An Early Season Training Camp

While winter singularly failed to provide any excuses for inadequate training, Bristol is delivering just the weather to drive me to Lanzarote for a training camp. In a couple of days I’ll escape dull grey skies for a warmer climate, stronger winds and unlimited training, if only I had the fitness to make the most of it! Despite best efforts to prepare myself – you cannot cram fitness – I feel a long way from ready; with three of my athletes joining me for an informal Coach Cox training camp the pressure may be on. Regardless, this may be what’s needed to drag me back into shape, there’s a busy year ahead, the season needs a kickstart.

Under prepared might be the way to go, I have a history of thoroughly preparing for training camps, arriving in great shape only to burn myself out within the week; my quiet, competitive streak demanding I hold on until there’s nothing left. So having a camp early in the season, when winter has stripped fitness to the bone, might just prevent me from reaching my destructive limits, and without the ability to demonstrate my strengths, I’ll be left proving I’ve the work ethic to regain them. I can simply train, without ego, gathering mileage and instigating the start of a program that will see me back on form when it matters – for a summer of racing. No more abusing camps, the term may come loaded with preconceptions, but Lanzarote in January is about base mileage.

Base, build, peak, whatever period or categorisation a training camp falls under, they are about athletic development not athletic prowess; they are an exercise in over reaching, removing distractions, progressing an athlete beyond the confines of their regular routine and approaching their limits. In the early season the limits sit nearer than we’d like – power is lacking, endurance falls short – it doesn’t take significant increase in volume or intensity to achieve an overload. A camp necessarily takes on a different form to those later in the season, less focussed perhaps, just consistent days of suitably testing miles. Which isn’t to say easy, there’s plenty of room for hard sessions, it’s the daily race to be alpha athlete that’s avoided.

So what can my athletes expect from their informal training camp at La Santa? Consistency across the board – the rough plan is to swim, bike and run every day. The tried and tested Lanzarote routine starts with a swim, pivots around a long bike and finishes with a run, I don’t feel any need to deviate from this. A little variation in distances and priorities, but at this point in time I’m reticent to throw in double days, not least because I suspect I’m not up to it! Despite what I’ve written they’ll be competition, it’s inevitable, but we will keep that limited to friendly motivation and perhaps the odd time trial. And in case we can’t control ourselves, day one will be big, in Epic Camp tradition I want to tire everyone out before we get started. The overall aim is to walk the line between fitness and fatigue so we return to the UK ready and able to take things further; nobody is going to lose February to recovery.

A positive lesson from reviewing 2011 is the importance of a week long bike camp in late February, it took me from relatively poor fitness to competent training on a platform of steady and tempo riding. This is the role I want Lanzarote to fill, bringing about the mental and physical readiness to train, its success will be measured by my return and not my speed up the mountains.