Friday, January 3, 2014

Getting Ready For a Training Plan

As I get ready to move and start a new adventure in work, training, hacking, and more, I need to prepare a lot of different things. Movers, storage, selling things, packing my bikes, training equipment, etc and winding down at my current job.

In the meantime, I’ve been exploring all the various different online tracking apps. The short of it so far is that most of these online applications have way more functionality than I expected. However, there is a lot of functionality that is missing.

Ray posted a great summary on how to sync all your workouts on one service here which is going to be super useful. I’ll be using one of the described methods, probably the first for Tapiriik but I’m not sure yet. I’ll test them all out and see what fits best. Plus I want to wait until Tapiriik isn’t overloaded which happened due to DCrainmaker blogging about it.

So what is the first step in testing / training. It’s the training plan.

Lets break down what’s out there. First a list then a breakdown

  • Free Online – Lots of free plans online, lots of purchase plans - EG:
  • Books – I own a lot of these. Old and new. There are some out there that can be considered your “Go To” – I’ll discuss briefly one
  • – Training peaks offers a way for coaches to sell training plans. These are usually by experienced coaching professionals.
  • Garmin Connect – Offers a few plans, all seemingly for free

More after the break!

Free Online

There are lot of plans out there. Some range from super detailed, and some range from immensely sparse. has an extensive resource of online plans from various people and professionals. Some free and some paid. They have different reward levels that are paid but we are only going to focus on the free ones.


The free ones tend to vary in consistency on how they communicate the plan. Above is an excerpt from a fairly detailed PDF. Each Week contains a PDF with what appears to be slides. (Plan here). This is nice, but it’s not an easily usable format. It ends up being a lot of pages for very little content.image

Some are less detailed, like above. It is giving vague numbers in a a simple month view. This ends up being more high level.


There are more sites out there, like “” which give a nice pretty view, but again, it lacks substance.

So what is the take away. The overwhelming majority of these plans are high level. They give only minutes or hours on a weekly rotation using basic periodization theory. Almost none go into the depth of giving specific workouts.


There is a lot of books out there, but Joe Friel’s book, “The Triathlete Training Bible” (and the cycling version), are the most common I’ve seen. 3 Years ago I used this to plan out my training, and I stuck to it. I lost 25 lbs, did 2 local triathlons placing very well in my age category and overall. It helped me realized that my ideal weight for my “tank-like” build is around 190 lbs.

The book walks you through everything from finding your strengths and weaknesses physically and psychologically and focusing on them. It’ll help you figure out how many hours you can realisitically do based on your previous years training volume, plan out the periodization, and has workouts that can be tailored to this plan in the back. This book can be had for $17.00. Which considering the smallest plans on Training Peaks is $20 USD, that this book is great value, but means you have to put in a few hours of work to use it. The motivating ideas are

  • Improving your weaknesses will improve overall performance more than improving your strength areas
  • Some races require focus on different skills (eg: if it’s a flat race and you aren’t a climber, then climbing skills might not be the best focus area)
  • It dives into nutrition, diets, and more – it does refer a bit to the controversial paleo diet (I’ll make a comment on this later)


The other good book that I’d recommend is Hunt Allen and Andrew Coggan’s Training and Racing with a Power Meter. I programmed a lot of the workouts for use in my old CTE/AMP Trainer software. I still use this to prompt me through workouts

TrainingPeaks (paid)


Training Peaks offer training plans for purchase. Like the free plans these vary in quality. For example take these two workouts. The biggest advantage of the Training Peaks plans is that they have a lot of plans from various authors and top coaches, and you can get a glimpse of them to preview. The downside is that every plan has to be paid for – no free plans.

Workout #4: Bike

Planned Time: 1:00:00

Nice, steady bike holding 90 rpms


Workout #2: Bike

Planned Time: 0:30:00

Your training "heart rate zones" will be based off your lactate threshold. If you don''t do an actual "blood lactate" laboratory test, one way to estimate your lactate threshold is to perform a 30-minute time trial at a high, sustained pace. The goal of this test is to exercise for 30 minutes at the highest effort that can be sustained and monitor your heart rate throughout the test. Your average heart rate during the final 20 minutes should correspond to your LT. ----------------- If 30 minutes is daunting, this test can be modified by simply performing three 5 minute hard, sustainable efforts with 5 minutes rest between each effort. ----------------- Sometimes people exercise too hard for this test. Follow this simple rule - your pace should be the same at the end as at the beginning. If the legs begin to go rubbery, the leg turnover begins to slow, the lungs begin to burn, and you begin to gasp for breath, then you are going to hard! This should be about an 8 on a 1-10 scale, if 10 is the hardest and 1 is the easiest. ----------------- 30-Minute Time Trial for Estimating LT ----------------- You will need a heart rate monitor ----------------- Warm up for 10-15 minutes ----------------- Begin exercise on an indoor trainer, treadmill, or flat outdoor course, and work up to the your maximum *sustainable* intensity within the first 10 minutes ----------------- Record your heart rate each minute for the last 20 minutes ----------------- Calculate your average heart rate over the last 20 minutes ----------------- This average heart rate figure is your estimated heart rate at your lactate threshold ----------------- Now that you have your number, log-in to your TrainingPeaks account, then go to "Preferences", then click on "Heart Rate Zones". Input your lactate threshold heart rate, then calculate zones (calculation methods will vary minimally). Now you have custom training zones! Your bike zones will probably be lower than your run zones, which is why you''ll be testing for each sport.

