TrainerRoad vs Personal Coach


#1

I started training with a personal trainer / coach a few months back to close off the season and start working towards next year. I’ve chosen one of the best Dutch coaches there is, several Iron Man wins and top-10 places in Kona. And also a lot of great successes for his coachees in his 15 years of coaching. Off course this sets me back a few bucks more than my Trainerroad subscription.

And even though I love his trainingplans and feedback I’m starting to wonder if it is a return on my investment. Or would it be better to save up the money for other things and follow the TR plans. Which have helped me to finish my first half triathlon successfully last season.

So my question is what is your opinion about this? Does a personal coach add so much more value that it is worth the money, or does TR give a similar value for less?


#2

It depends on your goals and your needs. I think a vast majority of people would do well with just TR plans+the podcast but not all.

Personally I use both TR and a coach and find unique value from each.


#3

If you have a coach they need to be providing personalized advice for them to be providing additional value over TR. If it’s mostly just do 3x20 SS, do 8x3 VO2, etc then TR gives you most/all of that same value. Down to “oh you had to do an evening workout so lets put you on aerobic for the morning and move this around”.

Coach’s are expensive, make them earn their value or dump them until you are chasing seconds.


#4

I worked with a trainee coach for a while. His approach wasn’t really my cup of tea, but I did get a huge benefit from having accountability to someone - it really helped to maintain compliance.


#5

I’ve been largely self-coached, but have used a coach for two seasons, training plans for one or two seasons, TR a little bit, and have even coached some athletes. My answer to your question is: “It Depends”.

Coaching is about WAY more than the plan. There are thousands of competent plans out there that even a moderately experienced athlete can adapt to their own schedule and needs well enough to perform well. So where does a coach add value that TR (as an app… the forum can help with a little of this) doesn’t? My opinion:

  • Analytics. If you don’t understand or want to understand your “numbers”, a coach can do that for you and adjust your training and race plans accordingly.
  • Scheduling challenges. An experienced coach can modify your weekly or daily plans in such a way to fit lifestyle challenges such as work travel or vacations, illness, signs of overtraining, odd hours, etc., while ensuring adequate training and recovery time.
  • Motivation. Many people want or need accountability to someone else. That, in itself, can be worth paying the coach… but it can also be filled by a training partner or by yourself if you’re self motivated.
  • Technique and sports skills coaching - varies by coach and by arrangement. A local coach can help more with this, but many charge more for personal sessions or video analysis. If you’re a novice in one or more events, this is very valuable. If you’re pretty well schooled in all three and your transitions are on point, probably not so much. Also, some of this may be available to you for free at a good masters swim program or track club, et. al.
  • Objective analysis. Outside of just numbers, a good coach can and will give you objective feedback that isn’t rooted in being emotionally tied to the outcome of your event. A good coach will push you to rest when you think you should train even more; and a good coach will push you to train through when you’re tired if the time and your performance dictate. Making those decisions optimally on your own is incredibly hard, even for the most experienced athletes.

I love analytics; I have a lot of experience dealing with my scheduling issues; I could use more swim technique coaching, but can get that cheaply at a masters swim club, and I’m very self-motivated. The biggest value my coach provided me was the objectivity in my plan and getting me to recognize that missing one workout because I was on vacation with my wife wasn’t going to derail my whole season. Since I’ve learned that lesson, and am older/wiser/more experienced, I no longer pay someone to coach me… but I also coach (and enjoy coaching) others so I’ve gotten better at detaching myself from my own training, and trying to look at things objectively as I do with anyone else.

A coach is always better than having no plan at all. But TR plans are really good and far more specific from a cycling perspective than most generic “book” plans because they also include the training engine. Whether your coach adds value is a decision only you can make, but those are my thoughts. What value do you think your coach is adding? How much is that worth to you?


#6

How do you combine the two? Doesn’t your coach give you bike training session in his planning?


#7

I have never had a personal coach but my wife and a few of my riding buddies do. From the outside looking in, I’d say that the performance increases (across the board) have been noticeable, borderline dramatic in some cases. In the last Tri event of the season, my wife smashed all of her previous bests on one of her worst courses.

Would I like a coach? Yes and no. I don’t think I’d benefit because I don’t think I’m open minded enough. I don’t like being accountable to someone else. Add to that the cost factor and I’d be pressuring myself to achieve results.

TR gives me the best of both worlds. I’m accountable. If I put the effort in, I’ll reap the rewards and I only have myself to blame if I don’t commit to each session. The monthly cost is more than manageable and well worth the returns I’ve seen.


