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Choosing a Training Camp
Posted by: TriTrainingHarder
Posted on: Tuesday 19th February 2013


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Last week we brought you some great advice from Simon Ward on the Do's and Don'ts of Training Camps; how to make the best of your week or two training in the sun.

But, before you get there, how do you choose a training camp in the first place? There are so many options now in terms of location, facilities, format, coaching and more - but which one will suit your needs? How do you go about choosing your training camp and location?

Like Simon, Steve Trew has been involved in triathlon for, well, a long time - and has been a participant and organiser of triathlon camps for just as long - and your Editor can vouch, from plenty of experience of them, that 'fun' is an integral part of anything Steve organises.

With so many options out there, Steve has put his experiences together to give you a checklist for choosing a training camp, and strongly suggests that you 'do your homework first'!


The dream is of course...to be a pro! To be a full time triathlete, all that time, all that freedom, all that training, and all that precious resting time.

And then the reality hits in... up at 5.30am for the 6 o'clock swim session before rushing to the station to get you into work for 8.30. Grabbing your breakfast on the gallop, lunchtime running, on the turbo as soon as you get home. Fitting in the training whenever and wherever you can.

And always, always, always... that feeling of being tired.

Well, you can change; maybe not forever but certainly for that magic amount of time when you dare to dream the dream. And how does it work? How can you reach this magical status? Early retirement sounds pretty good... but you do have to be a certain age to go for that!

The other, and the best option? The warm weather training camp!

Tri Training Harder camp

Warm weather camps have been running for such a long time that I even remember going on them when I was an athlete - and that really is a long time ago. My first camp was back in 1984 in sunny Ibiza and I simply loved it, the whole thing. Early morning sea swim, back for breakfast, run session, lunch and a rest then a long bike ride and finally back in the water to finish off the day (well, apart from the trips down to the restaurants for copious amounts of food and wine).

And now, twenty five years on, the British triathlete is almost spoilt for choice. Club La Santa in Lanzarote, Cesanatico in Italy, Malta, the South of France, the Balearic islands; even South Africa or Australia for the adventurous. You choose, you pay, you go, you train.

So, assuming you've made the decision to go warm weather training, what should you look for? Venue, coaches, travelling time, reputation, cost (of course!) how long the camp and coaches have been doing the camp, what other athletes who have been say about it, how many athletes go back to the same camp. There is no advertising as good as word of mouth and if one of your training buddies raves about a particular camp then they're probably worth listening to!

Costs

This is certainly one of the most important factors to consider, and while I wouldn't say "go for the cheapest!" I would advise you to look closely at what the cost of any camp includes and what are likely to be the cost of any extras. The main break-down of costing will be travel (normally flight) and accommodation, food, and training and coaching. So let's have a closer look at these.

Travel

Is this included in the cost? You may think that 'yes' is the obvious answer, but you'd be surprised at the number of camps that don't include travel costs, insisting that it is cheaper for the athlete to book them themselves as there are so many low cost airlines and bargain flights available. Well maybe, maybe it is; but personally I'd rather have the total package included.

And if you're travelling from anywhere else but the four London airports, can you fly direct? Do you need to get down or up to London? Is there a supplement from regional airports? How much is the parking fee at Heathrow, Gatwick, Luton or Stansted if you decide to drive to the departure airport?

Do travel costs include transfers to and from the training venue? Again, you would assume 'yes'. But I have black memories of forking out fifteen pounds to be taken from the airport to a well-known camp.

What about the bike? Airline prices normally have a hold baggage limit of either 15 or 20 kg per person; a racing bike in a case or padded bag will usually add up to a grand total in excess of that. How much is the extra? Thirty pounds each way? Reasonable, I think. Sixty pounds each way? Not so reasonable, or does the airline charge you per kg in excess of your permitted limit? This could add up to serious money!

Is it viable to hire a bike at the camp? On one trip last year, I was delighted to pay out 60 euros (around £50) for a superb bike in my size rather than pay the £60 airline supplement and also have the hassle of taking the bike to and from the airport in Britain, putting together and taking apart and cleaning at the end of the camp. Of course, for the experienced triathlete there's nothing like your own bike, but if you're quite new to the sport and the camp you're attending has a good reputation then maybe a hire bike is a consideration.

Food and accommodation

Will you be staying in a hotel or in apartments? Is food provided or is it self-catering? All these options have plusses and negatives, what you must find out before parting with your hard-earned money is just what is included.

It's nice to go out every evening and eat in different restaurants... it can also be as expensive as you make it! Budgeting around £12 to £15 each evening is certainly not extravagant but is entirely realistic in most training camps/resorts, perhaps even a little more, so a two week camp adds on around £200. Breakfast at, what say? £5 per head? Well, you're looking at the best part of £300 on top of the advertised price. Find out exactly what is included before you go!

