by Alan Couzens, MS (Sports Science)
In keeping with the training camps theme of the month, I thought it might be apt to write a short piece on some of the key workouts that I like to include in my athletes' plans during the course of a big week.
Training camps are often quite unstructured and rightly so. Training camps provide athletes with an opportunity to fit in substantially more quantity than they are accustomed to. However, adding too much quality to the equation can compromise the athlete’s ability to "just do." This is particularly true of early season camps where the quantity of training will be hard enough without throwing quality into the mix.
That said, when the athlete is ready (that is, moving towards mid-season), camps also represent a pretty unique opportunity to attack some big sessions in a rested state. Usually the aim of the game is "be tired by the end of the block." In practice this means all sessions contribute a bit to the tiredness but with the aim to "pace the block," no session is performed at 100%. When athletes comes to camp, they are (or should be) rested for the camp and should know that they will be also resting after the camp. This provides athletes with a unique opportunity to let loose and challenge themselves on a couple of select occasions during the course of the week. There are three select occasions in particular that I like to see athletes give a special effort during the week:
- Strong effort, short hill
Fortunately most camps take place in areas that have some hills. Most camps also take place in the presence of more than a few strong athletes. These two factors present a unique opportunity for many flatlanders to strut their stuff on some hills, complete with the competitive juices that group training brings. Rather than make every day a race, identify one or two mutually agreed upon opportunities to really hit it and race/TT against your buddies.
Many folks will find their short numbers are significantly better blasting a climb than hitting it on the flat. So, a race or organized TT against your buddies up a short climb is an opportunity too good to pass up. Camps in hilly areas are ripe for CP20 bests! So try and identify a 20-minute hill of decent grade (6-8%) to target a good effort during camp. What’s a good effort? A balanced ironman athlete should be able to hold 110% of his or her FTP for this benchmark. No better shot at that than in the context of a camp.
- Strong effort, long hill
If you’re fortunate enough to do a camp in a place with a truly long climb of approximately two hours such as Mt. Lemmon in Tucson, this also represents an opportunity for a long best-effort too good to pass up. My favorite session for this sort of climb is a progressive challenge, with the first third (30-50 minute) at 90% FTP, the second third at 93% FTP and the final third at or above 95% FTP. Pulling off this session represents a great check in on the relationship of your longer endurance to your FTP.
- Strong group ride
A great way to force yourself to remain under control during camp is to commit to making your last long ride your strongest. This may mean riding a group up or simply taking it to your buddies on the last day. Go out with a bang! Aim to complete the last day one zone up from your regular training pace. If your plan for day one is to ride easy on the downhills, steady on the flats and moderately-hard on the climbs, shoot for a last day effort of moderately-hard on the flats and building to threshold on the climbs. A five hour ride at an average moderately hard intensity (approximately 85% FTP) is a great box to check for the developing ironman.
While "getting the miles in" should remain the central theme of any training camp, don’t deny yourself a shot at assessing the benefit of going for it in a different context to your normal training grounds. You might surprise yourself!