Today, I’ve got a guest post written by Karen Parnell on the different triathlon training platforms and how to choose the right one for you. I’ve only got experience of using TrainingPeak and Training Tilt, so it was interesting to read about the other options out there.
Which of the triathlon training platforms should you choose?
In the good old days, we used to train using handwritten plans and even handwritten periodized plans. We then moved on to spreadsheets and emails which was a massive step up from the handwritten delivery and expanded the opportunity for remote coaching and flexibility to change schedules more easily.
We have now entered the age of triathlon training platforms with embedded video, structured training sessions for use with Zwift, Garmin, Wahoo and more all delivered by professional apps to your phone, tablet or PC. There are many providers out there, but which one will be best for you, the way you like to train and for your coach?
TrainingPeaks is probably the most well-known of the triathlon training platforms and appeared on the scene in 2000, so over twenty years old! TrainingPeaks is a Colorado-based company founded by Joe Friel. TrainingPeaks is a set of online and mobile applications that help athletes plan, track and analyse their training to prepare for any endurance event. It was a game-changer and enabled an easy way to work with a coach anywhere in the world.
If you’re not ready to commit to a coach you can choose from many training plans developed by coaches in the training plan store. If you want to do it yourself, you can use TrainingPeaks planning and analysis tools to determine your own strengths and weaknesses to plan and track your training.
If you are a coach, it’s a great way to deliver expert coaching to endurance athletes all over the world plus also offer business tools to help you run your business. The main benefit of TrainingPeaks is that it works in the way any athlete wants to train in the world, whether they’re self-coached, beginner, professional, time-crunched or want to be coached by a professional. TrainingPeaks has all the planning and analysis tools needed for all coaching scenarios. Whatever device you’re using to record your data, TrainingPeaks is compatible with it. All of the planned workouts in TrainingPeaks can be executed on more and more products all the time (e.g. Garmin, Zwift, Polar etc). You can keep your training history even if you switch from a TrainingPeaks training plan to self-coached, to coached.
Why should an athlete consider TrainingPeaks?
Training has to fit into your life and everything else going on, and this often takes a human looking at your data to decide where to go next. Whether that human is a coach or yourself, TrainingPeaks provides enough tools to help make those decisions.
If you want to dig into the data and learn everything about your performance, this platform is perfect.
TrainingPeaks has a tool where you can find the best coach for you based on your experience. All you then have to do is the training part, which can be ideal for time-crunched athletes.
You can now also record RPE and ‘smiley faces’ to show how you found the session – this qualitative information can be beneficial when monitoring training.
Benefits for coaches
TrainingPeaks encourages coaches to become Level 1 and Level 2 coaches to get access to more benefits. Level 1 ensures that coaches know how to use the TrainingPeaks platform and then moving on to Level 2 means you can get exposure by writing blogs and can apply to become a coach match coach. They have a number of online training courses to enhance your skills and also an annual conference with well-known guest speakers, in-depth training sessions and opportunities to network.
Price and trials
There’s always a free basic version that lets you log and keep data forever – even if you upgrade or downgrade.
- The premium version for triathletes starts at $19 for a single month, or $120 for a year.
- You can work with a coach using the free or premium version.
- When you create an account, you get 2 free weeks of premium.
Today´s Plan was formed by Ben Bowley in 2015 in Australia and is a subsidiary of Specialized Bikes. Today’s Plan is a platform that has training tools for athletes, coaches and industry partners via managed cloud environments. It’s a modern and highly configurable platform that claims to provide the best efficiency to each of these groups.
From an athlete’s perspective, Today’s Plan provides the tools that let the athletes train for their chosen sport. Athletes can view as much or as little data as they wish to prescribe and track their progress. They can use different forms of sports science and can choose from a range of training plans from the plan generator. There is also a workout library with over 3,000 workouts.
They let people choose the way that they measure – e.g., in running you could use heart rate-based algorithms, pace-based algorithms or running power (e.g. Stryd’s Running Stress Score). They provide a choice to people based on the way they make the best progress.
They have an algorithm called Performance Index (PI) that’s unique to the site. It’s for cyclists with power meters, and it gives the cyclist a single number between 0-900. It lets athletes track their progress across 8 different time durations on their power curve, according to one number. It’s about simplifying the question ‘am I improving’ without too many detailed analytics. They developed it in collaboration with Dr Daniel Green, a sports scientist in Canberra, Australia. He’s worked for several world tour teams so he knows his stuff!
