How to Get the Most Out of Running Camp…Before you Get There
Running is a great life-time sport and running camp can and should be one of your most memorable experiences. After you have chosen the camp you want to attend based on any number of factors that are important to you, there remains one major task on your “To Do” list before you leave for camp to ensure that you get the most from the experience. That one remaining task is the key secret to an enjoyable and valuable experience. As with most things in life, preparation is the key. Remember the three Ts: Time, Temperature and Terrain
Time. Make sure that you are running a sufficient amount of time or distance for the camp you plan to attend. If you have chosen a camp that expects you to be in shape to able to run at a moderate pace for an hour a day or 40 miles a week make sure that your body is ready for that stress. Don’t wait until the week or two prior to the start of camp and jump into a training regimen of running an hour a day. That is almost a certain recipe for injury and/or pain. The only “plan” that might be worse than leaping into short tough training routine is doing nothing and just hoping that you can endure the runs at camp. A much smarter plan is to take the time before camp and plan a gradual increase in your running time or mileage as well as varying the kinds of run so that you come to camp fresh and ready for the challenge. Most good running camps have groups based on ability-levels so that runners of all levels have a successful learning and training experience. When you do arrive at camp be accurate in your assessment of your ability when asked. You may have run a 5-minute mile (or 7-minute…) once, but if you are not in that kind of shape now, be honest with the camp staff so that they can place you in a proper training environment.
Temperature. Prepare as best you can for the predicted or average weather conditions where you will be running. If camp weather is generally hot and/or humid and where you live is cooler, then try to schedule your training runs during the warmer times of the day. For example, while it might be more convenient to run early in the morning before you go to camp, it might be advisable to run at least some of your pre-camp training runs in the afternoon when the day is generally warmer and more humid. Allowing your body to adapt to the warmer and more humid conditions may be quite beneficial when you arrive at your camp. The opposite is also true. Try running early in the morning if you are traveling to a cooler region rather than at midday to late afternoon. The more familiar the running conditions the easier your transition will be to the camp schedule.
Terrain. If you are going to a camp in the mountains then you can be pretty sure that the area is hilly. Do your best on your training runs to include some hills. If you live in a relatively flat area try to compensate by running on sand or running alongside a highway entry or exit ramp. Drive to an area where you know there are some hills and do a hill workout once a week. If you are not ready for hills by training with them as a steady diet and your camp runs are hilly be prepared to be in a slower group for the week. If your camp runs are mostly trails and you live in a city, find a nearby city or state park or arboretum that might allow you run their walking or hiking trails. Trail running requires a slightly different running style than running on concrete sidewalks or asphalt streets. In short, do the best you can to simulate the same conditions that you will find at camp.
Coming to camp prepared for the physical training, weather and the demands of the terrain will ensure that you will get the most out of your investment of time and money.
Mike Cohen, Co-Director, Green Mountain Running Camp. Coach Cohen coaches cross-country as well as indoor track and outdoor track and field at Simsbury High School in Simsbury, CT. He has coached five state champion teams, two state class champions and twice was named Coach of the Year for Cross Country for the State of Connecticut.