Your mileage will vary but these are not what I like to see. I’m used to the concept of training with power.

Garmin Connect/Training (Free)

Garmin offers training plans – this was news to me and I stumbled onto it. It is obvious that it’s in it’s infancy. It offers a basic written plan or a plan that is based around training with heart rate. Again, like with the free plans there is no power centric plans here either!


Garmin surprisingly has several beginner and intermediate running, cycling, and triathlon plans.


You get a nice overview in a consistent and easy to read format as shown above for all the plans. This is to be expected as all the plans seem to come from the same source.


You can look at individual workouts and they show as they would on your calendar.


The Calendar populates nicely and automatically based on the start date you set.


But here is where we find the lynch pin is missing that would hold together the entire suit of Garmin Devices + Garmin Connect – These are plans, and not workouts. So you cannot download them to your Garmin Device as a Workout (Seriously, please correct me if I’m wrong! email This means additional work to set these plans back up as workouts, send them to the device, do the workout, and then upload the resulting file. Garmin sorted out the upload side and the plan side but not sending of the plans to the device.

Update: I’m wrong! You can click the publish button and send the workout plan to your device!



Then you get this message! So if you have a Garmin Edge then you will only get cycling workouts, a running watch will only get running workouts, and a multisport watch (Garmin FR310xt or FR910xt) will get all workouts.


I felt at this point it’s necessary to highlight a few points that I’m seeing.

  • Plans, even paid ones, are little more than telling you to go run/bike/swim on a given day for a given amount of time. The really good ones (Free and Paid) seem to get more detailed into the workouts.
  • The vast majority of all plans don’t use any measurable indicator such as heart rate, and almost nothing uses power. Some of the better ones will give an RPE scale
  • Specific workouts – Where!? – This is the most frustrating. Garmins plans seem to be the only ones that have addressed this consistently. However, as mentioned, there seems to be a gap in getting these plans to their device. Update: I was wrong thankfully!
  • Garmin, why can’t other people create and share plans?


Nutrition Plan

I’m highly inexperienced with this area. Personally, I have found that the Paleo diet seemed to work for me – and I hated it, a lot. My problem may be genetic in the sense that I come from a very stout family. I have great endurance with minimal training, but controlling my weight requires cutting out a lot.

A lot has come out about the Paleo diet and the controversial nature lately, but for me it worked. It didn’t work because that’s what my 100 000 year old ancestors ate (surely they didn’t have sweet potato!) – but it worked because of the reduction in grains (high carbohydrate) and rigidly cutting out sugar (from coffee to any snacks). I tracked this down to the smallest cheat – a single candy counted as a black mark on an excel spreadsheet on my fridge. I haven’t found that I could lock down like that the last couple of years due to time constraints and work stress. When I tried, I over corrected into too much protein and fat and and found I lacked energy.

My Plan

My next post will talk about my plan. I’m going to go through the Joe Friel and Hunter/Coggan books and put together the actual plan like I did before. This is the only way to get a very detailed plan into a system – and then I have to get the plan into the systems (so much work!).

I have a few contacts in the coaching area, and while I have little interest in hiring a coach, I might consider it.


  1. Hi Keith, nice blog.
    I also have spent a lot of time searching for good training plans. The problem with most plans, is that they are not "dynamic". By that, I mean, a good training plan should adapt itself to changes that just happen. Like, not beeing able to train on one day, or adding more workouts on another day. Sure, you could determine TSS and then adapt your microcycle/training plan yourself. But that is cumbersome. Have you ever looked into: ? Well, they give you a complete plan which is "dynamic" with a micro and macro cycle to suit your available time and goals. The only drawback is, cost. They charge you for a lot of things extra.
    Thanks, Joseph

    1. I haven't looked at 2peak. I saw it an long time ago, but it's quite interesting looking. I'll take a 2peak this week. I almost have my training plan worked out but maybe I can quickly look at this first. Thanks for the suggestion!

