Tips and Tricks for Training Camp

Bruce Kluckhohn-US PRESSWIRE

The Minnesota Vikings' Training Camp in Mankato, Minnesota is an annual trek for a lot of Vikings fans so we asked them for their tips to have a good tip to camp. We'll call it a highly selective Best of Mankato list with a smattering of health and safety info and some other stuff too. Hmmm, maybe it's more of a Mankato mish-mash...

It's almost here--Minnesota Vikings Training Camp. Every year swarms of fans descend on Mankato, Minnesota to watch the Vikings train at Minnesota State University, Mankato, and this year is no different.

Over at the Daily Norseman's Facebook page we've been getting excited about Training Camp and asking veteran fans for their best tips to enjoy the event without bursting into a flame or breaking the bank. We figured the best way to find out how best to enjoy Vikings Training Camp would be to share our experiences and our Daily Norseman Facebook friends came through for us in a big way.

What follows is a long guide of various information, some of it provided by our friends on Facebook, other information from the Vikings Training Camp page and other sources. If you like, go ahead and read the whole thing, but it's probably easier to just read the section that relates to you. Don't see something you think should be in here? Please add it in the comments below. However you use this guide, I hope it's helpful and that you have a great time in Mankato. See you there!

Dog days of summer

Minnesota weather has a well-deserved reputation for changeability except during Training Camp. During Training Camp the weather is remarkably consistent--it's stinking hot and humid. Vikings fans have a tragic reminder of how dangerous hot weather can be, with the anniversary of Korey Stringer's heat-related death during Camp. As much as we love Vikings football, there is nothing at Training Camp that is worth incurring heat-related illness.

  • Skin deep. There isn't a lot of shade available for the crowds watching the Vikings practice, so fans get a lot of sun during Camp. While people are getting more sun wise, it doesn't hurt to adopt the mantra of the internationally recognized sun protection campaign from Australia, "Slip-Slop-Slap-Seek-Slide." The campaign encouraged people to Slip on a shirt, Slop on 30+ SPF sunscreen, Slap on a hat, Seek shade or shelter, and Slide on sunglasses. Since there isn't much shaded shelter available during Vikings' practices, fans will have to rely more heavily on sunscreen, hats, sunglasses, and UPF-rated clothing. Training Camp lasts only a couple weeks, skin cancer could last a lot longer.
  • Hydrate. It isn't groundbreaking news or something you haven't heard before, when it is hot you need to drink plenty of water. Your body is trying to cool itself through sweat and needs to replenish the fluids it loses. If sweating heavily, you might need more than water--sports drinks can help replace the electrolytes people lose in sweat. It might not be convenient to drink lots of water at Training Camp, but it is an important way to fend off heat-related illness.
  • Kids. Children are at a higher risk than adults for heat-related illness because they produce more heat when they are active, but sweat less. They can suffer heat cramps, heat exhaustion, and, in extreme cases, heat stroke which can lead to death. Dressing kids in light-colored, loose-fitting clothing and a wide-brimmed hat, and keeping them hydrated can help prevent heat-related illness. Also, make sure your child gets into the shade or air-conditioning as often as possible to get a break from the heat in Mankato. Know the signs and symptoms for heat-related illness so you can protect your child's health. For more information on heat-related illness in children check out this information from Children's National Medical Center.
  • Seniors. Children aren't the only ones at greater risk from heat-related illness, seniors are also at an increased risk. This increased risk is frequently related to medications. Many medications for blood pressure work by opening the vessels, the problem of extreme heat is that it can also open vessels and lead to serious drops in blood pressure. Prevent heat-related illness by staying hydrated, wearing light, loose clothing and a wide-brimmed hat, and seeking shade and air-conditioning whenever possible. Be aware of the possible heat side-effects of the medications you are on and of the signs of heat-related illness. For tips and guidelines about how to be heat smart, check out this link for the Centers for Disease Control's section on heat and seniors.
Food

