Essential Sports Nutrition

8/15/18

Recovering from a training camp


A training camp sounds like an awesome experience....and it is!! But it's important to consider the purpose of your training camp in the context of your season so you benefit positively from the camp training.

At our recent Trimarni advanced endurance camp in Greenville, the majority of our campers were training for an Ironman event in the next 4-8 weeks. With months of accumulated training behind them and a lot of resilience and strength, we gently overloaded them with intensity and duration but nothing that would risk injury, burnout, sickness or a health issue. We carefully stretched comfort zones but strictly enforced proper nutrition before and after every workout, sport nutrition usage during all workouts and adequate rest and recovery between sessions. Each workout was planned with the mentality that we will challenge but not break our athletes. We had no issues occur at camp in terms of injury, GI issues or bonking and many of our campers felt stronger as the camp went on.

Having said this, not every camp has the same focus but every camp should be taken seriously for what you do in the days after the camp may make or break your season. Interestingly, many athletes can feel strong during camp and then in the 24-72 hours post camp, they feel weak, run-down, sick and depleted. This isn't unlike what is felt after an Ironman. While it's expected to feel exhausted for a few days after a training camp, it's not normal to feel like you can't get back into training later on in the week. Although each athlete is different, there are risks to participating in a training camp and one of those is not being able to bounce back into structured training.....which kinda defeats the purpose of a training camp - to boost fitness.

Despite feeling superhuman during camp (not to mention enjoying the stress-free atmosphere without work, kids, laundry, commuting and other daily to-do's), most athletes are eager to get back into training way too soon which places extra fatigue on an already fatigued body. Considering that the heart, brain and other organs experience just as much stress as the muscles, tendons and bones, it is important to respect the body in the 24-72 hours and focus on recovery before trying to get fitter, faster and stronger. You must recover first for the magic of camp to take in effect.

Having said this - recovery does not mean laying around, staying up late watching Netflix, drinking beer/wine and indulging on fast food. Exercise does a body good when you can move blood and loosen out stiff joints. However, working out when sleep deprived, run down and exhausted and in an underfueled state does you no good - no matter how "easy" you take it. Sleep and nutrition should be top priorities in assisting in the recovery post camp and should come before any training session. If you can't get a good night of sleep or eat well, don't make yourself train. Get these lifestyle habits dialed in before easing yourself back into training for the sooner you get your diet and sleep schedule back on track, the sooner you'll be able to stay consistent with your training.  And above all, be an active participant during every workout by listening to your body to ensure that you are actually recovering your body and not overworking it.

Although it's important to rest and recover the body and mind after a training camp, it's not always that simple. It's hard to rest a body that is extremely sore, depleted and tired - just ask any Ironman athlete who experiences post-race insomnia. This is why you really need to give your body time to recover and not "train" - but instead exercise with flexibility and attentiveness until your sleep, diet, GI tract, mindset and body return to good health again. You may struggle with motivation, tightness in the chest, fatigue, sleep issues, stiff joints and even question how in the heck did you put together so many great workouts throughout your training camp? This is all normal and expected so the more strenuous your training camp, the more cautious you need to be with your return to training.

Remember, consistency is the key to athletic excellence on race day. What you do on a daily basis matters more than what you can accomplish (or check-off) over the weekend or during a training camp. Be patient with your body and respect it, especially if it's not recovering as quickly as you'd like after a training camp. When you begin to feel healthy and normal again in the mind and body, that is a sign that you are almost ready to ease yourself back into structured training.

Listening to your body doesn't make you weak. It makes you a smart athlete who knows how to avoid injury, fatigue, burnout and sickness in order to prioritize health over training miles/hours. In the big picture, you'll accomplish far more than the athlete who is injured or sick from trying to get back to training too soon.

8/13/18

Trimarni Greenville Advanced Endurance Training Camp recap


As a former high school and college competitive swimmer, I had the unique experience of participating in an individual sport that often felt like a team sport. In the sport of swimming, although athletic development is made individually, there comes a point in every swimmers athletic journey when you want to train for something more than yourself. I would always show up to practice with a couple dozen of my teammates. We would laugh together, support one another, eat together and make memories together. These were my people - they "got me." While I always enjoyed training to improve my personal best times and to race the clock, I never felt like I was alone in the lane during a swim meet. In practice, I was always pushed by my teammates to be a better athlete.  When I was having an off day, I was proud of a lane-mate who was feeling strong that day. And at meets, as soon as I was finished racing in my event, I couldn't wait to cheer on a teammate. 