Why should an athlete consider Today’s Plan?
The platform is large in terms of capability – you’ll find everything you can get on other platforms and more, and it suits every level of athlete, from beginners to the world’s best. You can combine the objective and subjective data you collect, which gives a full picture of how you are doing.
The static multisport plan library is growing all the time and they have plans that cover the most common events and athlete levels. They have around 100 plans so far. Often if an athlete is aiming for a specific event, the people who write their plans like Jim Vance can make plans for certain events.
Benefits for coaches
From a coaching perspective, Today’s Plan is a technology partner that lets you coach your athletes in the way you want to. Coaches can configure the site exactly to their needs – it’s about their company, their branding.
Prices and trials
Today’s Plan has two pricing levels:
- Tools and analytics (access to workout library, analytics and training tools): $12/month, $99/year.
- The above plan PLUS training plan generator for cycling, and static plans for multisport: $17/month.
- They offer a 7-day trial which is the higher level, and you can bring data over from other platforms to see if you like it.
FinalSurge was founded in 2013 by Tim Surface and are based in Raleigh, United States. FinalSurge is totally free for athletes to use, and they don’t have premium features for athletes to upgrade to. You can set up power zones, pace zones, sync your log with Garmin, Strava and more.
They have all the metrics that you’d expect about your workout data. They have also partnered with some specific companies such as Stryd, so they can show running dynamic power data.
FinalSurge also has a pain and injury report, which they worked on with physical therapists. The interface is very intuitive, and it allows an athlete to give a coach immediate feedback as soon as they’ve finished their workout.
If you’re self-coached, they offer training plans developed by world-class coaches that you can purchase for everything from Ironman® to Marathons to skiing!
The platform is very customisable, you can create your own activity types for example. They have sports outside of the endurance sports area such as football, martial arts, even horse riding.
Why should an athlete consider FinalSurge?
It may be a cheaper option for you. You can tell that an athlete and coach built this together. The business partners have known each other since college, and both have business backgrounds and have been endurance athletes their whole life. Tim was a professional triathlete for a year with the Timex multisports team, and after that, he got into coaching. This sets the FinalSurge apart from other triathlon training platforms because they have great ideas but also know how to execute them.
FinalSurge connects to Gramin, Strava, Polar, TrainerRoad, Mapmyrun, Rouvy, Sufferfest, Wahoo and Stryd.
Benefits for coaches
From a coaching perspective, FinalSurge is also very low cost. They decided to go for a fixed fee, rather than charge per athlete. If you have 5 athletes or less it’s $19/month, and that’s the only fee you ever pay. If you have a large coaching business, you can coach up to 100 athletes for $39/month. FinalSurge is simple to use and very intuitive. Coaches can create training plans and sell them on the FinalSurge training plan page. For race organisers, they can write event-specific training plans for real or virtual races.
Prices and trials
- Free for athletes.
- For coaches, the price depends on number of athletes:
5 athletes or less: $19/month
Up to 100 athletes: $39/month
- They also offer coaches a free 14-day trial.
Train Xhale was founded in 2014 by Alan Pritt and Mark Livesey and are headquartered in Norfolk, UK. They have generated a platform built specifically for triathlon coaches and athletes who are self-coached. They believe they have created something that is simple and intuitive which can save athletes time, as we know age-groupers are often time-starved.
If you track your training in a notepad, they are essentially a computer version of that – they are trying not to get too technical.
They take great pride in listening to athletes and coaches that use their platform and utilise ideas that they receive from their users. For example, a large German coaching company asked them to add an instant messaging system that could be used via the platform and the app. That communication tool is now on the platform, so it doesn’t get lost or forgotten. This is how they are developing Train Xhale – feedback from the athletes and coaches that use it.
Why should an athlete consider Train Xhale?
They didn’t start this business to compete, Train Xhale was developed by the creators for their own personal use. At the time in 2015, there were not any real options other than TrainingPeaks and this was not in a format they were comfortable with. They were not a fan of algorithms that make predictions on an athlete’s performance.
The founders were more about developing a relationship with the athlete and trying to make sure they know each other intuitively. Other triathlon training platforms didn’t allow them to do this with their athletes.
There are two versions of Train Xhale if you’re not coached: they have a free option and a premium option. The premium option makes things a bit quicker and easier to use, and you get access to more of the analysis tools. You can create segments after the fact, rather than just relying on the laps your device makes. They also have a periodisation calendar.
