Words by Taylor Thomas of Thomas Endurance Coaching

If you’ve been involved with cycling for any time at all you’ve no doubt heard of training camps. These experiences range anywhere from a few days to multiple weeks with the express goal of accelerating and refining an athlete’s fitness. They typically occur during transitional periods of training and provide a level of focus that otherwise might not be available during a normal training block. Training camps, whether self-guided or with a group, can be an excellent way to develop individual skills and prepare mentally and physically for the season to come.

Begin with Your Goals

A good training camp is one that is designed to help you prepare in some way for your future goals. Whether that’s by getting in lots of volume to build muscular endurance, stamina, and aerobic strength, or if you need specific early-season interval work to dial in your race efforts, your training camp should be built around pre-defined goals. A good place to start is by using what you’ve learned from your post-season review to help define your goals. What are your limiters, and what can you do during your training camp to bolster them? It’s also a good idea to think about the proximity of the camp to your goals. The ideal scenario would be that it’s close enough to a priority event that you can use the camp as a launchpad to accelerate fitness, but not so close that you have to worry about lingering fatigue from the camp on race day. 8-12 weeks from your goal event is a good place to start but the proximity, much like the actual riding you do, should be individualized based on where your focus lies. 

Work Through the Logistics

Often the biggest hurdles to getting a self-guided training camp off of the ground are the logistics. A good starting place is to decide if your camp is going to be remote, or at home. If you can swing it, getting out of town for your camp can be a good way to really focus on your training. Removing all of the distractions that typically inhibit us makes the quality of the training that much better. However, if that’s not an option at home camps can also be productive. The key to both scenarios is planning ahead of time. Think through potential barries like busy roads, congestion, access to trails/gravel, and try to position yourself in a place that removes those barriers. Next, think about how your time will be spent during the camp. Make sure that you have access to an area for meal preparation, quality grocery stores, an indoor training environment, medical care if needed, spa/massage therapy. Remember, the goal of any camp is to pour your energy into your training, so this should look wholly different than your normal scramble to squeeze in workouts between life’s many responsibilities.

Get to Work

Now the fun part. You’ve outlined your goals, done the planning, and now it’s time to reap the rewards. Typically training camps include some big rides that are designed to push your fitness and your training forward. Take a minute to research those rides and load the routes into your ELEMNT. This will ensure you spend more time riding and less time stopping to ask directions and look at a map. Training camps are not always about mega mileage. They’re also a good time to focus on individualized interval sessions designed to push your limits and uncover your potential. Design these workouts ahead of time so that you can focus on execution rather than planning. Utilize your ELEMNT to pre-load these sessions as well. Pretend you’re a pro and all you have to focus on is showing up and riding. The work has been done for you. If you’re in need of some workout ideas here’s a couple of examples of some good race prep work to get things firing.

5×5 @ FRC with Sustained Sweet Spot

  1. Warm-up
    20 min @ 50-60 % of FTP
  2. Repeat 4 times
    1. Hard
      5 min @ 107-115 % of FTP
    2. Easy
      2 min @ 50 % of FTP
  3. Active
    15 min @ 88-92 % of FTP
  4. Cool Down
    12 min @ 55-65 % of FTP

Sweetspot: FTP Build-UP 

  1. Warm-up
    10 min @ 50-60 % of FTP
  2. Repeat 3 times
    1. Hard
      10 min @ 86-90 % of FTP
    2. Harder
      5 min @ 97-102 % of FTP
    3. Easy
      5 min @ 50 % of FTP
  3. Cool Down
    10 min @ 50-60 % of FTP

Training camps don’t have to take place in some far-flung corner of the globe. With a little bit of planning and self-reflection, they can be as easy as carving out some time with your local club or solo to focus on your upcoming goals. Use what you’ve learned from past seasons to condense your focus and ensure you’re spending time getting the most out of your camp. Plan ahead and think through the details that will provide the experience you want. When the work is done you can focus on riding and recovery, just that way the pros do.

Taylor Thomas is the founder and head coach of Thomas Endurance Coaching (TEC) and has more than a decade of experience in the endurance sports industry as an athlete, coach, team organizer, writer, and podcast host. TEC provides expert level coaching to athletes of all ability levels and specializes in both a scientific and metrics-based approach to endurance sports. They guide athletes in a wide variety of disciplines ranging from running and cycling to mountaineering. For more information on their personal coaching and training plan options visit http://www.thomasendurancecoaching.com/. Also, listen to their top-rated podcast Endurance Minded everywhere you get your podcasts.


Track all your training data using one of the ELEMNT Bike Computer.

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