....just for my athletes! This past weekend I travelled to Spain to look at a possible training camp venue. Girona is a very popular training location for many European and US Pro Tour teams: Team Garmin are based there, and it used to be the training ground for pro cyclists like Lance Armstrong and Discovery team mate George Hincapie. So, when I discovered a new camp was being set up out there, it didn’t take me too long to organise a visit!
I’ve been fortunate to go on several training camps in my career as a cyclist: Toulon in southern France; the islands of Lanzarote and Majorca; and mainland Spain near to Sierra Nevada. It was also great to have my bike as an excuse to visit new places, and Girona this weekend was no exception. It was beautiful: the roads were ideal for cycling training: the variety in terrain they offered, the road surface quality, the numerous route possibilities, and the lack of traffic to name a few. The weather was also very kind: temperatures of early to mid twenties – in November! It therefore sound an automatic choice for a camp venue – but providing the ideal environment is a little more complicated.
The athletes I coach will all hear me speak of the “performance triad”: that its not only the training stress that needs to be prioritised to improve performance, but also the aspects of recovery and nutrition – all 3 are essential, none more so than the other(s). The same principle applies to training camps. The main objective of a training camp is to provide a period of time (normally a week) where the athlete looks to make a ‘step up’ the level of fitness or in other words, the amount of adaptation. Traditional thinking would see this through increased training volume / intensity / frequency or all three. There are no ‘limiters’ – the athlete enjoying the absence of work or other life commitments (family, domestic chores, social life). Good weather, good roads = good training....simple. However, if we look at it from the performance triad perspective, we also need to factor in that training adaptation will come to an athlete more readily if the camp environment also optimises nutrition and recovery.
As a cycling coach, I need to assess how a particular camp might facilitate nutrition. What kind of breakfast is available? When is breakfast served? Are sports nutrition products included, or must athletes provide their own? Will athletes get a lunch on return from their ride? If so, what is it? Or, do they have to get to the nearest shop / town before they can eat? What about the evening meal? Is there a choice of food? Is it a buffet? Or, are athletes tied to a set menu? Are the portions suitable for an athlete? How is the food prepared? What time is the restaurant open? Then, in between meals, is the location near to shops?
Again, I also have to ask similar questions with regard to rest and recuperation – ultimately, does the camp environment provide a relaxing experience outside of training hours? Hotels can often be noisy, so sleep may be disturbed (I can re-count a few experiences of being disturbed by room parties – and that was whilst staying at a so-called athlete centred venue: watch out for venues frequented by athletes out of the training season!). You also have to factor in that not all athletes relax in the same way: a quiet environment suitable for the bookworm, or the afternoon nap taker may not appeal to someone who socialises to switch off. Some venues that are peaceful and idyllic to some may feel isolated to others.
Recuperation is not just about the physical environment either – decreasing stress can be just as important: is there a washing machine on site? Where do we store bikes, are they safe? Does the facility provide bike tools, or do we need to take our own? Another aspect I need to factor in is whether there is a suitable space for evening presentations / discussions. Last year, we squeezed 12 of us into my apartment each evening for talks on various topics across training, nutrition and recovery – with the PBscience community growing, I might need a bigger room!
So, whilst you may not feel sorry for me having to spend 3 days in the sun, clocking up 7 hours in the first back to back riding I have done since July* BUT, spare a thought for my attempts in trying to choose the best venue for the PBscience Spring camp...its proving tricky. Is it a balance, or is it a compromise? How does a cycling coach find / select a venue that presents a “win-win” scenario for an athlete group that may be 20 or in size? What do you prioritise? Is there a venue that is not only all things to all people, but ticks the boxes for practicalities and budgets? With there being only 3 months until we go, decision time is nigh.
* Day 3, the “doors fell off” on the penultimate climb – example of non-ideal nutritional conditions / poor glycogen re-loading maybe? Or more likely, just an “unfit coach” scenario! I’d better get in shape for February!