      Joe Friel's book has some advice on adapting your plan (manually) and I've stuck with it before when I was more serious. I've loved the concept of an adaptable plan based on how things are going.

  2. Hi Keith

    Just a quick note to say I work for the company (Full Potential) behind the running plans you see on Garmin Connect. If you want to find out a bit more about our plans and what we do please feel free to get in touch - for more info

    Great blog post and really useful.

    1. Hi Ben,
      Thanks for the info. It's great to know. It looks like a very high level full feature services. I found that these were some of the best freely available. My powermeter focus (totally niche) is something that isn't well catered too... yet.

      Thanks again for the info. Keep up the good work!

  3. Hi Keith,

    I'm a DCrainmaker reader and found this article very helpful. I too, have used/tested several paid & free training plans including Runkeeper, Garmin Connect, etc., and the one I've been most impressed with so far is (free for registered users) so much so that I even go through the hassle of creating them in Garmin Connect to download to my Garmin watch. Most impressive aspect is that it's customized down to your personal pace which you can calculate using their pace assessment workout or the McMillan calculator Overall, it's impressive in that it gives you the option for both Heart Rate & personalized Pace training and I've seen better results than the Garmin HR/"blank-Pace" ones. Only wished that Garmin offered these, which were designed by Greg McMillan; it would save me from all the manual entry work!!! Take a look at the Adidas miCoach training plans, best results I've ever obtained from any training plans I've used! Great blog.

  4. I also want to mention the free plans available on micoach site. You can use them with one of the mobile app (iPhone, Android or WP8) or with one of the micoach devices (pacer or smart run watch).
    Adidas offers comprehensive training plans for 5k, 10k, half-marathon and marathon, plus some fitness exercises.
    The quality of the running training plans is very good.

    1. I had forgotten about Adidas Micoach. This is a good reminder. It's nice to hear about their run plans being good. I'll take a look at this when I get a chance.

  5. One online program that focuses on power (with options for speed/cadence/heartrate) is TrainerRoad. I am a member of Endurance Nation and they are strong proponents of training with power and post their detailed workouts (for members only) on TrainerRoad, but TrainerRoad has a lot of other workouts posted as well. One feature I like is their "virtual power" option that uses cadence/speed to estimate power (yes, very inexact, but a lot less expensive than SRM/Quarq/PowerTap/KICKR.) In fact, I found my way here by Googling "DIY power meter" hoping for a solution to the high prices of current meters. TrainerRoad supports a large number of devices both ANT+ and Smart Bluetooth. Currently, only PC and Mac, they are "working on" an iOS app. I use a lot of Wahoo products and they work with all of them. Wahoo, in turn, supports a large number of iOS apps, including my favorite, Cyclemeter. However, cyclemeter calls themselves "iOS centric" meaning you can see a single workout online but everything else is in the app. This makes tracking progress a bit more challenging. I will be interested to follow this post and see where your research leads you.

    1. Big fan of training with power (even regressed power curves). I'm still working on testing a lot of the online tracking software and haven't gotten to try Trainer Road yet, but it's certainly on the to do list soon (after finding an apartment and getting my trainer setup again).

      My powermeter project is in good hands. Just give it time. The DIY is a little difficult except for those who've dealt with strain gauges. Thanks for the feedback and the reminder that I need to check out TrainerRoad soon!

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  8. Great post - still, is it just me, or are the garmin connect triathlon plans horribly written and not well split between their level 1 and 2 sprint & olympic plans?

    Key gripes include:
    - Instructions list an activity, then say repeat 5 times - do they mean to repeat the activity 5 more times, or 5 times in total?
    - Half of the swim activities aren't described - even in the paper plan version glossary (it lists "drill", "pull" and "kick"... what is pull - buoy between legs, pull gloves? should kick just be flutter kick w. board? scissor? dolphin? fins?, if pull are pull drills, and kick are kick drills, what do you do during "drill")
    - The non heart rate plans sometimes reference a heart rate zone
    - The intensities don't really build in the beginner level 1 plans (i.e. in the spring level 1 plan, you are already swimming 1.3km and riding 22 miles through hills during your 2nd week)

    I'm just glad I wrapped up a marathon 2 weeks back before starting the sprint level 1 plan, as I can't seem to stay afloat, or maintain a 95RPM on my lowest gear without dropping below Zone 3 intensity during my first week.

    No - I'm not looking for a Galloway walk/run equivalent, but these seem much more designed for seasoned club swimmers/bikers/runners who are just planning their next race vs. folks who are looking for a true level 1 plan to prepare and build up to their first few.

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