Training camps can be as brutal as they are exhilarating. Here’s how to stay strong and keep improving when you’re putting in serious saddle time.
BY MOLLY HURFORD
Whether you’re counting down to a bike vacation or a serious cycling training camp, riding at any level of intensity over a long period of time can be tough—no matter how much fun you’re having. Get through your heavy-riding program with flair by following these tips from a crew of elite junior racers who finished up a 500-mile training block in six days
Check the Weather
Pack for the weather you’re likely to encounter, suggests Centurion Next Wave team member Brody Sanderson. “Know and understand the climate of where you’re going—like whether you need booties or sun sleeves,” he says. “Trust me, it’s an issue, and if you aren’t prepared for any part of the temperature spectrum you’ll pay for it later.”
Check the forecast, but be prepared for temperatures a few degrees cooler or warmer than predicted. Prepping for a hot climate? Pack a thin windbreaker just in case. If you’re heading somewhere chilly, make sure you have shorts in case of a hot snap or an indoor ride day. And always, always have rain gear.
Take Care of Yourself
If you’re on a tour through a beautiful part of the world or digging into a high-intensity camp, it’s important to practice good hygiene. Your immune system will already be compromised from the long hours, so taking precautions to avoid health problems is key. This means washing your hands frequently, only drinking water you know is from a safe source, cleaning out your water bottles, and taking care of things like sunburn and road rash to avoid any chance of infection.
“Doing huge training blocks can make you sick, which can prevent you from continuing your block and it’s just not worth it when it’s so easy,” says 16-year-old Matt Staples of Centurion Next Wave. “The key is to manage the small things that are so simple but can really benefit you in the long run.”
Be Ready for Downtime
You’ll be riding long hours, but after your rides, you may find yourself with a lot of spare time to fill. It might be tempting, especially on the first couple days, to cram in extra activities and workouts, but solid rest is very important—and by rest, that doesn’t mean filling spare time with calls to the office.
“I would not make it through a big training block without Netflix,” says Graydon Staples, another Centurion Next Wave team member. “Once I finish a big ride, I like to go back to my room and take it easy while watching whatever there is on Netflix.” For some people that would sound ideal, but for others, chilling out is a chore. Just think of it as part two of your workout: recovery.
Use Chamois Cream Liberally
“The best advice I could give to a rider putting in a big block is the vast use of chamois cream, something to prevent chaffing,” says Matt Staples. All of the juniors at the camp echoed his sentiment. Chamois cream helps fight friction in the saddle and can help prevent saddle sores. If it’s applied too late, the cream can still alleviate some of the discomfort.
Embrace the Highs and Lows
“My best advice for someone who is going to put in a big training block is to really make sure you’re being honest with how you’re feeling,” says Team Progressive member Liam Mulcahy. Not only will some days feel harder on your body, there will be days that take a toll on your mind and emotions, as well. A few flats, a crash in your group, or being the slowest one up the hill can be disheartening, but it happens to everyone.”
“Expect ups and downs during the ride but remember, be excited that you’re able to go out and ride your bike in the first place,” says Erica Leonard of Norco & Garneau.
If money’s tighter than a hairpin bend, but for some inexplicable reason you feel a sense of obligation to give your hiker/mountain biker buddies something for Christmas, consider the following items:
1. A Box of Ziplocs – Pretty much everyone takes Ziplocs backpacking. But let’s be honest, nothing says, “I don’t give a damn about you” like plastic bags for Christmas.
2. Socks – For less than R 50 you will have to go synthetic or even cotton. No Merino Wool or any of those other fancy blends. If possible try to make your choice seasonally appropriate. You know the ones with littlChristmasas trees and snowmen on them……..maybe some reindeer as well.
3. Bandana – You can often find these multi-purpose gems at the bottom of outdoor store bargain bins. Potential uses include: towel, water filter, neck protection, pot cleaner, tent drier, hanky, useful to wear on your face during rain storms, handy if you are low on funds and decide to rob a convenience store.
4. A Six Pack of Ramen – A culinary staple for backpackers. If you really want to make an effort, select singles with a variety of flavours. Remember, it’s the thought that counts.
5. Toilet Paper – If they aren’t too picky in regards to softness/quality, R 5 worth of “white gold” can potentially last the giftee most of a multi-month thru hike…………at least when supplemented with the stuff they won’t pinch from hotels, restaurants, and classier public restrooms.
6. Soap – Not only is it cheap, but it’s a none-too-subtle way of saying, “mate, you really need to work on your hygiene next year.”
7. Crazy/Super Glue – Useful for sleeping mat repairs, small holes in tents and at a pinch, even cuts and blisters.
8. Plastic Disposable Kitchen Gloves – You can purchase 100 count packs (or more) of these. They can be used as part of a layering system for your hands when hiking in extreme cold and wet conditions.
9. Baking Soda – Another excellent multi-purpose item that more hikers should know about. Potential uses include: toothpaste, deodorant substitute, cleaning pots & drink bottles, helps to remove foot odour from shoes, antacid for tummy rumblings, and; assists in relieving itching associated with insect bites, bee stings and poison ivy/oak.
10. 3M Micropore Tape – Breathable paper medical tape. Adheres well. I’ve used it for years instead of band-aids and other adhesive strips.
11. Hand Sanitizer – I haven’t had a case of the trots in the backcountry (so to speak) since 1999. I suspect that diligent use of hand sanitizer is part of the reason. I always keep a small bottle handy in one of the shoulder strap pockets on my backpack.
12. Groundsheet – This might actually cost you nothing if you can find a piece in a construction site dumpster. Customize the size for the giftee. It’s the little things that count.
13. Mini Dropper Bottles (2 Pack) – Another long time favourite. I repackage my hand sanitizer and Aquamira in these tiny bottles for all of my backcountry trips.
14. Ibuprofen – Vitamin “I”. A hurting hiker’s best friend. Can be found in many (if not most) hikers First-Aid kits. Forget about the name brands such as Advil and go generic. For R 50 you can usually pick up a 20 count bottle.
Sourced & Adapted from: www.thehikinglife.com