There are lots of dining options at Training Camp for different ages and budgets. I polled our friends on Facebook to find out what they liked best for various dining options. What I got was a range of ideas from bringing a cooler and brown-bagging it to, and I really wish I was making this up, adult entertainment. So, here are the Daily Norseman readers' choices.
  • Best family restaurants. On our Facebook page people reccommended lots of good choices for family dining just blocks from the campus on Warren Street: Jimmy John's, Chipotle Mexican Grill, Cold Stone Creamery, and Noodles & Company. As chains, you and your family know what you're getting from those places and, after sitting in the sun watching practices, that predictability might be what you need. Weggy's On Campus, also right there on Warren Street, received a popular review too. When it came to pizza readers were split, raving about both Jake's Stadium Pizza and Dino's New York Style Pizzeria. For more dining options as well as other useful information for trip-planning, consider checking out the Visit Mankato website.
  • Best bars for fans. While some of our Facebook readers suggested that after a day out in the sun watching the Vikings practice in Mankato any place that serves cold beer is good, we managed to get a few specific suggestions too. Tav on the Ave boasts that it, "guarantees quality that is unsurpassed, rather than the usual bar food" and our Facebook readers agreed. In addition to food, Mettler's Bar & Restaurant offers "adult entertainment". Johnny B's is located on Warren Street, close to campus, as is Boomtown--both recommended by our readers. And, if you want to try more bars and pubs, check out the Visit Mankato website for more options.
  • Best coffee. On our Facebook page Jon Burris recommended Coffee Hag, a vegan/vegetarian restaurant and coffee shop where you can get a good cup of coffee and support a local small business. It is hard to beat Starbucks for consistency and drip coffee so strong it will make your armpits sweat. If you'd like to enjoy the consistency of a coffee chain, but still get your buzz from a regional brand, then Caribou Coffee could be the choice for you.
  • Best ice cream. After a long afternoon watching the Vikings practice, you can shuffle over to Cold Stone Creamery to get your ice cream fix, just minutes from the campus. Or, our Facebook friends Chance Dale and AJ Hanson suggest you can venture to Mom & Pop's Ice Cream Shop in Mankato's Old Town area. There are also two Culver's Frozen Custards in Mankato and a Dairy Queen to help you get your ice cream fix. Browse Visit Mankato's Desserts section for other ways to feed your sweet tooth.

Gear

Mankato is a town where purple is always in style. And, with all those hardcore Vikings fans there, there are lots of opportunities to buy yourself new Vikings gear at the Vikings Village. If you want to do your shopping before your trip to Mankato, or if you aren't going to be able to trek out to Mankato but still want Training Camp gear, then check out the Vikings Fan Shop Training Camp section. They have official Vikings Training camp t-shirts and lots of warm-weather fan gear. They also have Vikings Zubaz because, apparently, someone forgot they are hideous and thought it would be a good idea to resurrect one of the worst crimes against fashion ever. Ever.

Online sources, like vikingslockerroom.com and Nike (the current NFL jersey designer) will offer you the best selection of jerseys. If you are looking for other team apparel, there are a wide variety of places online that have everything from Vikings grill covers to adult footie pajamas to t-shirts and, literally, everything in between. And it isn't just sporting goods sites or fan sites that offer Vikings merchandise online, Target.com, for example, also carries a surprisingly large selection of Vikings merchandise..

If you prefer to see, touch, and try on your Vikings gear, the Vikings have a Vikings Locker Room store located in the Mall of America. They used to have stores at the Ridgedale and Rosedale malls in the Twin Cities, but now the Mall of America location is the only location currently listed on the Fan Shop's website. This is the store that usually has the best selection of jerseys for players not named Adrian Peterson or Jared Allen, so if you want a Blair Walsh jersey (and why wouldn't you?), this is the brick-and-mortar store where you're most likely to find it.

In Minnesota it isn't too difficult to find Vikings gear in local stores. Sporting goods stores, department stores, and big box retailers all carry seasonal team apparel. Even stores like Old Navy and Victoria's Secret have started to carry NFL team apparel. But, as with any item in a brick-and-mortar store, because space for seasonal items is at a premium you're more likely to find NFL team gear right before or during the season.

Autographs

Training Camp is a great time to get player autographs so we polled our Facebook friends to find out some of the best tips for getting those signatures. The first thing to keep in mind is patience because there will likely be waiting involved if you are looking for player autographs. Players have bikes available to them so they can ride around campus and several people said that staking out the bike racks is one way to try to get player autographs. Another way get autographs is to have kids with you--players like to sign autographs for kids who love to see them play, not for adults who are going to try to sell autographs to make a profit.

If lying in wait like a guerrilla fighter isn't working for you, consider going to the Vikings' Autograph Zone to collect those signatures. Gates to the Autograph Zone open 25 minutes before the end of designated practices and stay open until 25 minutes after practices. Players will be grouped by position for the Zone, so check the schedule to find out what position will be signing autographs on the days you will be at camp. And, if you want an Adrian Peterson autograph, well, good luck to you. Because of Peterson's overwhelming popularity, the team has to limit his availability so you'll want to check the procedures for the Autograph Zone on the running backs day.