After graduating from college and deciding to pursue endurance sports, I missed having a team. While I didn't mind training alone, I really missed the camaraderie, the support, the passion and the encouragement of having teammates to share this new sport with in training and on race day.

When I turned a coaching hobby into a career over a decade ago, it was very important to me early on that I develop a "team" feel at Trimarni coaching and nutrition. It took many years in the making but I feel we finally developed something incredibly special at Trimarni. Every athlete feels like he/she is part of a team. Near and far, every Trimarni athlete supports, encourages and believes in one another.  While social media can be negative at times, we regularly use social media to connect our athletes to feel more like a team. Knowing that our coaching athletes spread all over the globe, this can be incredibly difficult to maintain this type of "team feel" so we have to be consistent with our words to ensure that every athlete that we coach understands that he/she is part of a team. While this may not work for every triathlete out there, it works extremely well for the athletes on our team.

To keep that team feel, nothing brings together our athletes closer than a training camp. Eating, sleeping, training and relaxing together is the backbone of our training camps. Since almost every triathlete that we coach trains alone (almost 98% of the time) and its rare for us to see our athletes in action, a training camp provides the perfect opportunity for us to get many of our coaching athletes together at one time to train with each other and for us to instruct, educate and motivate while they bond, laugh, have fun and remind themselves why they started this sport in the first place. 

As athletes ourselves, Karel and I understand that it's much easier to go through the motions and emotions of a hard workout when your teammates are giving in just as much effort (or more) as you are. We love sharing these special experiences with our athletes. Because every athlete has a demon inside the head that is trying to make you quit a workout, make excuses to not start a workout and to give up on yourself when the going gets tough, your teammates can help silent that voice to help you prove that you are capable of so much more than you ever thought was possible. As coaches, we want to see our athletes experience those break-through moments when they thought that what was once impossible is possible. We love it when our campers bust through a comfort zone and discover something new - either physical or mental. When someone is cheering you on, giving you a high-five or encouraging you to keep on going, that makes for a special environment that can't be replicated at home when training alone. At the end of the day, we coach our athletes to become the best triathletes that they can be but as a triathlete, you belong to a very special community and we never want our athletes (and campers) to forget that. 

For 4.5 days, we witness 20 campers doing incredible things with the body and mind. We challenged them with tough workouts, we put them through uncomfortable situations, we often surprised them with "one more set" when they thought that were finished with a workout and had nothing left to give and we made sure to create an atmosphere where they could be motivated and inspired each and every day. As much as I wish we could take all the credit, it's always our campers who made the camp so special. Even with a packed Swamp Rabbit Lodge with 19 campers in one house, there was never a complaint and we were constantly surrounded by energy givers (and not energy suckers). While each camper had countless opportunities to showcase strengths and work on individual weaknesses, no athlete felt excluded, too slow or too fast. Everyone was accepted in an ego and judge-free zone.

As time-consuming, exhausting and mentally challenging as it is to put on a triathlon training camp, it's extremely rewarding. The before camp nerves and anticipation, the during camp highs and lows of emotions and energy and the post camp sadness of leaving new (and old) friends combined with a strong enthusiasm to train and race better than ever before - this is what camp is all about.  While our campers always keep us alert and attentive, I couldn't image being a coach and not having these special opportunities to see our athletes in action as they make memories with their teammates at a group training camp. 

Here's a quick recap of the camp:
Wednesday: 
PM: 75 min social spin

Thursday: 
AM: 45 min camper introduction and educational session followed by a 90 min interval swim (Furman)
AM: 90 min track workout (Furman)
PM: 2 hour terrain management/skill focused bike (finishing in the pouring rain and a loud thunder storm)
Evening: Daily reflection with coaches and athletes at the Lodge

Friday: 
AM: 3 hour interval bike workout with a surprise TT at the end
AM: 40-50 min brick run (interval run on a hilly loop)
PM: 90 min skill focused swim
Evening; Daily reflection with coaches and athletes at the Lodge

Saturday: 
AM: 20 min warm-up run (for some of the campers) followed by a ~5.5 hour long endurance ride
AM: 20 min brick run
Evening: Team pizza party followed by coaches feedback on the day/camp

Sunday: 
AM: 1-hour open water swim workout at Lake Jocassee
AM: Quick transition to a 90 min interval run on very hilly terrain at the lake

Total Stats over 4.5 days: 
Hours training: ~20 hours
Swim distance: ~9700 yards
Bike distance: ~195 miles
Bike elevation gained: ~12,800 feet
Run distance: ~25 miles

A huge thank you to our camp SAG/photographer Joey, our swim expert Kristen and our assistant coach Joe for making our camp extra special.