Here’s how to build a successful training camp at any time, anywhere—even your own living room.
In winter months, training like a pro means going to a training camp. The South of Spain, Cyprus, South Africa, Thailand, and the Canary Island are only a few among the popular winter escapes for the eat-sleep-train junkies. But what if you cannot travel towards the sun and have to stay home, above the 40th parallel north? Can you train like a pro there? The answer is definitely yes.
In fact, some pros do just that: ask Lionel Sanders who, when in Canada, does mostly all his workouts on a treadmill and bike trainer on his balcony. In fact, there are many advantages to staying home: from sleeping in your own bed to saving time and money. And a training camp at home can bring a lot of diversity into your training, making those long winter sessions much more fun.
Here comes your step-by-step guide on how to design a DIY camp.
Step 1: Define your time frame.
Do you want to go for one week or a long weekend? With the spiral training cycle structure I offer here, you can do both—you will just need to adapt the load. You can also do two or three consecutive long weekends, which will give a serious boost to your form development. This format is helpful both in winter as foundational training and also in the final race preparation period, starting 5-6 weeks before your race.
Step 2: Define your objective.
In order to make your camp an exercise in deliberate practice, you need to set a specific objective, for example: improve functional strength, base endurance, power endurance, etc. Ideally, you should quantify this objective and make it measurable, for example: lift 150% of my weight 1x with a HEX halter by the end of a cycle of 3 camps, run 2 hours at 5:30 pace in Z2, ride 30 minutes at 250 Watt, etc.
Step 3: Design progressive load structure.
Take your average weekly TSS over the last 4 weeks of training—this will be your total load for the 3-day long weekend camp. Then allocate this total load to each day of training, following the progressive load structure of 25%-35%-40%.
For example, if you had an average of 500 TSS over the last 4 weeks of training, you should plan 100 TSS on Friday, 175 on Saturday and 200 on Sunday. If all your training is in Z2, then in terms of hours of training, it would be ca. 2.5hr on Friday, 4.5hrs on Saturday and 5hrs on Sunday. With more intensity, the duration of workouts would decrease. And Monday should definitely be a well-deserved day off.
For the week-long camp, plan two blocks: 3 days load–1 day off–3 days load of spiral structure. Thus, the first 3 days you will start with 70% of the 4 week TSS average and for the next 3 days, you need to plan with 80%. Using the previous example of 500 TSS average, your total camp week will be 750 TSS, with the following daily allocation of TSS: 88 – 130 – 150 – 0 – 100 – 140 – 160.
Step 4: Allocate volume and intensity and workout types.
- 88 TSS, 100% volume
- 130 TSS, 80% volume 20% intensity
- 150 TSS, 100% volume
- 100 TSS, 80% volume 20% intensity
- 140 TSS, 100% volume
- 160 TSS, 90% volume 10% intensity
- 2 hours
- 3 hours
- 4 hours
- 2.5 hours
- 3.5 hours
- 4 hours
- 1. Tempo run
- Bike: hill repeats or race pace intervals
- 1. Brick (bike-run)
2. Recovery swim
- Brick: Bike-run
- Long hilly ride
- 1. Strength and conditioning
2. Long run
3. Long swim
Step 5: Invite friends and family to train with you.
This is where a camp at home can make the biggest difference: you’ll remain a social (happy) human being vs turning into a triathlon training hermit. Find creative ways to integrate your friends and family into your training: from your kids arranging a T2 for your brick training to your partner following your runs on a bike, or your cycling on an electric bike. And of course, if they are fit as you are, you simply train together!
Step 6: Do grocery shopping and cooking in advance.
An increased training volume will require additional fuel. Plan it in advance and buy all necessary groceries in sufficient quantities. You can pre-cook base foods such as beans, lentils, and quinoa to use them in a nutritionally dense salad. Also make healthy snacks such as rice balls and home-made muesli bars for your long rides. I’ve always said, “your nutrition strategy is your race strategy in an Ironman,” so a training camp at home is a great opportunity to safely try different fuel options and find an optimal one.
Step 7: Be smart.
The temptation is big to go and kill yourself on Day 1 of a training camp—but it’s a rookie mistake! In general, for 80% of your training, the rule is that you should finish it feeling that you could still have still gone for at least 30 mutes in (or longer). Specifically, in the training camp context, it is crucially important to train progressively, with a slow build-up of fatigue and with built-in recovery. The ideal state at the end of the camp is to feel tired—but only so much that you can resume your normal training after some recovery.
The week following a training camp should be a lighter training week, starting with one or two complete recovery days and then base endurance training only for at least four or five days. After this cycle of recovery, you are ready to transition to the next level and add 10 to 20% to your weekly TSS. Do this repeatedly and you will be super fit on your race day!
This article originally appeared on Trainingpeaks.com.
Tatjana Ivanova has coached endurance athletes for more than 10 years. All her athletes, from first-time marathoners to Ironman 70.3 World Championship qualifiers, have achieved their personal goals without a single DNF among them. Tatjana has two mantras for training and racing: “Joy in the effort” and “Pain is temporary, glory is forever.”