And, just generally, if you want player autographs, it doesn't hurt to simply stay prepared. Keep a good permanent marker (maybe two) with you because you never know when you might run into players. If you want clothing autographed, the signatures will show up better on light colors than on dark ones. Consider getting one of those footballs with the smooth white side if you want players to autograph a football because, again, the signatures will show up better on a light, smooth surface. And if you have posters, magazines, or some other print item you want to have signed, have a plastic bag for it in case the Mankato humidity takes the form of rain.

Special events

Training Camp has a few goals. The biggest goal is to get the team ready for the 2013 NFL Season, but, also important, is the team's goal to get the fans excited about the 2013 NFL Season. Fan excitement is a big deal to the team and they have special events throughout Training Camp designed to build that excitement and loyalty. Check out the list of Special Events on the Vikings' Training Camp page to see what events are planned when you are at Training Camp.
  • Kids. Vikings Training Camp has a lot of activities for kids besides heat stroke. There's the Junior Training Camp, a Youth Cheerleading Clinic, and Punt, Pass, & Kick. Most of these events take place on Family Football Day and, while these events are free, you do need to register for them so sign up as soon as you can. Family Football Day (August 3) is also the day of the Night Practice at Blakeslee Stadium, Team Introductions, and fireworks.
  • Fans. A lot of the fan events at Training Camp are geared toward families and kids, but Fan Appreciation Day on August 14 knows no age. During this last Training Camp practice fans will have the opportunity to win lots of prizes.
Apps

In the last few years our lives have been increasingly run by apps. Here are some apps that you might want to arm your mobile device with before you head to Mankato.
  • Us. If you don't already have it, there is a Daily Norseman app available for your mobile devices. This will give you access to DN content whether you're waiting for autographs or waiting for some shade. The DN writers attending Camp will also be posting Twitter updates so make sure to follow @DailyNorseman and the individual staff members (@eric_j_thompson, @ArifHasanDN, @skolgirldn). Also "Like" the Daily Norseman on Facebook.
  • Other sports people. All along the sidelines during practice at Training Camp, all the sports journalists are updating their Twitter accounts. Out-of-state Vikings fans may be unfamiliar with some of the local news outlets and journalists, so here's a short list to get you started: St. Paul Pioneer Press (Ben Goessling, Brian Murphy, Tom Powers, Bob Sansevere), Minneapolis Star-Tribune (Jim Souhan, Chip Scoggins, Dan Wiederer, Mark Craig, Sid Hartman), KFAN FM 100.3 (AJ Mansour, Dan Barreiro, Paul Allen), 1500 ESPN (Judd Zulgad), KARE 11 (Dave Schwartz, Eric Perkins), 5 Eye-witness News KSTP (Joe Schmidt, Chris Long), 4 WCCO (Mark Rosen, Mike Max, David McCoy), Fox 9 KMSP (Jim Rich, Dawn Mitchell). This list isn't meant to be exhaustive, just something to get you started--Twitter will take over from there and start suggesting people for you to follow. If someone isn't on the list and is too good to be left to chance, please add their name in the comments below.
  • Vikings. You can download the Vikings mobile app from the App Store. It will give you a running list of Vikings news and Twitter updates. Since a lot of those updates come from the Vikings' official blogger Mike Wobschall, he's a good person to follow on Twitter. Also, make sure you're following your favorite players (and Eric Sugarman) on Twitter because their feeds might give you hints where they will be so you can get autographs.
  • Weather. Like we said before, weather in Minnesota can be changeable. For that reason, no matter how hot it might be, it doesn't hurt to bring a sweatshirt and a rain jacket with you to Mankato. That is also the reason why it is a good idea to have a weather app on your mobile device. If the weather takes a turn for the dangerous, it's good to have the most current weather information at your fingertips. I like The Weather Channel app, but there are lots of choices. Find one you like and be prepared for whatever Minnesota throws at you.
  • Movies. In between all that quality time watching the Vikings practice and watching the Vikings practice, you might find yourself looking for something to do, preferably something in air-conditioned comfort. So add a movie app to your mobile device and hit the cinema during the mid-day break or in the evening. My movie app is Fandango, if you have one that you think is great, list it below in the comments.
  • Food. Yelp or UrbanSpoon can help you find a place for a nosh anywhere in the United States, making them handy to have on your mobile device on your way to or from Mankato, and in Mankato. Food Network On the Road is also an option and there are more foodie apps too.
And that, my friends, is all we've got. Which is good because I'm tired of typing. We don't have a section on finding lodging in Mankato, so if you have tips and advice for those still looking for a hotel room for Training Camp, please share it in the comments below.

Again, my grateful thanks to everyone who shared their advice and tips on Facebook. Thank you so much for sharing your Training Camp wisdom and experience.


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