The Value of Mini Camps

Now that we’ve turned the corner into a new season, our 2009 goals are starting to become a little more “real” and it may even seem as if we’re already running short on preparation time. Some people may be targeting the VQ Solvang Training Camp as their first goal of the season or as a launch pad into better fitness later. Going into camp fresh but well-prepared is the best recipe for success. This will allow you to work hard during camp without requiring an inordinate amount of recovery afterward.

Residing in the Midwest and working full time, riding lots of long slow base miles probably isn’t an option for most. But this doesn’t mean you can’t get some quality training in and be in very good fitness, and it doesn’t mean you have to resort to endless hours pedaling on the trainer. Being prepared for consecutive training days is a big part of training camp success, especially as camp wears on. The concept to help you prepare is to incorporate “mini-camp” training blocks into your routine two or three times before the big show.

A “mini-camp” is several consecutive days of training that will provide a slight overload to your body and force it to respond and grow. If this block is done correctly and you allow enough time for recovery afterward, you can make small steps up to better fitness that will have you ready for a great experience at camp. Here are a few tips to make sure you get the most out of your time.

  • Take advantage of the situation: even during the fickle Chicago winter, there are usually a few days of nice weather. Cash in one or two of your vacation days and make a 3-4 day weekend and try to get some training in each day. If you are traveling somewhere warmer for a week or so, try to take the bike along or rent one when you’re there and get some longer rides in a pleasant climate.
  • Start slow: the first day of a training block, you may be tempted to ride as long or as hard as you can handle and planning more to come. For the first workout, keep a few of your matches dry and build up as things progress. This way your hardest work is at the end of the block and you can always scale back after having already achieved much of the benefit of your mini-camp.
  • Don’t do too much: scale your goals for the training block based on your recent training history. If you have only been training 4 hours a week, trying to jump right into a 20-hour training phase will probably just set you up for a prolonged recovery period or even overuse injury.
  • Make the juice worth the squeeze: if you’re stuck without favorable outdoor weather conditions, don’t force yourself to grunt out long hours on the trainer, treadmill or in the pool. It’s better to stay consistent with your normal routine and keep the mind fresh for later in the season when quality training is more important - and more fun. Remember, consecutive training days are the most important part, so just sticking in a 90 minute Friday ride ahead of a big weekend will give you a good portion of the benefit you would gain from camp.