TrainingPeaks is the most popular training software on the market, and for many athletes and coaches it is their analytics tool of choice. For those interested in exploring alternatives or looking for features that TrainingPeaks might not offer, there are several programs with unique attributes worth exploring.
I spoke with athletes and coaches who use these other platforms regularly to gather their opinions and get their takes on the best features.
As you will see, the market is evolving, with direct competitors to TrainingPeaks offering analytics-heavy programs, and others trending more toward automated (with algorithms or artificial intelligence) training prescriptions. As one coach/athlete noted, “I’m looking to ride the bike, not think about it too much.”
While Xert offers the ability to analyze data, it has evolved to serve more as a training prescription platform.
Xert’s proprietary Adaptive Training Advisor is one of the unique features of this training and analysis program. The “advisor” uses historical performances to inform and guide the training advice it provides—after running that data through an algorithm, of course. The athlete can change the rate at which he or she wishes to improve by giving the program feedback and adjusting the rate.
The program also offers “Smart Workouts,” which are also based on mathematical modeling. An athlete’s interval definitions “are used to pinpoint specific power and fatigue levels to achieve strain and focus targets according to the desired training loads.” Interestingly, these workouts can be adjusted in real time by either power or duration to help the athlete meet the goal(s) of the workout.
Amos Brumble, coach and owner of Brumble Bikes in Westerly, Rhode Island, is an active user of Xert. He moved away from TrainingPeaks for various reasons, and now uses Xert almost exclusively.
“I don’t have the skillset to do anything meaningful for analysis—the program does that better,” he says.
What Amos likes about Xert:
- Wide variety of workouts.
- Ability to set goals and have planned workouts.
- Workouts adjusted to the person’s schedule.
- Useful tools to adjust workouts beforehand by giving program feedback, and “Smart Workouts” that can adjust during the workout.
- Ride breakdowns in terms of training effect and estimating fatigue.
- Next workout is prescribed based on performance metrics and personal input.
- Actively answers any questions.
What Amos would like to see improved:
- Fonts are too small with the Garmin IQ app, especially on the Edge 1040.
- Buildup design is slightly flawed, with no plan to include higher intensity workouts throughout the training.
- Still need a coach and need to be able to give the system subjective feedback.
- Knowing Xert lingo is part of the delay in using Xert for many users.
More of a traditional analysis platform, Intervals.icu offers the ability to perform basic and advanced analytics and plan workouts.
Ryan Kohler has been a proponent of Intervals.icu for years, enjoying its easy-to-customize analysis tools and, especially for coaches, the ability to link up with an unlimited number of athletes and keep them well organized.
“You can do deep analysis with a user-friendly interface that even idiots like me can figure out,” Kohler jokes.
What Ryan likes about Intervals.icu:
- All the benefits of TrainingPeaks’ desktop analytics program WKO5 (which allows you to create custom analytics) but you don’t have to be a programmer to use it.
- Price is effectively free, though users are encouraged to donate a nominal monthly fee to support updates and improvements.
- Ability to link to an unlimited number of athletes.
- Filters and tags help keep things organized.
- Correspond directly with the developer to suggest changes and improvements.
- Active and helpful user forum.
Unafraid to showcase his bias, Kohler says he doesn’t have any suggestions for improvements.
Optimize is an app that offers some analysis capabilities. However, as with many other programs, it is more useful for training prescription, taking into account your training load and your recovery metrics like sleep and heart rate variability (HRV). It can also be used for creating training plans that scale to your available time to train.
After each ride, the app calculates time in zone, power/HR overlaid on terrain, and proprietary data including the Optimized Training Score (or OTS, which is similar to TSS but weighted toward longer rides and which eliminates coasting from the score).
“But the main thing in Optimize is the needle, which balances your cumulative training load with your running recovery—measured via HRV and sleep from your wearable,” says Ben Delaney. While Delaney is best known for his gravel tech YouTube channel (and for his former stint as editor-in-chief at VeloNews), Delaney also works with FasCat Coaching, the creators of Optimize.
“It’s like halfway between what you can do on Strava and TrainingPeaks,” Delaney says. “It’s perhaps most ideal for folks who want to train for something, and use their data to do so, without having to get bogged down in a thousand points of analysis.”
Strava is mainly seen as a way to share your rides to followers, like a social media platform. However, there is some amount of data analysis that can be done within it. If you only need the basics, and you already have a Strava subscription, it’s worth exploring.
It includes a “Best Efforts Power Curve,” also known as a critical power curve. This feature provides a picture of the maximal power you have sustained for a given time interval. This can be a useful visual representation of your strengths and weaknesses, and/or a historic snapshot of your progress (or decline).
Strava also offers its “Fitness and Freshness,” which considers your “heart-rate-based Relative Effort and power-based Training Load to track your levels of fitness, fatigue, and form over time.” Sound familiar? It’s akin to the TrainingPeaks Performance Management Chart, which is one of the more robust indicators of your training load balance.
Beyond that, it offers rudimentary post-ride analysis of each ride. The basics.
“Strava has millions of points of data on power, pace, speed, and long-term changes for all of those values, but they only show very simplistic trends,” Kohler says. “It could be made so much more powerful, to find physiological trends, identify efficiency factors on a given segment or route based on the GPS data, and so on. Right now it’s like the Facebook of training.”
One of the original data analysis programs, Golden Cheetah is a complete desktop software platform. It’s also free, and a large, global community has contributed to the development of the product.
There are numerous advanced data analytics (as GC calls them, “forensic ride analysis”) features that can aid in customizing workouts. Multiple charts allow you to examine and analyze ride and interval data.
Important to note, GC does not sync with Strava, Garmin, Wahoo, or any of the other services where you might already log your training. You must upload your workouts manually from your computer in order to analyze them in the program.
Other training platforms worth mentioning
There are a few other programs that are worth mentioning for those looking for basic analysis capabilities paired with the ability to create training prescriptions and workout customization. Final Surge and Today’s Plan do both of these things, and both trend toward training prescription rather than post-ride analysis.
For coaches, Final Surge emphasizes the ability to communicate with athletes. Similarly, Today’s Plan offers its “Communities,” which is a suite of digital tools to allow coaches, clubs, and federations to create their own community of members and athletes while adding efficiencies to the daily tasks of organizing a group of athletes.