#8

Over the past 15 years, I’ve done Self Coaching, Paid Personal coaching, and TR plans.

I’ve gotta say, I’m super self motivated and never have a problem getting at it. The personal coach was great at pulling the reins in when I did sessions that were too hard, using tools to measure this. I learnt a lot from him and the program he used.

Trainer Road is the nice blend of coaching instructions, structure and flexibility with the calendar, and now a little bit of analytics. Also, the sessions are challenging.

I like TR tri plans a lot


#9

IMO the main value of a personal coach is skills development. I was coached by a local triathlon coach a couple of years ago who was present every bike and swim session (group coaching). He gave me loads of useful technique feedback during those sessions, especially the swimming. The tips he gave me for transitions has also been invaluable. I’m less of a numpty in T1 and T2 than I used to be anyway :slight_smile: Unfortunately he’s moved to the sunnier climes of Southern France so I’m back to been self-coached.

When it comes to paying a remote coach to send you plans though I really can’t see the value. If they aren’t able to give you feedback on your technique then I think you end up paying a big chunk of money for little benefit. If you spend a bit of time reading up on training I think you’re able to create decent progressive plans yourself. The cycling side of it takes care of itself with TR.

I’ve also never understood the logic of paying a coach so you’re accountable to someone. If an athlete is struggling to get the sessions done to the point where they need to pay someone to be accountable to then I’d say they need to question why they’re doing the sport in the first place.


#10

Yes, he does. Some of them are interval session, and I’ll usually just go to the TR library and there is one that matches it almost exactly. If it’s a custom workout, I’ll just export it from TrainingPeaks and modify it in the Workout Creator.

Some of the workouts are outside and there are specific objectives that go beyond fitness to practice skills.

The coach really is there to hold me back and prevent me from going overboard, which I have a tendency to do. If I didn’t have a coach, I’d probably burn myself out super quickly from going too hard too early in the season.


#11

I’ve had a bunch of coaches in my time but I’ve never had a cycling or triathlon coach. So keep that in mind! Ha!

To me, TR provides just as much value as a coach when it comes to scheduling and structuring workouts. In many cases, more value I’m sure! But there are things a coach can do for you that TR can’t (yet) do.

Nutrition advice.
Equipment advice.
Mental prep.
Race day ritual.
I’m sure there are many other intangibles.

A coach who is really invested in your success can really make a difference when the chips are down. You’ll have to decide if you have that kind of coach or not.


#12

With the growth of online training apps (cycling, running, tri, etc…) canned plans seem to have become the norm. These can give direction and structure to an athlete’s training, but also keeps them hooked or tied to particular websites…at least for a while. For me, it’s those that have some semblance of personal contact with trusted coaches (with proven performance results and experience) along with their training plans/workouts that seem to give “subscribers” the best return on investment. But, even with this, I often have questions about my own particular training that I would rather not discuss via an open forum. In this instance, a personal online coach would be nice, but I usually forego the issue, as they’re generally not worth the expense of a canned answer.


#13

Hi Jamie,

Would you recommend sweet spot base training plan or half iron man base training plan? I’m a triathlete and I want to race a half Iron Man, but I see that a lot of people do sweet spot base 1 and 2 and then build half iron man and specificy half iron man.
Thanks!


#14

Hey Bruno,

Depends on your other two legs. If you already swim with a squad, and follow an outside run plan, you might wanna do mid sweet spot 1 and 2, but you might struggle with the volume and intensity if your other programs are big. I’m currently following the half ironman mid base plan and loving the combo of it all. You still end up doing 4 to 6hrs a week on the bike, and a couple hours running and couple hours swimming a week, but your workload is managed.


#15

Totally depends. My triathlete friends I can see a coach being super valuable to manage the load and interaction of the three sports. But, just cycling specific, I think (I know) TR goes a long ways to doing everything most coaches can do. The plans are well thought out and ramp to increase stress in a way you want to peak. The workouts are very well thought out in terms of how they work whatever system they are targeting (ATP-CP, Glycolytic and Aerobic). Meso and micro scales have been thought out. And finally, the presentation of the data just drives you to push harder than outside IMO.

As long as you are motivated and can follow a plan I don’t see the need for a cycling specific coach as far as training stimulus is concerned. If you want help with nutrition, race tactics etc…then yeah you’ll have to pay someone to hold your hand on that.

One EDIT: I think if you are new to cycling a coach can really be beneficial. So many questions here and concerns over stuff that is just not worth worrying about (missing the bigger picture type thing). If you’re like me and been around, made every mistake in the book, TR is plenty good enough.


#16

And then there’s the podcast…