The best way to maximize your training time and efficiency is with a diligent training log. We break down two top apps, and explain why its so beneficial to track your training.

It’s 2020. We have lots of ways to collect training data, from power and heart rate to Training Stress Score (TSS), cadence, sleep quality, and so on. How do you make sense of it all to become a better athlete? In the past, hiring a coach was the only answer. But now, app-based training platforms like Training Peaks and Final Surge can help you view trends in your training, recovery, and performance while tracking injuries, fatigue, and response to your workouts for a comprehensive look at how you’re responding—all without a computer! Both of these apps allow you to connect to various levels of online coaching, input multiple fields of data, track compliance, message coaching support, and sync your app with other frequently used apps like Strava, Polar, Garmin, and many more. With so many similarities, it can be tough to wade through the features, so we did it for you. Here’s what makes each one tick.

Screenshot of Final Surge app

Training Log: Final Surge

Final Surge is an app for the athlete looking for a user-friendly interface that still has the ability to track multiple data metrics. The data pages are easy to read overall measurements when compared to Training Peaks. It’s easy to switch between seven-day or monthly historical graphs, allowing for quick trend comparison. Additionally, Final Surge has an enhanced health notes section of the app that tracks subjective measurements such as sleep quality and stress—in addition to an expanded graphic representation of body weight. If you use a Garmin or other smart scale, the app has the ability to input and track body water percentage, fat percentage, and muscle to provide visual feedback on body composition if weight is your focus. Similar to Training Peaks, Final Surge uses a perceived exertion and emoji “feeling scale” following workouts. However, Final Surge also has a pain and injury report diagram that is particularly useful for athletes dealing with a history of injuries. The ability to create personal workouts that are saved to a library and quickly accessed via a drop box is a highlight. This feature allows for objective visual feedback when gauging race ready fitness with those key personal workouts. As a free app, Final Surge allows greater user function than Training Peaks and could be used in its free version as a great introduction to tracking progress with a training log. Inputting data for graphic view makes analyzing trends quick and easy. While you can purchase training plans (such as Mark Allen Coaching or The Sufferfest), the app does not appear to have the depth of pre-built workouts, nor does it send informative training emails like Training Peaks.

Free Plan for Athletes

Coaching Plan

Screenshot of Training Peaks app overview

Training Log: Training Peaks

If you know what TSS is and can recite your threshold numbers quicker than your mother’s cell phone, this app is right in your wheelhouse. Training Peaks is a powerful platform that allows multiple metrics to be input, calculated, and tracked. If you are not particularly tech savvy, this app can seem a bit overwhelming. However, Training Peaks has clearly done some R&D to allow for a more user friendly interface, despite the abundance of metrics displayed. The “Feed” tab feels a lot like your Apple iCal in terms of appearance and user interface. The multiple fonts, colors, and graphs makes the app easy to read and follow, although the amount of data per screen is almost excessive. At times it feels like each drop box has 10 more drop boxes—almost giving basic users a “data inferiority complex,” which can be a struggle for triathletes who are traditionally completists. After finishing your workouts, you have the option to input perceived effort and how you felt (via an emoji). Although this initially feels like gimmicky overkill, it does make it easy to see how tracking your effort and “feelings” helps you see potential overtraining so you can course correct early. Another nice feature is the “Events” section of the app, where you are able to add multiple target events, and the app will generate a daily countdown that sits prominently on the top of the main screen: “30 days until race day!” The countdown, coupled with the “Compliance” feature is a nice “guilt section” to keep you motivated and consistent (if that’s a struggle). Of course, the app produces multiple graphical representations of your data, allowing for comparison between weeks and months in the lead up to target races.

While Training Peaks’ data churning is amazing, their breadth of content is truly unparalleled. Upon signing up for the free version, you receive training advice emails that are loaded with great tips; when you sign up for the premium membership, you can get into structured training right away with access to over 700 pre-built workouts. The premium version is free for a 14-day trial, but beyond that, the app functions more as a training log/calendar to observe completed workouts and see your planned (self-designed, not coach created) workouts—as opposed to a coaching platform.

Free Plan

Premium Plan ($20 per month or $120 per year)

The Winner: Training Peaks

A multitude of metrics, an established presence in the training marketplace, and endless ready-to-use training programs give the TrainingPeaks app the edge.

Why You Should Track Your Training

“Tracking progress allows you to be sure you are in race ready shape at the right time in relationship to your ‘A’ race,” says Marilyn Chychota, owner and head performance coach of Chychota Coaching, LLC, and a huge proponent of training logs. “Training logs also help prevent pitfalls such as overdoing it.”

Coaches all agree that it’s important to log mileage when working with their athletes, but Chychota says it can be more important for those going at it alone. “You’ll see massive stints of training that are overloaded on one energy system, and then in turn neglect another energy system [when self-coached triathletes don’t plan or log],” she cautions. “This can lead them to fall stale or plateau in their progression. Sometimes you’ll also see massive inconsistency or too aggressive of jumps in intensity and volume that can lead to injury.”

Being able to not only plot what you’ve done, but also where you’re going is key for athletes looking to make meaningful improvements. It also allows for a bird’s eye view when things are sliding off track. “Logs are very useful to track progression, habits, and patterns and to be sure the athlete is responding to the training,” she says. “It allows for a clear view of how the program is working for the athlete and if adjustments need to be made as they work through the training blocks.” But, like anything, training logs should be used with moderation, and even with a log, it helps to have a second set of eyes.

Chychota adds: “When checking a box becomes more important to an athlete than making decisions based on what they need to improve, it’s important for the coach to know their athletes personally and watch for these pitfalls.” A good coach should help his or her athletes know when it’s important to check off that box or when to adapt and let the boxes go. The best advice? Log meticulously and plan ahead, but think of it more like a road map with the possibility of detours.