Paying a professional coach to provide a personal training plan can be a really good way of realising your potential and helping you achieve your cycling goals, whether it’s preparing for a big sportive or an attack on the local crit series.
Hiring a coach can be pricey. There are, however, now quite a few personal training and coaching apps that can provide structure to your riding, with personalised training schedules and workout plans tailored to your requirements. Some are free or require a small one-off or monthly fee.
There are many training apps that will track a range of data from a ride and help you chart your weekly and monthly mileage and time in the saddle. For many people, that is enough. But if you want to add more structure by way of a training plan to your time in the saddle, here are 10 apps that can provide workouts and specific goals that are designed to help you achieve the results you want.
Some of the apps take into account your current fitness level and, just like a real coach, tailor the intensity and volume of the training plan. Some of the apps provide real-time feedback and are flexible when real-life throws a curve ball your way.
Unless you've been hiding under a rock for the last year or so, you'll know that Zwift is the massively multiplayer online game where you ride and train with groups of other cyclists, and race against them. It includes a number of training plans and workouts and used with a connected — or 'smart' — indoor trainer it eliminates most of the boredom of indoor training.
This app can connect to compatible training sensors (like a power meter or heart rate strap) and can provide workouts scaled to your fitness, determined by an FTP fitness test. It provides over 100 training plans with specific goals and offers training instruction and motivation while you’re doing a workout.
It was originally geared for use on a smart trainer, but TrainerRoad can also send workouts and training plans to your Garmin or Wahoo GPS cycle computer so you can use it for outdoor traning too.
Strava is a hugely popular app that records and shares rides, but did you know it also offers a wide range of training plans? They’ve been developed by Carmichael Training Systems and include workouts aimed at the full spectrum of cycling fitness, from climbing to endurance and anaerobic sessions. They can be customised to suit your available training time from just five hours a week. You need a premium subscription to Strava to access the plans.
Strava recently split its premium account into three parts, so if all you want is the training plans, it's pretty cheap. However, the analysis package costs the same again, so unless you're using, say, Golden Cheetah to track your progress, you'll likely want that too.
If you like watching footage from real races while you train, with a bangin' soundtrack to keep you hammering the pedals, then you'll love Sufferfest, which was recently acquired by Wahoo. It offers a range of workouts aimed at tuning different aspects of your fitness and each one is accompanied by a video featuring appropriate clips from races, and the music suits the intensity of each interval or recovery period.
Rather than just focusing on your functional threshold power, the common metric of fitness, Sufferfest works with what the company calls Four Dimensional Power or 4DP. This tracks four measurements, neuromuscular power, anaerobic capacity, maximal aerobic power and functional threshold power for what's alleged to be a more complete profile of your fitness. The idea is that you can then more accurately work on different aspects of your fitness, concentrating for example on neuromuscular power if you want to improve your sprint.
Sufferfest also provides structured training plans that you can access via TrainingPeaks, though you don’t get feedback from a coach so it’s down to you to follow the plan and chart your own progress. As well as video cycling workouts, your ten bucks a month gets you a yoga program customised for cyclists and a ten-week mental training program to help build your psychological toughness.
There are apps for Mac OS, Windows and iOS, and while you can stream the videos as you train, Sufferfest recommends you download them first so an outage doesn't interrupt your session.
This iPhone-only app functions as a bike computer but can also store your route in Google maps, which can then be exported to social media networks like Twitter and Facebook. A calendar makes it easy to see your recent rides at a glance and help to plan your next ride, and your favourite routes can be saved for future use.
You can easily keep track of training rides with graphs of the total distance and time accumulated with this app. Information is clearly presented with the main screen a log showing some of your latest rides, so you can see at a glance how training has been going. You can also search your recorded rides too. Data is manually entered, but there’s an Autofill option for rapid entry.
This app lets you share and compare in a number of sports. As well as speed, distance, time, it works with compatible heart rate monitor straps and cadence modules. You can replay tracks on Google Maps, share with Facebook and Twitter friends, and export to the SportsTrack website. It only works with Android phones.
This free app adapts workouts to suit your demands, goals and progress. It charts your progress and can adapt the workout to match how well your training is going, and can make a change if you are going really well, or struggling and hit a bad path. As well as workouts, it can also help you to keep track of your daily nutrition with a food diary. It’s also useful if you want to improve your core strength and general flexibility as there are lots of non-cycling workouts as well.
A highly regarded app this one, TrainingPeaks offers a very comprehensive suite of tools for tracking your fitness and viewing time spent in training zones, using power or heart rate. The premium version of the app lets you choose a training plan created by some of the best coaches in the sport and delivers daily workouts to your email. You can also choose from a wide selection of workout plans, such as a Cat 1-2 Base Period for 12 weeks by Joe Friel, or a Cyclo-Cross plan by Hunter Allen.
You can read more about the coaching service.
Endomondo is a community based workout app that lets you challenge friends and analyse your training. A clean and clear display shows distance, speed and time when cycling, and you can customise what is show on the screen. Once you’ve done a ride you can upload to the website where you can create groups for your friends to share rides, and share through Facebook. With a Bluetooth heart rate strap you can add heart rate data to your training data. It’s free and works across all platforms.
Described as the “Swiss army knife of GPS tracking and timing” Kinetic lets you organise your training sessions by activity or event. It can set goals and monitor your progress against a predicted finish time. Voice notifications chart your progress in real-time. Kinetic GPS Lite is free, while the full version is $3.99.
This app offers a decent range of workouts, with some of them apparently based on Sir Chris Hoy’s own training regime, such as the VO2 Max Interval Training Workouts. Workouts are accompanied by photos and videos and as well as following one of the many workouts, you can also create your own workout. Also covers many other sports if you don’t just cycle as well.
For a little under six quid a month, the Pro+ version incudes over 100 training programs, the ability to create your own programs and a whole lot more besides.
Got a personal training and coach app you use that isn't on this list? Let's hear them below.
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David has worked on the road.cc tech team since July 2012. Previously he was editor of Bikemagic.com and before that staff writer at RCUK. He's a seasoned cyclist of all disciplines, from road to mountain biking, touring to cyclo-cross, he only wishes he had time to ride them all. He's mildly competitive, though he'll never admit it, and is a frequent road racer but is too lazy to do really well. He currently resides in the Cotswolds.