The Homemade Bike Camp Week

For triathletes in many parts of the country, there is a long stretch through fall and winter that we ride our trainers indoors, working hard, sweating rivers and avoiding the cold outdoors. As we move into spring, with longer days and nicer weather, we face the inevitable moment of truth when we have to go outdoors. For many who like their trainers, this shift can range from tough to downright daunting.


We have to leave the warmth and comfort of our training den, the list of movies we had ready for the next few trainer sessions, the handy little table beside our trainer on which we put all our nutrition, our cell phone (be honest!), sometimes even our latte. We have to find the time to get ourselves, our bikes and our mental state ready, a way to psych ourselves up to ride in less than the beloved 90 degree sweat fest we generated on the trainer. We have to find warm enough clothing to wear, with places to put our nutrition, cell phone, odds and ends and all the clothing we are going to end up taking off along the way. We have to establish a new routine, but we resist new routines because we love our old ones. New routines are unfamiliar, unpredictable and uncomfortable at first.


So, why upset our indoor routine? Why not ride all year round on the trainer? While the stories are true about some triathletes riding their trainer indoors exclusively until race day, these stories are rare, mostly confined to first time triathletes (without coaches) or very experienced triathletes who have no other options. Most of us who have trained entirely on the trainer and then raced have learned the hard way why riding outdoors is such an important part of our training. Among other very good reasons, riding outdoors gives us a feel for the road, builds mental strength to stay focused, and develops physical endurance to absorb and handle the movements of the bike on various terrain.

There are many articles that provide quick fix tips on how to motivate you to get outdoors on your bike. These tips work for triathletes who do not like the trainer and pine for the day that there is no snow or sideways rain. But, these tips rarely work for triathletes who love the warmth indoors, dislike the cold outdoors and resist inclement weather and traffic with a passion.

The key is to find an intentional, fun and practical way to establish a new routine that gets you outdoors on your bike, helps you remember what you like about being on your bike, and provides you with enough repetition for your new routine to become familiar, predictable and comfortable. Create your very own Homemade Bike Camp Week or HBCW. You don’t have to leave home, pay big bucks to travel to a destination, or sleep in a strange bed for a week. With a bit of creativity you can design a HBCW that has lots of ‘camp week’ fun without the big price tag.

Talk to your coach (if you have one), commit to ‘camp week’. Plan a week that includes at least 2 rides each day, 6 days of the week. Before you freak out and say that is totally impossible with work, home, life, not to mention other training priorities, consider altering your concept of what a ‘ride’ is, for the period of the HBCW. The primary purpose of the HBCW is to get you outdoors on your bike so that you can begin to develop an outdoor riding routine. This means that not all of the rides have to be long. Two rides in one day could be a ride to the pool/to work, and then a commute home after work. One ride could be doing errands on your bike in your neighborhood. For the longer rides, head outdoors on the mornings or evenings you used to do your trainer workouts. Think of places you have ridden before that you really enjoyed and go there.

Here are some other helpful tips to get you started:

Before the Camp

  • Try to arrange your HBCW for two or three weeks down the road so you can make room in your life for the week’s activities and you can organize routes, arrange nutrition and treats, schedule workouts and most importantly, plan your final celebration.
  • Remember that you are doing a ‘camp week’ and that means the focus is on riding outdoors, training and having fun. It also means getting every workout done!

During the Camp


  • Have a special treat ready for AFTER each bike that you get ONLY if you finish the whole workout.
  • Give yourself visual cues of your progress by tracking your week with stickers or stars. Sparkly stars might sound corny at first, but those stars start to mean something as the week progresses and the motivation to get on the bike decreases. The thought of getting one of those stars at the end of a workout can actually motivate you out the door. Putting the star up afterwards is truly satisfying as it gives you a powerful sense of “I did it!”.
  • Arrange to meet up with someone or a group for the longer rides so that you cannot talk yourself out of your workout.
  • Celebrate the end of the camp with an extra special treat such as sharing a bottle of bubbly with your training buddies, or buying that special training shirt you’ve wanted for awhile.

After the Camp

  • Schedule REST into the week following the camp so that your body absorbs the efforts of HBCW.
  • Get on your bike within two days of the end of HBCW for a short spin.
  • Keep riding outside!

The HBCW can help even the most resistant trainer-bound triathletes. Camp week commits you to getting outdoors, having some fun, and doing some tough workouts. As the training gets harder, you get stronger, and at the end of the week, you have stars to prove it!


Suzanne (Sooz) Flannigan, PhD is a nationally certified triathlon coach, yoga instructor and competitive age group triathlete. She has been involved in triathlon for almost two decades most recently racing to podium finishes in the North American Ironman Championships (Ironman Texas) and Ironman Canada. Sooz has extensive administrative and coaching experience in swimming, running and triathlon. Her areas of expertise include annual training plans, long course triathlon, small-group coached sessions geared specifically toward technique and efficiency improvement, core fitness, nutrition, race day strategy and implementation. Sooz owns and operates a studio that specializes in developing core strength and flexibility using her own unique combination of yoga and functional core fitness principles. For more information or to contact Sooz, visit or email