Picking a Summer Running Camp
Here are some quick tips to help parents and runners find a camp that would best suit their interests, experience and abilities. These are based on a professional lifetime in this business. Keep in mind, that there are both good and bad versions of the below types of camps.
1. Check the vision or mission statement of the camp. Is it a training camp where the emphasis is on multiple workouts with lots of “free” time for rest and recovery? Or is it an instructional camp with heavy emphasis on teaching, instructing and coaching. Look at the activity schedule for a clue and ideally a balance. Younger, newer runners will probably benefit most from the latter and older runners who have attended an instructional camp will probably like the former.
2. Check the age of the camp. The longer that it has been in operation, the more proof that they must be doing something right.
3. Check the age and experience of the directors, owners and featured staffers. Many young, ambitious coaches think that putting on a camp is a good way to supplement their teaching/coaching salaries. Those camps usually do not last very long as the return on investment of time, energy and start-up costs is very long in coming.
4. Since most camps will put their runners into training groups of fastest to slowest so the group can stay together during workouts, find out the range of paces. Ideally each group is making the exactly the same effort and benefitting from the same training effects. The individual differences between groups being the normal one of just their paces.
5. Find out how the groups are determined. This is not an easy task for the staff as they must take into consideration each runner’s ability, amount of pre-camp training and the tendency of runners to exaggerate the latter. Then how flexible is the staff about making changes once the workouts start? Keep in mind here, that almost every request of a change hinges on a complaint from a camper that the pace is too slow/easy. If not, it is based on a social desire to run in a faster group with a friend or teammate. Sometimes campers need to be moved down as they begin to struggle to keep up. Your camp staff should have as much experience as possible to know how to deal with these changes as diplomatically and honestly as possible.
6. The date on the calendar might help you choose between the different type camps. Every camp director’s nightmare is sending kids home hurt, or sick or over-trained. None of us want campers to peak out in the early or mid-season because they trained too hard too soon at camp. If your child tends to “push it” by running too hard, choose a camp that is as late in the summer as possible so his/her hard training will come right before the start of the season.
Roy Benson, MPE, CFI.
Director. Emeritus of Smoky Mountain Running Camp
800-NIKE CAMP (800-645-3226)