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Dissecting the traditional 'training camp'

Frank Strack
13 Nov 2018

Cycling isn’t supposed to be about fun and relaxation, is it? Frank Strack on training camps

Dear Frank,

I’m about to head off to Mallorca on what I call a ‘training camp’, but which my wife terms a ‘holiday’. How does the Velominati discern between the two?

Jeremy, Cambridge

Dear Jeremy

Cyclists are a funny bunch. When you first happen upon one on a group ride, it is nigh on impossible to engage them in conversation.

Greet them, and you can be happy if you get any acknowledgement at all. Usually they will keep their eyes fixed on the wheel in front.

If, for some reason, you do manage to get them talking, you’ll never be able to stop them going on about the various rides they’ve been on, how hard they were and how badly their ‘friend’ bonked.

They’ll regale you with tales of the races they’ve seen, dropping the names of the famous and semi-famous cyclists they’ve encountered on their travels.

The magnitude of the rides and the drama that unfolded are, of course, inflated by the same law of physics that exaggerates the size of the fisherman’s catch.

It’s a charming aspect of the socially awkward roadie, this shyness offset by bragging, and I’m as guilty of it as the next specimen.

Our trips are as much a source of pride for having them on our list of accomplishments as they are a way of communicating our devotion to our sport.

When it comes to the question at hand, I think there are several aspects of it that need to be examined. To begin with, let’s look at your choice of words.

The Oxford dictionary defines training as being ‘the action of undertaking a course of exercise and diet in preparation for a sporting event’.

Which begs the question: what are you training for? If you cycle for the love of it, for the pleasure of feeling the rhythm in your legs and the strain in your lungs, then what you are doing is riding more than training.

If, on the other hand, you are preparing yourself for a race, a sportive or even just a big ride with some mates, then what you are doing might be considered training.

Next, we might examine what the term ‘training camp’ might mean. Firstly, its objective should fall in line with the preparation for an objective, rather than some broadly defined enjoyment of cycling.

Secondly, ‘camp’ implies, apart from the guitars and singing of ‘Kumbaya’, that the primary aim is training.

That means not getting pissed every night, sleeping in late and waiting for your hangover to fade enough for you to contemplate getting on your bike again the next day.

It also means not consuming more calories than you burn actually riding your bike.

Finally, let’s examine your wife’s choice of words. The same dictionary defines a holiday as ‘an extended period of leisure and recreation, especially one spent away from home or in travelling’.

Being the Velominati that we are, things get very wobbly when we consider that definition. Where does leisure and recreation fit into cycling?

It’s a hobby, pastime, obsession, passion… it is both leisure and recreation but also something we take very seriously, elevating it to the point of being something that, at least in part, helps form our very identity.

I’ve been on countless cycling trips, but I have never considered any of them to be a training camp, even when I was specifically training for an event.

I have limited time and money for holidays, and as such my cycling trips lean more towards holiday than they do ‘training camp’ – I always make time for other activities once my allotted measure of riding is behind me.

I expect you take your upcoming trip very seriously, yet venture that you are off with some mates to put down long hours in the saddle in one of the most incredible places on Earth to ride a bike.

And once you’ve done that, you’ll go see the sights, eat the food and have a laugh with your friends, new and old.

That sounds like an amazing holiday to me.

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