Online training: the next big thing?

Just like every new year since way back when Adam and Eve finished 1-2 in the Garden of Eden Club Championship, 2015 is sure to see its share of ‘new’ stuff in cycling. After a bit of dabbling on the fringes in 2014, the use of on-board cameras is likely to really ramp up as the big networks start throwing some serious cash into getting it right, especially for use in live racing situations. The major manufacturers will continue to lean heavily on the UCI to allow disc brakes. New drug testing protocols will come online, such as for the asthma drug salbutamol, and more than likely lead to yet more riders getting banned despite trotting out the typical array of creative yet implausible excuses.

But if you ask me, the biggest new thing in cycling for 2015 will likely be the rapid spread and take-up of online training programs by rank and file club riders.

As I wrote about late last year I’ve been involved in unpaid beta testing for one such program launched in December 2014 by a group of Aussie-based guys called Today’s Plan.

The training nouse behind it comes from one of Australia’s most respected domestically-based cycling coaches, Mark Fenner, who has worked with the Avanti Racing squad for several seasons together with some of the country’s top mountain bike riders. Rather than have a personal coach, and pay for the privilege, it allows passionate but less serious and more time poor riders (aka 95% of us) to still gain some of the benefits of structured load-based training by purchasing personalised, goal/event specific training programs as and when we need them, then track our progress online as we go. To give you an idea of the cost, an 8-week program is $39.95. You’ll likely spend more on post-ride coffees.

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Having used Today’s Plan myself, and experienced some very real performance benefits in my riding, I can see huge value in this type of thing – and it would appear plenty of other folks can too, perhaps most notably Strava, which has recently entered into an arrangement with CTS, better know as Carmichael Training Systems, which of course was founded by ex-USA Olympian Chris Carmichael who amongst other athletes coached the infamous Texan himself, Lance Armstrong for several years. Currently the CTS programs offered via Strava seem relatively generic – then again they’re free. However it seems highly likely this will change soon enough with more personalised programs set to become available – for a price.

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Online training plans certainly haven’t hit a tipping point just yet. But as we all know cyclists love new stuff, especially new stuff that might just make them faster. And once word gets out it could happen very quickly. I’m sure there are other businesses out there right now working on similar programs all over the world. And, whilst the top riders will always quite rightly opt for hands-on personal coaches, I’m sure a lot of these start-ups are going to get very rich indeed as more and more of us part-time carbon addicts wake up to the very real performance benefits of structured training – versus simply spending thousands on lighter bikes and components.

Watch this space.




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