Tri-topia

Or, do you prefer to have breakfast and dinner supplied as part of the package and just snack at lunchtime? My personal preference (and, to be honest, this has changed with my advancing years...) is to have a self-service breakfast on-site for when you've finished the early morning session, and to have the knowledge that after the day's training, you need only to edge those aching limbs down one flight of stairs into the hotel restaurant where you've already decided on your meal by choosing from the menu the night before.

Lunch can be a little more difficult. As it is entirely likely that you'll be out on the bike most days, I wouldn't advise having lunch as part of your package price. But, maybe the hotel or camp organisers will provide something to take out with you? Again, find out before you pay and go!

Kinectic PB Tri Lodge - Andalucia, Southern Spain

Facilities

Is there a swimming pool on site? How many lanes, four, six, eight? How big is it? 25 metres, 50 metres? Or is it a 'hotel' sized pool with little chance of doing a proper session? Is the pool always going to be available or will you have to share it with holiday makers to whom the very idea of training is anathema? Will you need to travel to the swimming pool? And if so, do you have to pay to get in? How warm is the sea or lake going to be when you train? Do you need to take wetsuits (extra luggage, extra weight, maybe extra cost)?

Move Sports Winter series camp, Portugal

What about the roads? Is the country cycling friendly? As a rider on a bike in Italy, you are strictly first class! Some countries less so... Flat or hilly terrain? Will you have vehicle support at least on those long rides - bonking two hours away from the hotel is not to be recommended! What safety aspects are there, particularly for riding? Will you be supplied with maps of the local area? Do these maps give course profiles as well as distances?

Is there a chance of being instructed on technical handling skills for which you'll need a quiet area of some sort. Will technical support be provided? If you're a novice it's great to have somebody on hand to help you put the bike together and check everything before you start riding.

And what about running? Do you have access to a track? (or maybe you don't want a track). Are there woods and forest trails to run through and along? Is the camp very near to a beach so that you can enjoy (?!) running on the sand? Again, as with cycling, will you be able to do some hill and resistance training? Or will you be stuck with running along tarmacced roads?

Does the hotel or apartment block have a gym or fitness centre? Find out before you go!

BLUE Bay Resort and beach at Playa de Muro

Coaching and Coaches

Perhaps the most important aspect! How good are the coaches on the camp? Which athletes have they coached? Do they have a good reputation? Can they coach athletes of all standards or do they specialise with elite athletes, juniors, age-groupers, novices? The expertise of the coach is crucially important to your enjoyment of the camp and the memories that you will take away. Don't be afraid to phone up and ask the organisers or the coaches exactly what they will do, how they will plan the sessions, how much you'll be expected to do as an athlete.

Will the coaches have time to sit down and talk to you? One of the most valuable aspects is just that, people who have time!

How many coaches for how many athletes? What is the coach/athlete ratio - one to ten, one to fifteen... Or more than that? How much input will you be given for your needs? Will you be valued for yourself, whatever your standard, or will you be one of twenty or thirty money providers?

What is the standard of the other athletes going on the camp? Will you be completely out of your depth when the world's best turn up, or will you be so much better than everyone else there that you're wasting your time and money?

The BIG question!

Will you enjoy it? Will you have a laugh? Will you come away a better triathlete?

A huge part of going away on training camp is the friends you make, the memories you take away, the dinners with too much wine, the silly jokes, the singing of old songs at the top of your voice when you get to the top of a mountain which had seemed impossible just thirty minutes before. Find out from people who've gone on previous camps just what you're letting yourself in for.

Finally. Be brave! Going on a training camp for the first time takes a lot of guts and determination. You're going to put yourself on the line with some people whom you've never met before, whose standard you don't know.

Les Stables

It's not easy - not for the first time anyway - but when you've made that step, when you realise after a couple of days that you're having the best time of your life; that the pain and the hurt and the sweat and the odd tear are really quite good fun... the shared disasters, the mishaps and, of course, the good times. That PB in the pool, the first 50 mile bike ride, the open water swim round the buoy 400 metres off shore... and you did it! You really did it! Warm weather training camps? Oh yeah.

So what do you get from it?

Vitally important, of course, exactly what benefits will you get from the camp? Sure, you'll come back fitter (and maybe you'll even stick to those resolutions of training harder!), but to me, the real benefits are how good a trip away makes you feel. Physically, to have the sun on your back, to be in an outdoor pool, to be running or cycling in shorts rather than being huddled up in warm clothing against the cold and the rain will ensure that you get more out of your training.

But even more important than that - but very much tied into it - is how good you feel about yourself! Going away on camp makes you realise why you started triathlon; the absolute buzz you get when the swim stroke suddenly catches, when you realise that you've been out on the bike for four hours and you're still singing, when someone says, "we'll fartlek it back to camp for the next thirty minutes" and you agree without even thinking about it. They're the reasons why camps make sense, and that's exactly why they're so much fun. Go on, sign up!

Steve Trew

(Steve Trew organises training camps in Great Britain and Italy, he can be contacted on trew@personalbest.demon.co.uk)

50m Pool at Playitas


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