Train Xhale connects to Garmin, Wahoo, Suunto, Rouvy, Polar, Tom Tom and Adidas running.
Benefits for coaches
If you coach an athlete on Xhale your athlete gets all of the features of the Xhale premium account, bundled on top of your professional coaching.
Your athletes (and you) will have more charts and metrics to look at over the basic free version. You will be able to view training volume prescribed into the future. A drag and drop interface allows you to periodise and plan out the entire season. You’ll be able to see hills with terrain maps. Coming soon they will have highlighting and saving of segments, more planning tools, calendar sync and consistency scores to see how well your athletes stick to your plan. They have a coaching directory to promote your business here.
Prices and trials
- Basic account: free
- Premium account (can be paid in any currency: $4.79/4.49 EUR/£2.99
- Coaching account (based per athlete): $6.99/5.99 EUR + VAT/£4.99
If you have 10 athletes or more you have a 10% discount, 15 athletes you get a 15% athlete
ScienceTraining was formed in 2019 by Aris Myrkos in Athens, Greece. ScienceTraining puts Science into Training as the name would suggest! It has been developed for coaches and not athletes who self-coach.
This is the first of the triathlon training platforms we have seen that is developed for coaches. They decided it was time someone provided endurance coaches with an advanced coaching tool that will give them access to the advantages of their science-based technology. They built an easy-to-use coaching platform to minimize the time needed to coach, manage and monitor athletes.
The teams that developed the platform are academic researchers, but also coaches. Their mission is to provide professional, easy, affordable endurance coaching for everyone, with as little or as much automation as you need.
They claim you can spend less time designing endurance training plans, monitoring and analysing data for every athlete all in one place. You can maximise your capacity and efficiency by using automated tools to re-adjust your training plans.
ScienceTraining works with Garmin and Polar.
It’s free for 1 coach and 1 athlete forever.
Prices and trials
- Basic account: FREE, forever, 1 coach & 1 athlete
- Premium account $14.99/month +$0.99 per athlete, per month or $149.9/year +$9.9 per athlete, per year
Training Tilt was founded in 2011 by Cam Langsford in Auckland, New Zealand. The platform is different in that it is an integrated platform for coaches who want an all-in-one business solution. This is not just a coaching platform but a total coaching and business solution.
If you are a coach just setting up a business, then this could be a great solution. It will give your website front-end with the ability to promote your business offering such as 1-2-1 coaching, training plans, kit with the ability to sell via an online shop. Behind the scenes, you have an athlete area with the capability to create training plans and coach your athletes. This can be delivered via a PC or via the free Training Tilt App for iOS or Android.
In the athlete area, you can deliver recipes, blogs, updates, newsletters, exercise videos, personal messages, bulk messages, create an online community, share training routes, forms like FAQs, social media integration and more.
TrainingTilt connects to Garmin, Strava etc and you can import training sessions from Zwift and other formats.
Prices and trials
- Basic account: Free Forever. Includes 5 Clients, Unlimited Coach accounts, Coaching and Training Plan tools. Accept Client payments
- Coaching Tools: from $17 per month, free 14-day trial which includes 10 clients ($10 extra for additional clients). Unlimited Coach accounts, Coaching and Training Plan tools, Accept Client payments
- Business Toolkit: $37 per month, Free 14-day trial, Includes 20 Clients ($1 extra for additional clients). All coaching tools features and coaching eebsite and online store, contacts and forms, social groups and feeds
Training training platforms- conclusion
As you can see there are many training apps to choose from and it depends on the way you like to train e.g. self-coached or pro coached. For athletes, there are some free options or paid for options depending on how much data you want to use for your training. For coaches, the platforms have different features and prices, and it depends on your business model which one will work for you. Some coaches may decide to be on multiple platforms to be the most flexible for their client athletes.
Karen Parnell is British Triathlon Federation (BTF) Level 3 High Performing Coach and Tutor and ASA Open Water Swimming Coach. She is also a qualified NASM Personal Trainer, Nivel 3 Técnicos Federados FATRI España and IRONMAN® Certified Coach as well as being a Stryd running with power coach. Karen is based near Malaga in Southern Spain where she runs ChiliTri In the coaching and camps. She provides training plans via TrainingPeaks, FinalSurge and Training Tilt.
Which of the triathlon training platforms do you use?