Have you been daydreaming about escaping the dreary Canadian winter? I know I was going crazy on the treadmill before I was able to head down to Arizona for a winter training camp.
Winter training camps are a great cure to the repetitive indoors workouts for months on end. Riding inside and running inside every day, week after week, month after month, tends to get a little … dull. A winter camp can break up the long Canadian winter and let you get back to outdoor training.
If you’ve already booked your winter triathlon escape, here are five tips to help you get more out of you time in the sun.
1. Check the Weather Before You Go
Nobody’s going to deny that travelling south is exciting. You get to escape the snow, cold and the dark. If you’ve been hanging out in Ontario this past week, I’ve also heard there’s been some rain and flash flooding.
The pictures in those travel brochures or on that website advertising your camp, however, maybe a bit of an ideal scenario. Yes, California is usually warm and sunny, but it can be grey and dull and rainy in the winter. Contrary to popular belief, you may sometimes need a heater! Similarly, Tucson, Arizona, was colder than Toronto this week. At one point this winter, Florida was colder than some places in Alaska!
Weather is a volatile thing. It’s always changing. Even if Arizona where it is usually warm and sunny, there’s always the chance you’ll arrive during a freak cold snap or a rainstorm. You should check the weather beforehand. Even if you think you know what the weather is “usually” like, there’s always the chance things will get rather unusual.
If you’re going to be away for a longer camp, you may think you don’t need to check the weather. After all, weather forecasts are usually wrong. The longer you’re away, however, the more likely it is you’ll encounter rain or cold.
You should also keep in mind the climate itself. Yes, Arizona and California are warm climates, but they’re also deserts. Deserts get warm in the day. At night, they get particularly cold. The temperature can easily be 20 Celsius during the day in Tucson, then drop to a low of 5 degrees at night. That’s a 15-degree difference. So bring some nice warm cloths.
2. Pack Appropriately
Now that you’ve checked the weather out, it’s time to start packing. You should always pack appropriately. If the weather forecast is calling for cool and rain, be sure you bring some warm gear and your rain jacket.
It’s always best to be prepared. The weather forecast gets less accurate the further into the future you look, so the forecast might say you’ll get absolutely zero rain for the entire duration of your trip. If you’re there for three weeks, you may be surprised to discover you actually do get some rain.
It’s a good idea to bring a variety of clothing. Even if the forecast isn’t calling for rain, having your rain jacket with you ensures you’re prepared just in case. If the forecast is nothing but cold and rain, you might want to bring along some tees and a few pairs of shorts anyway. It always pays to be prepared.
3. Check Your Equipment Before You Leave
I arrived in Tucson last week and went for my first ride out side in months. I decided to ride over to a bike store to get a flat repair kit just in case. As I was on my way over to the store, I got a flat. Ugh.
This story does speak to the importance of giving your equipment a once-over before you head out to camp. The last thing you want is to arrive and find out your bike isn’t working properly. Your brakes may not be in working order, or your brake cables may have frayed. Tires can be another problem and your wheels may need to be trued.
It’s a good idea to check these things over before you leave for a few reasons. First, if there is a problem, you can take the bike to someone you trust. You can replace a worn-out pair of shoes or a broken set of goggles at your local shop, and you won’t need to settle for whatever the shop happens to have on hand in your training location.
The second reason is the nearest shop could actually be quite far from your destination. You don’t necessarily want to eat up a day of your camp by traveling to Scottsdale or Phoenix from Tucson. This is even more problematic if you don’t have a car. It’s much easier to just check before you go.
4. Back off a Little Before and After Travel
For many triathletes, this is easier said than done! Nonetheless, you should always back your training off before and after travel. Whether you’re travelling to a race in the middle of the season or gearing up for a winter camp, it’s a good idea to take things a little lighter around the days of travel.
First, taking things easier during training gives you more energy to accomplish other things you need to get done before you leave. It may give you more time to pack or get over to the bike shop to fix those brakes. You may find you have more energy to take care of a few more little household tasks.
Travel is also hard on the body. The further you go, the harder it is. Time zone changes cause jetlag, and flying can be a particularly nasty experience: You’re essentially trapped in a tin can full of germs for X number of hours. If you’ve been training very hard right up until you leave, you could be feeling tired and run-down. That’s prime time for those germs to attack. You probably don’t want to spend your first day or two of camp sick in bed!
This is part of the reason it’s a good idea to take things slow after you get back on the ground as well. You may very well have picked something up on the plane, and if you hit training hard right out of the gate, you leave yourself open to sickness.
While it’s hard to keep yourself contained when you set foot in the sun, heading outside in shorts and tee for what feels like the first time in forever, try to hold back, at least for the first day. Giving yourself this time to recuperate will keep you healthier. And you’ll probably be able to smash more workouts in the long run.
5. Soak It Up
No, not just the sun. After all, you came south to escape the dreariness of winter, so enjoy the sunshine and warm weather when you have it.
Don’t forget to enjoy the new area you are training in. You may have decided to participate in this warm weather camp for training purposes, but that doesn’t mean it has to be all work and no play. You want to log some serious miles and really focus on your training, but at the end of a long day, rest and relaxation are important parts of your training regimen too.
If you have the time, build in at least one easy ride or take a day to explore the area. Make sure you take the tiem to look around when you are out there on your easy bikes and runs. You didn’t to travel to Arizona or California or Florida to stare at your power numbers—you could do that just as easily at home!
6. Enjoy Your Trip
This may seem a bit like the last tip, and it is, to some extent. Taking a day for exploration or doing an easy ride and allowing yourself to take in the sights of your new training location help you enjoy your trip.
Again, just because this is a camp, it doesn’t mean you need to be super serious 100% of the time. You can put in some serious miles and smash some hard workouts while still enjoying your trip.
Training can sometimes feel exhausting or like you need to treat it like a job. Unless you’re a professional athlete, do not feel you need be out there smashing it every day, and you may even be using some of your precious vacation days to be here. Take a day and go to the beach or explore a historic site. You won’t regret it. Tomorrow’s another day for training, after all.