Why Everyone Needs a Training Camp Experience

Ever wondered what it would be like to wake up and have no responsibilities other than to just go and train?

Ever wondered what it would be like to wake up and have no responsibilities other than to just go and train? Sure, you can use some vacation time and try this at home, but you know that your regular life will get in the way sooner or later, which is just what you want to avoid when you’re getting close to an important fitness event.

Train With the Pros

The Thanyapura Sports Hotel in Phuket, Thailand has come up with a way for you to train like the pros do – and in many cases right alongside them, too. The brainchild of Klaus Hebben, the hotel was started because Hebben wanted to build a high standard school for his own children, and then he added world-class sporting facilities for the kids to play sport on.

The facility has two fantastic swimming pools (50m and 25m, complete with 600 person grandstands), a FIFA-quality soccer field, a 500m synthetic running track encompassing that soccer field, six tennis courts (four indoor), beach volleyball courts, a full-size International Rugby Board-standard artificial pitch, a modern gym with all the bells and whistles, and an anti-aging clinic. Coming soon will be a sports science lab that will allow Thanyapura to test VO2 max, lactate, and running economy, as well as offer RETUL bike fitting and all the usual recovery aids like massage and ice baths.

If you think this place sounds like an athlete’s paradise, you’d be right.

Not Just For Triathletes

I visited Thanyapura to attend a triathlon training camp run by two-time Ironman World Champion Chris McCormack, who has settled into a role as the hotel’s Executive Chairman now that he’s retired from full-time racing. With resident head coach Jurgen Zack, another old-school triathlon legend (see video below), Thanyapura offers a massive amount of knowledge and training facilities for the endurance sports aficionado.

But while the camp I attended was designed for triathletes and the hotel is run by an ex-triathlete, you would well to train there in regards to any sport, from rugby to beach volleyball to bodybuilding. The only thing the place is really missing is a real gym and Brazilian jiu jitsu mats. Otherwise they have everything covered that anyone I know could ever want. (Having said that, Tiger Muay Thai & Mixed Martial Arts is down the road about half an hour if you’re after that kind of thing and the accommodations at Thanyapura are substantially better quality than at the fight camps.)

Less Worry, More Training

So what’s it like to train all day and leaves your worries for another day? (And yes, I totally ripped that off from Fraggle Rock). To be honest it was the best vacation I’ve ever had. Chances are, as a Breaking Muscle reader, you’re as addicted to exercise as I am. I get bored by two days sitting on a beach or going to look at castles or temples. And forget about getting hammered in bars or sitting on a cruise ship and doing nothing but eat, as I’ll last even less time at those. So to be in a place where my daily schedule consisted of waking up, having breakfast, training, eating, napping, training, eating, and then going to bed early was fantastic.

training, endurance, ironman, triathlete, summer, vacation, rest, recovery

In a normal week, I train twice most days, but being on a fitness vacation where you’re not having to worry about anything – from food preparation to cleaning – means you can expend more energy in training. As an example of how much more training you can handle when you have no cares, in a typical week I would run four times, but in a week at Thanyapura I was able to run six times in eight days. Instead of swimming three or four times for the week, I swam daily, hitting over 25km for the week instead of my usual 12km. And because of the extra recovery I was getting thanks to big naps in the middle of the day, I was often able to squeeze in a third session each day in the gym.

There’s no way I would be able to sustain three-a-days at home, even if I took the week off work. The time and energy consumed even on preparing food would cut into valuable recovery time too much. But at a resort like this you have the ability to walk into the restaurant, rip into high quality food (at reasonable prices for a resort hotel – a burger was less than $10), and then go straight back to your room to have a power nap in the air conditioning.

Recovery and Training Benefits

The camp itself is well run and attracts a slew of athletes of varying abilities. What was most interesting to me was how much everyone I observed improved over the week, as well as how well they all coped with the training. The recovery benefit from the isolation offered at Thanyapura is worth its weight in gold if you have a big event coming up. And to make sure you’re well and truly recovered you can always use the ice baths or have a massage. The only thing I really missed were my Normatec MVP pants, which would have come in handy after the 155km rides.

Overall, the camp truly delivered. High-quality, high-volume training was an every day occurrence, and for people like me who are often forced to train solo, it makes a huge difference when you’re running hard and you’ve got a bunch of friends suffering, too. One track session in particular I was actually able to find the edge of my fitness and ended up throwing up on the final 800m rep. It’s almost impossible to push yourself that hard solo, but when you’ve got an Ironman World Champ pressing you and a dozen other athletes all going flat out, you can find that last little bit you may need in a race.

training, endurance, ironman, triathlete, summer, vacation, rest, recovery

Heat Increases Performance

Costs for the camp aren’t outrageous either. Including the stay at the hotel, the trip was about $1,300USD per person, plus airfares. For eight days in a brand new resort hotel, plus twice-a-day training with legends of the sport (as well as airport transfers – essential as you’ll have a bike bag with you) it was a no-brainer to escape the Australian winter and head over to sunny Thailand to train hard.

The extra benefit you get from a trip to Thailand is the heat acclimatization. There is research coming out now that shows heat to be a better way to increase performance than even altitude training. Many professional sports teams in Australia are even starting to use heat chambers rather than altitude chambers (as once the adaptation is gained, it can easily be kept by a weekly “reminder” for the body, which could be as simple as an hour run in a heated room). So along with the boost from the camp atmosphere, you also get a great boost from the local conditions themselves.

I’ve come back from this holiday with one thing very clear: If you’re keen on fitness, then you need a training camp, and there’s no better place right now than Thanyapura.

Photo 1 by Thanyapura (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons.

Photo 2 by Thanyapura (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0],via Wikimedia Commons.

Photo 3 by Thanyapura (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0],via Wikimedia Commons.