How useful are training weekends for runners?

The benefits of an overseas running trip

Training weekends are becoming a popular option for runners wanting to get away and boost their fitness in warmer climes. But are training weekends really worthwhile or are they just an excuse for some to lay off a tough running routine for a few days in the sun? Read on to find out more ...

Training weekends are a fairly recent innovation for the average runner, but for many form a vital part of their preparation for events such as the Virgin Money London Marathon. Clearly, training for a spring marathon during the UK winter, is potentially much harder than training for an autumn marathon over the course of a UK summer — so having a mid-schedule trip abroad in the much better conditions could be the answer.

But just what will a winter training weekend actually consist of? Although they vary between operators, generally they will be led by a top runner with years of experience, both of competing at a high level and of coaching groups of all standards. They are often two or three days in length, held in southern Europe and based in a center that has been established specifically for this purpose.

Perhaps the leading venue and host to thousands of runners over the last few years is Club La Santa. Located on the west coast of Lanzarote in the Canary Islands, it is the biggest sports and activity holiday resort in the world. It opened in June 1983 and immediately established itself as the place for like-minded sports and fitness enthusiasts to get together and train in the perfect warm weather environment.

As well as quality accommodation in the hotel and self-catering apartments, the free use of the many sports facilities, all on site, including free instruction at beginners and intermediate levels have made Club La Santa a huge success. Combine all that with a number of top restaurants and cafes and it is easy to see why Club La Santa is the principal choice for runners from all over Europe when it comes to choosing a winter training break.

These breaks are not all about heavy training. There is a good mix of group coaching, opportunities for one-to-one coaching, question and answer sessions and the chance to meet other runners in a quality environment. Many people rate the social side of these weekends as one of the real benefits, particularly first time marathon runners who can talk through concerns that they may have with others. It is important to stress, for those considering their first running weekend at such a venue, that the level of coaching will very much meet the needs of those who attend.

Don't worry that it will be too intense for you; it won’t be. If the weekend is billed as being for beginners and intermediates, then that is exactly who it will be for! You won’t suddenly be training like an Olympic athlete.

Convinced that this is for you, or still wavering?

Here's our quick five-point guide to why you should think about it seriously:

1. Coaching from a running expert, both in a group and one-to-one situation.

2. The use of great facilities often including a track for interval work.

3. The chance to get some warm sun, whilst the rest of the UK is gripped by the cold!

4. An opportunity to chat to other runners about the challenges ahead.

5. The chance to get away from it all, relax and revitalize!

So, if you do decide it is for you, what should you look out for before you make your booking?

1. What is the tour operator’s background, are they bonded and how much experience do they have?

2. Who is the running expert? What is their background and how many similar tours have they done?

3. Check carefully where the venue actually is. Some warm weather venues may not be as warm as you’d like them to be!

4. Exactly what facilities does the venue offer? Do they have a track for example or cross training facilities, such as a swimming pool or gym?

5. Is it a group of equal ability or, if it is a mixed ability group, will everybody be catered for adequately?

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