Weekend Reading: Straight Talk About Training Camps

Back in the winter of 2000 when CTS had all of 4 employees and one intern, three of us packed up a Chevy Suburban, handed the office keys to Jim Lehman, and took off for Buellton, California. We were headed to the first CTS Spring Training Camp, and now I’m headed out to the Santa Ynez Valley (just up the road from Buellton) for the 15th edition of that camp.

My history with the Santa Ynez Valley goes back much further than that. I was first there with the 7-Eleven Team for team time trial training prior to the 1986 Tour de France. The training went a lot better than the actual team time trial in the ’86 Tour. For those who remember that was the one where we crashed in a roundabout, had a full-blown argument on the bikes, dropped the yellow jersey (Alex Stieda), lost the yellow jersey by the end of the stage, and barely managed to get Alex to the finish line before being eliminated by the time cut. Like everything else, it’s on Youtube: http://youtu.be/scsGM471IOY

Going back to the training camps, though, I still believe training camps are an incredibly valuable tool for improving an athlete’s performance and skill; but only if you do a training camp the right way.

The easiest thing in the world is to bring a bunch of athletes together and ride or run them into the ground. It doesn’t take any skill – certainly not any coaching skill – to design a camp where everyone goes home shattered. But that doesn’t help an athlete learn how to be more successful as an athlete. And when you ask an athlete what they got out of a camp like that, the only thing they can say is that they got tired.


  • NEW CAMP: High Altitude Ultra Running Camp with Dakota Jones: Join CTS Premier Coach Jason Koop and ultra running star Dakota Jones for this exciting new ultra-endurance running camp in the Colorado Rockies on July 24-27!
  • 2014 CTS Apparel: Check out the new CTS Logo and new CTS Apparel from Hincapie Sportswear!
  • Gear Up for the Season! For a limited time, sign up for CTS Coaching and get a substantial supply of OSMO and PROBAR sports nutrition products (approx. $180 value). We want you to experience the combination of great coaching and awesome nutrition products!
  • Brevard Spring Training Camp: March 24-29. Jumpstart your season with 5 days of riding in the Appalachians! Learn new skills, get in a lot of miles, and learn to train with power. We cater to all ability levels!
  • Amgen Tour of California Race Experience: The stage-by-stage route was announced this week, and there are a few spots left on Team CTS for the ATOC Race Experience. Are you qualified to join Team CTS? Find out here: https://trainright.com/atoc

I believe athletes should leave a training camp better than they arrived. That means they’re more knowledgeable about how to train, how to eat and drink for performance, how to recover between training sessions, and how to be safer and more confident with their skills. On top of that, they should be fatigued and ready for some recovery, but not so shattered that they can’t return to full-strength workouts within about 4 days.

To accomplish those goals, a cycling training camp has to be more than series of supported group rides. That’s a bike tour, and there’s nothing wrong with that, but it’s not a training camp. When I put groups out on the road or trail, there’s a purpose to that training session. Sometimes it is a relatively short workout with intervals, other times it’s a long ride where the group works on pacing, pacelining, climbing and descending as they go. But the reason we have coaches instead of ride leaders is because we treat every workout as a learning environment.

When I started writing this I worried that it might come across as nothing more than a sales pitch, and if it has then I apologize. Yes, I would love to see you come to one of our camps, but the bigger point I’m trying to make is that there are a lot of camps out there and not all of them are going to make you a better, faster, smarter athlete. I want you to be the best athlete you can be, whether you’re a customer of CTS or not. So no matter who’s training camp you look at, I encourage you to take a close look at what they’re offering, what benefits you’re really going to get out of it, and who’s delivering the instruction (if there is any).  

Have a Great Weekend,
Chris Carmichael
CEO/Head Coach
Carmichael Training Systems

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