Training

Virtual Triathlon Camp: What Is It And Why Do One?

We've all heard of virtual races. But a virtual triathlon training camp? Coeur Sports did just that.

As summer races continue to get canceled, mustering the motivation to train can feel harder than ever. Although there are plenty of virtual challenges out there, what if you’re looking for more of a training community or a connection that goes deeper than a Strava QOM and a digital medal? If you fall into this category, a virtual triathlon training camp may be for you.

When the pandemic hit, Coeur Sports was actually in the midst of a training camp, but it quickly repositioned to a virtual camp. The idea caught on and was so well-received, they’re offering another month-long session beginning June 1.

Here’s how a virtual triathlon camp works: Participants receive a weekly schedule with daily workouts and a strength video. Every week, there are live Zoom sessions. For Coeur, that’s two cycling workouts and two education sessions—but they are also recorded if you can’t make it. Participants receive gear discounts and also have access to a private Facebook group to share info and ask questions. Cycling workouts are available as Zwift files, but are also written out for those with a different set-up. And then there’s an end of camp virtual race with raffle prizes for the winners.

A weekly schedule might look like this:

Monday: 7 p.m. Zoom education session, with topics such as how to improve your cycling & transitions or race day nutrition
Tuesday: 1:30 p.m. coached cycling workout on Zwift & Zoom
Wednesday: run workout on your own & Zoom education session in the evening
Thursday: bike session on your own (with workout suggestions)
Friday: 7 a.m. social spin on Zwift & Zoom, sometimes with a guest & optional run workout
Saturday & Sunday: long ride & run, with advice and workout suggestions given based on your goals

We talked with some of the participants to find out what they liked (and didn’t), and why a virtual triathlon camp might be something to consider.

This Virtual Camp Is Women Only

Sorry guys, the Coeur camp is designed for women. Coeur Sports has been making triathlon gear for women and by women for nearly seven years—so focusing on active women just made sense.

Jill Adelson, a camp participant and research scientist from Durham, North Carolina, is new to triathlon and didn’t know anyone before signing up for the camp. Having a camp of women to “train” with has given her a new virtual triathlon community. “Now, there are a group of women who I can talk to and learn from and ask questions,” she said.

Virtual Triathlon Camp Is More Welcoming of All Levels

Some of the camp participants, like Adelson, are hoping to race their first sprint triathlon later this summer. Others are multiple-time Ironman finishers, such as Amy Rappaport, who’s been competing in triathlon for 30 years.

Both women can participate in camp together, though, because there’s no fear of getting dropped. Each workout includes options that enable participants to train at their own pace with whatever resources are available. For instance, it might say: if you can swim, do ‘x’; but if you can’t swim, do ‘y.’ And the group Zoom rides (two per week, also available as Zwift files) mean that everyone stays together, regardless of fitness level.

The veterans are also able to answer the newer triathletes’ questions and offer insight. “I’m able to contribute expertise,” said Rappaport. “It’s a win-win.”

Virtually Connect With A Triathlon Community

For Rappaport, the camp has also offered a sense of connection that’s missing right now, especially as more races are canceled. Can a sense of community really be built via computer screens? The answer from these women was a resounding yes.

“You absolutely can build camaraderie through Zoom,” she said. She finds the Friday morning Zoom cycling workouts so motivating that, despite the time difference, she gets up at 4 a.m. to join.

Weekly cycling workouts are supplemented with a Zoom education session on topics such as nutrition and hydration, as well as Zoom guest presentations on everything from changing a flat tire to tips for open water swimming.

June’s guest lineup includes professional triathletes Meredith Kessler and Linsey Corbin, Olympic silver medalist Michellie Jones, and nutritionist and exercise physiologist Dr. Stacy Sims.

Get Some Virtual Coaching

The pandemic has created scenarios that many of us had never considered, if we are lucky enough to still be training. How should I train if my races have been canceled? What should I do if I can’t swim? The advice of a coach can help.

“A lot of people are really struggling with motivation, which is not surprising at all when you don’t have a finish line,” said Hardcoeur Coaching head coach and professional triathlete Jess Smith. She encourages her athletes to forget about the race. “The key is finding short-term goals that you can get excited about right now.”

For some, that might be working to improve functional threshold power (FTP) on the bike. For others, it might be working on strength and mobility. (As reinforcement, Smith sends out a weekly strength video.)

While quite a few virtual camp participants already have coaches, they joined because it was an opportunity to “mix it up and do something fun” and get a little extra guidance along the way.

Virtual Triathlon Training Camp Makes You Accountable

Each week, participants receive a to-do list that includes workouts. They also get a fun challenge, such as swimming with soup cans everyday for three minutes or sending in a video of your fastest T1 and T2 transitions.

“There’s something about knowing that other people are doing the same thing you are doing that’s motivating,” said Smith. “It’s like with any kind of group training, you can get a little more out of yourself than if you are on your own.”

Yvonne Carey, a research professor in Chicago, said the camp was a “lifesaver.” She’s motivated knowing that someone in the group will probably check-in and ask her about a workout. “I want to have something to say!” she said. “Those times when I can sit down at the computer and have those chats on Zoom and it’s all triathlon focused, that’s probably the highlight of my week.”