop and your speed/swim time should decrease.

Bike test Ride a set loop – which has minimal disruption caused by traffic lights or level crossings. Decide the distance and keep it the same from test to test (eight or 10 miles is a good distance). Aim to ride it at about 80 per cent of maximum effort. If you have a bike computer, use it to record as much data as possible, e.g. average speed and cadence.

Record how long it takes plus conditions on the day which could affect the result. If you use a heart rate monitor, record your average heart rate too. If you ride the test route faster in similar conditions at a similar heart rate subsequently, then your fitness will have obviously improved.

Run test As with the bike test, run a set route with minimal disruptions and establish obvious landmarks as the start and finish points. Run at 80 per cent maximum effort and record your time for the distance (anything from two to four miles is good for novices). If wearing a heart rate monitor, log your average heart rate too.

The next time you do the test, run at the same effort level (80 per cent) and see whether you are quicker over the same distance for the same effort. If your training is working, you will be!

The ultra-FIT Triathlon 2010

Why not sign up for our very own triathlon, which will take place on Sunday, 23 May 2010, at Dorney Lake, near Windsor? It’s organised by top sporting event organisers Human Race. The bike route is flat and traffic free and there is a range of distances, including a team relay, which make it suited to the beginner.

Training programme – block 2

Our training programme is designed to get you in perfect shape for May 23. The first block of training was featured in our Dec issue and will have developed a good base of specific Tri fitness. We now progress this.

Tips

– Beginners should approach triathlon training with caution. Doing too much too soon can result in injury or burnout. The amount of time you can dedicate to training will be dependent on your work, family and social commitments, as well as your sporting background. Those with little or no previous experience of endurance sport should ease into training slowly.

– Keep a log of what you’re doing so you can monitor progress.

– With swimming, focus more on technique rather than mileage. If possible, seek expert advice on your stroke and join a triathlon club or masters swim squad.

– If you’re new to cycling, learn how to ride and get to know your bike before increasing sessions and mileage.

– With running, increase volume very cautiously and don’t be afraid to start with walk-runs.

– Strength and conditioning is an important part of triathlon training and helps prevent injuries, especially in high impact sports like running. Core strength is also essential, so try to include a gym session each week.

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