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Daily Routine Training Versus “Optimal Training Environment” for Endurance Athletes

by | Feb 3, 2023 | Mindset, Training

I wrote this article back in 2019 after coming home from yet another training camp. And re-reading it now in 2023, it serves as an important reminder that even if you aren’t getting to an ‘optimal training environment’ (i.e going somewhere warm to train if you live in a chilly climate or going on a weeklong training camp), you still can be making huge gains. Really, no matter which you do—especially if you have a regular job outside of sport and/or have a family—there are compromises you’ll be making. I love a good training camp (I am editing this from Florida, to be honest) but I notice that whenever I’m away on a training trip, I find myself dreaming of home and getting myself back in a daily routine with all of my stuff in place. For us, training camps have changed in the last four years. We have a small dog and a big van and more work commitments than before, so there are more adventure elements (#vanlife) and compromises to big training rides/runs that are made compared to when we were coaching camps or just living in a house in California for two months to train. That doesn’t mean the camp isn’t useful—it’s a huge mental boost being in the warm sun!—but it does mean that I can argue being home and doing training on skis and the treadmill might be just as good from a training gains perspective.

When it comes to your training, which matters more: a strong daily routine or being in an optimal training environment? A few months ago, I would have argued optimal training environment. Now, I’m not so sure. Today as we recorded an intro for the podcast, I started ruminating a little on something that came up for me yesterday. I’ve been back in Collingwood now for two weeks, which for me, is a pretty hefty chunk of time—since December, we’ve bounced around a lot, and it’s not like we spent much of the fall here either. And I’m here through the end of the month, meaning I’ll have been here for a record-breaking 5 weeks. Anyway, yesterday after recording my workout, my awesome coach David commented that he was really impressed with how much I’ve developed recently. And after I read it, I started thinking about why that is.

I haven’t spent any day of the last 14 in the car for more than 2 hours.

I haven’t flown.

I’ve slept, full nights.

I’ve been in our condo, with full kitchen access. I’ve been in our town, where I know where to find the specific groceries I want, with our freezer full of grass-fed beef.

I’ve been able to work out on my own schedule, not coaching any camps.

I haven’t been coaching in addition to my already full-time writing schedule.

Sure, the weather has been seriously spotty. We got 10 inches of snow on a weekend where I had big workouts. And January and February would have been so cold here that running outside with an injury would have been just about impossible. The camps I coached were perfectly timed (serendipity!) to keep me from missing logging big miles running because I couldn’t do that… But I could log huge hours on the bike, and I had a great reason to do so.

The optimal training environments of Southern California, Girona, Spain, and Tucson, Arizona, were amazing—but I’m not convinced that they beat the routine you can get into by being home. I think a camp can go a long way towards kick-starting fitness, but I think ultimately, the real training gains are when we have a set-up and a routine at home that works for the bulk of your time.

Training camps are amazing. But before you go on one, or when you’re thinking about your base for next year, I want to urge people to consider dialing in a routine at home beforehand, and prioritizing that over a couple weeks in warm weather (though enjoy the hell out of that!).

It’s funny, I consider myself pretty efficient on the road while traveling, but my efficiency there doesn’t hold a candle to how much I can get done when I’m at home when it comes to making moves on long term projects, eating well and getting a full night of that oh-so-critical sleep.

Funny enough, even though back here, the weather hasn’t been ideal and I thought being home and trying to catch up on long-term house and work projects would wear me down, my training has been better than ever.

So instead of feeling jealous that the pros are all going to warmer climates to prep for the season, it might be time to start considering how you can make the most gains at home. Do you need to set up your workout/trainer/yoga area and make it a permanent fixture so it gets used? Do more meal prep for healthier lunches or post-ride snacks? Optimize your bedroom so it’s peaceful, cool and dark so you can get to sleep faster? I feel like we get pretty bored, or—ahem—routinized with our daily routines, forgetting just how damn helpful they can be. Make being at home work for you—I’m always amazed at how good I feel in those weeks after I finally get home after a long time away, and I think that’s a feeling worth remembering for the next time I start to wish I was somewhere else.

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