TrainerRoad is a cycling app that provides interval training and guided workouts for your indoor trainer. I’ve been using it mostly in the winter months for the past two years. This spring, I kept the subscription going (you can go month to month) and took advantage of their triathlon training plans to prepare for my Olympic distance event in June.
The plans provide a detailed cycling workouts along with suggested workouts for running and swimming. The app also includes plans beyond triathlon to road racing, off-road and just get-in-shape hobbyist plans.
Cycling has always been the weakest area for me in triathlon. Given a choice, I’d almost always rather run in training, even hill intervals. This year, I hoped that by committing some money to it, I would get my butt my in the saddle more often. Given where I was starting (a rather embarrassing FTP below 200), I believed plain old saddle time was going to bring the most improvement.
What I liked
Included with subscription
What’s not to like about free? It would have been easy for them to charge at least a few dollars for these as add-on’s to your base subscription. I appreciate that they did not.
The lower end of the custom online only coaching is likely going to set you back at least $100 bucks or more per month. Yes, you’ll get more from a coach (more detail, more feedback), but following these TrainerRoad plans is a good fall back for more budget minded athletes.
All types/All timeframes
I really liked that the plans were clearly not rigid, cookie-cutter style options you can easily find on the internet. While the cycling parts of the plans follow structured base, build and speciality phases, within that each one is specific to both your event (triathlon, road race, etc) and the time that you have to train (anywhere from 2 hours per week up to 5 hours).
I felt like this really gave me the flexibility to find a plan that would work for my current lifestyle (Dad plan!) and still allow the training to be efficient and effective.
Good roadmap for swimming/running
The swimming and running parts of the overall plan are much less detailed than the cycling aspect and serve more as a roadmap for when and how the activities should fit in around cycling.
You could make a good argument that for most triathlons, where the cycling is the longest, most time consuming aspect, this is a good strategy. Most of your time and effort should be put into the bike if you want to make dramatic improvements to performance.
Gives you a schedule
This is where a coach provides the most value. As an athlete, you don’t have to think. You are given the workouts and you complete them. The coach can then analyze the data and adjust.
You won’t get the adjustments or fine tuning that a coach would supply, but you do get a suggested schedule and intensity, which can be very helpful when trying to squeeze or schedule time for workouts.
What I didn’t like
Detail level on swim/run
I think the running and swimming parts of the plan will be more beneficial to an experienced athlete that knows their body and knows their training volume and can make some of those adjustments a coach might suggest.
For example, given my fitness level, the suggested run workouts were not challenging enough. I often substituted different workouts there.
Newer athletes might find the swimming and running instructions leave them with more questions than answers. There are a lot of acronyms and drills that I had to look up, especially with swimming.
Can be hard to shift workouts
Again, there is no replacing the human element a coach bring. If you are newer to the sport or event you are training for, you might stick rigidly to the plan to your detriment. Or you might have to shuffle workouts and won’t be sure how to re-sequence things if you get out of step with the plan.
No consolidated feedback without a separate watch
Unless you are using a fitness watch that collects the data from all three training sports, there is not place to really look at your consolidated training across the 3 sports.
TrainerRoad will capture and store your cycling data, but nothing for the swim or run. So trying to get a cumulative view of how you are progressing through the plan and where you might adjust may take some piecemeal work.[Note: TrainerRoad just announced they will now upload to Garmin Connect]
TrainerRoad is a solid app that has continued to improve over the two years that I have been using it. It also works. I saw dramatic increases in my overall FTP (now only a mildly embarrassing 250) and cycling fitness when I committed to using it through the Olympic triathlon plan.
If you are comfortable self-coaching, can’t afford one-on-one coaching or just want to try a new event, these training plans included with your monthly subscription will definitely get you ready for the starting line.