Living as we do in the 'frigid' north of Europe (I live in Scotland, perhaps I'm a little biased!) the winter months really tend to drag endlessly on. The notion that the clocks are going to 'spring forward' seems an impossibly distant glimmer of hope on the far horizon and trying to maintain a modicum of regular outdoor exercise can become far from easy and much less enjoyable. Certainly, we make do, and find a way to 'wrap up' / 'rug up' and keep warm but it's often not much fun for the most part. Or perhaps I am just being far too 'glass half empty' in my analysis of this time of year? Maybe...
Something that I have been lucky enough to come to regard as fairly normal in my life as a full time athlete - and a reasonably general routine for me at this time of year - is to escape the dreary cold and miserable weather here in the UK, and travel somewhere warmer and more conducive to training outdoors, which for an endurance sport such as triathlon (especially the longer Ironman events) becomes something of a necessity.
Over the years that I have been racing triathlon, I have experienced a wide spectrum of 'training camps' which have ranged from snatching a week of warmth in the Canaries or southern Spain between terms at university (some moons ago, I may add) through to a full 12+ week stint somewhere in the Southern Hemisphere such as South Africa or Australia. Both served a purpose at those different times in my life.
Obviously for most folk contemplating heading away to warmer climes for some training, a week to two would likely be the length of the intended holiday, or training trip. With the advent of cheap(er) air travel the options available within Europe are extensive, and these days can hopefully suit most budgets too. There are plenty of hotels on islands like Mallorca, Lanzarote, Fuerteventura or Cyprus that now advertise as go-to triathlon locations: they often have their own swimming pool, gym, bike hire options and sometimes even access to a running track or nearby multi terrain jogging trails.
However these extras tend to come at an increased premium, so if you are prepared to do a little more 'leg work' and research, you can often find a good hotel or apartment in a similar (or even the same) location that can usually offer all of these training options within the local town or nearby community - but at a much reduced cost, if that's a limiting factor to your plans. I have had plenty of experience over the years of each scenario, and I have enjoyed both in equal measures. It just depended on what my priorities (or of course budgets) were at the time.
As I write this I am actually on the south coast of Spain, in a quiet little seaside spot which at this time of year is all but a ghost town, which means accommodation is plentiful and extremely affordable compared to more peak winter months, like February and March. The weather is warm and dry, and I can train daily much easier than I could right now in Scotland. But I had to do a little more research and 'work' than for example after the New Year when I will join my professional race team, Pewag, for a training camp at a catered sports type hotel on Lanzarote. It just depends what you are looking for and prepared to do in your organisation of the proposed training holiday / camp, but I will repeat, both can be equally as useful.
If you do indeed head abroad - I hope you have a super training holiday this winter, whether you venture away on your own, with family or friends or perhaps as a part of your local triathlon or cycling club. I'm positive you'll not regret it!
Words by Fraser Cartmell.