Training Camps: Prepackaged vs DIY

Prepackaged Camps

If you are going to attend a prepackaged training camp and you know when you can go and how much you want to spend, then it's just a matter of shopping around for the camp that best suite your needs and personality. Choosing a camp in an exotic location may meet some of your requirements, but may be too expensive. A camp that may be much closer but meets all of your training needs may be a better way to spend your money and time. It is really up to you. It does not make sense to spend your hard earned time and money and come away from a camp feeling like you learned nothing and did not really get much in the way of training or support.

It is a good idea to look at the history of the group running any camp you are considering. Look at what past camp participants have written or said. It is rare to find a company willing to publish bad reviews of their service, but a lack of good reviews may speak even louder to you. Do your homework to make sure the camp package you purchase is what you want and need.

If you are trying to organize a camp for your team, you can still go with a prepackaged camp or you can even have a camp custom planned and organized to meet your team’s needs. Not all companies have this as an option, but if you do not have the time or gumption to plan your own camp, there is likely someone willing to do it for you.

If your budget or schedule or preferences just do not allow you to attend a prepackaged training camp, then do-it-yourself.

DIY camping

Once you know what you want to accomplish at your camp, you will need to decide where you want to go. Can you get the hours and miles in if you stay at home or will you be better off with a camp at some remote location? Do you need some long hard climbs or do you plan on working on drills that work better on flat open roads? Your camp's goals should drive your decisions. There are some great places you can go to hold a camp, but if the location does not give you the roads you need to work toward your goals then even the coolest cabin in the woods or tropical island paradise may not be suitable for your camp. Look at the roads around your camp and ask around if you do not know what they are like. Routes that look great on a map may not be unusable due to traffic or terrain or road conditions. If you have the time, recon the roads you want to use to make sure you know where you are going and that they still go where you think they should. 

Another decision to make when planning your camp is who to invite. If one of your goals is to work on team tactics then invite the riders you will be racing with. If your goal is to work on your climbing, then invite riders with similar goals so that everyone is getting something out of the experience.  Riding and doing drills and intervals with your teammates is a great way to really learn about each other’s strengths and weaknesses. Knowing that your teammate can hammer for an hour and then climb like a goat is a good thing to know if you are working for him or her in a tough road race with a climb to the finish. Knowing that they may be able to hang with the stronger riders but will not be able to sprint after 3 hours is also good to know. Maybe you need to let someone bring that break back to get a better sprinter in place. All these things you can learn much better when riding and training with your teammates without the burden of non-team folks in the mix.

Other than riders for this camp, you might want to consider inviting or even hiring folks to help with support. Having your girlfriend/boyfriend/wife/husband/child come along to drive a sag wagon or help with cooking etc is a great idea if they want to come and they understand the goals of the camp. Inviting/hiring a coach or more experienced rider is also a smart move if you need to learn new skills or work on specific weaknesses.  You also might think about hiring someone from your sponsoring shop to help out with mechanical and sag support.

Camping Season

When to go is big decision that will be driven by many factors including your goals, the weather, your race schedule and availability. Common sense can be a good guide when it comes to scheduling your camp if you keep the goals of the camp in mind. Training on Skyline drive in January may not be the smartest bit of scheduling, but maybe holding a camp in someplace warm (or at least dry) in the early months of the year will give you and/or your team that leg up on training that others may not enjoy.  Of course when you go needs to work with when you can get away and when the planned accommodations are available and also what you race program looks like.

All the other details of your camp will be driven by your location and who is coming. Food preparation and transportation will depend on where your camp is and who is coming. In some cases you can plan to eat out for your main meals and in other cases, BYOF (bring your own food) is the better way to go. If you are staying someplace with a kitchen, who will be doing the cooking? Will everyone eat together or will it be a case of “do your own thing”. It is really up to the folks at the camp how they want to work it. Preparing, eating and cleaning up after meals is a great team building exercise and can really show who is willing to do the little things to help the team to be successful.