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The what, why and how of Training Camps - and your opportunity to join one…

Can you cross-train your way to completing a 95mi trail running ultramarathon? (pt.4)

Just under 8 weeks out from the West Highland Way Challenge Race and my eyes are firmly on the 3-day training camp I have planned across 14-16 April. Read on to learn what a training camp is, why and how you’d include one in your own race preparation and if you’re up for a challenge…why not join me for some or all of my training camp?!

The what

Training camps are an important milestone in the training plan; an intervention and stimulus designed not only to test and elevate fitness and resilience, but a crucial opportunity to fine-tune many of the other factors that contribute to a successful outcome.

Normally a training camp would be as specific to the event as possible. For my goal that should be 100% running/hiking on terrain and elevation closely matching the event or ideally on the race course itself.

However, as per my cross-training regiment, this training camp will look a little different. It will be roughly a 70:30 split of cross-training to running (laps of a flat track) at Hallhill, in Dunbar. But needs must! Specifically it will breakdown as follows:

  • 30mins continuous intervals of BikeErg - SkiErg - running

  • Day 1 = 30:30:30mins x 3, totalling 4.5hrs

  • Day 2 = 30:30:30mins x 4, totalling 6hrs

  • Day 3 = 30:30:30mins x 3, totalling 4.5hrs

The why

Ultimately it’s about being better prepared. The reasons are numerous so let’s bullet point them out in no particular order, other than as they come to mind:

Deliberately overreaching and inducing fatigue will ramp up fitness - and if timed correctly, just as the race approaches

  • Getting familiar with the race route - hopefully eliminating navigational issues on race day

  • Identifying where exactly the aid stations will be and the facilities available

  • Locating any additional sources of safe drinking water, toilets etc.

  • Practicing technical sections of the course

  • It’s an opportunity to train your gut, dialling in your nutrition and hydration strategy

  • Kit check and test. For example, is everything fit for purpose? Are those really the right shoes for the terrain? Is there any chaffing, anywhere?! Does your running pack/vest sit comfortably and balanced when fully packed for race day? Is everything easily accessible? Do you have everything you need?

  • Further build your resilience and practice the mental skills you’ve rehearsed in shorter training runs

The how

This is the important bit. Getting it right. Not half-baked. Focussed on the running and the training. Making the stimulus sufficient enough to make a difference. If you’re going to plan to do something similar yourself, here are a few pointers:

Ideally plan for a 3-4 day training camp. If you just can’t swing the time, an alternative could be two big back-to-backs

  • Aim for a window 5-6 weeks out from your race date

  • Ramp the volume up. It will look abnormally high on your plan, but that’s the idea. One way to calculate the volume; 2-3 times your last biggest weekend (in hours)

  • If you can get on the race course, plan to recce sections you anticipate hitting during the night in the daylight - to help orientate and familiarise yourself with them

  • If you can’t get on the course itself, plan routes that best match the types of terrain you’ll encounter and offer similar levels of vertical gain/loss

  • Treat it like you would any race ie. taper into it and plan recovery afterwards. At least 3 days very easy/rest before and after

  • During the camp get rid of other life stressors where possible so you can focus on you, your race, your running and your recovery, e.g. minimise or eliminate travel, work, alcohol and social media use. A good mantra to focus the mind; run, eat, sleep, repeat

  • Be conservative on Day 1 - don’t push the pace or effort too hard

  • Get those calories in during and after each run, be especially mindful on Day1 - you’ll find it difficult to catch up for days 2 and 3 if you don’t

The opportunity

Want to join me on my own unique Cross Training Camp? You can choose to attend 1, 2 or all 3 days to maximise your fitness, challenge yourself and squeeze the most out of the training camp experience. Encourage a training buddy, or loved one, to join you in the challenge. Or at the very least invite them along to support you at some point. The more the merrier!

Spaces are limited, so secure yours today. Click for full details and booking.


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