The new year is on its way, and if you’re like most people, Jan. 1 will come with a host of resolutions and goals that you’ll hopefully keep until this time next year. Though the stat kings at Strava depressingly told us last year that most New Year’s resolutions fail by Jan. 17, there are still ways to steel yourself against massive failure. Some of the best strategies for sticking to your lofty tri goals are to hold yourself accountable, have a plan, and track your progress. The best (and easiest) way to do that? Get yourself an online training app ready and raring to go before that New Year’s Day deadline hits so that no matter what your goal—whether it be do your first tri, or medal at the Olympics in triathlon, then the marathon, then the 10K—you’ll already have one of the most important tools in your arsenal dialed in and ready to rock. Your New Year’s resolution shouldn’t be “Start using an online training log,” instead use the best online training log you can find to actually make your resolution a reality.
While there isn’t exactly a reigning king for “best online training log,” there are a few with features that may be important to some and not so important (or downright annoying) to others. We’ll talk about a few things that make a good online training log the best online training log for different types of triathletes who have different goals, different styles, and different circumstances. Let’s take a look:
To App or Not to App?
Before you choose the best online training log, be sure you’re realistic about where you’re going to use it. For some people, the best online training log might actually be one that doesn’t exist online at all! Some people may be more comfortable with a log constructed out of a modern, space-age material consisting of fibers of cellulose pulp. (Remember paper? Yeah, that.) For those Luddites, a book (we’ll get to one of those later) or printouts might be best.
For others, the best online training log might be accessed almost exclusively via a smartphone or tablet. Do you like sitting in bed at night and doing your logging right before you hit the hay? There’s an app for that. But if you think you might be (gasp) doing some logging on the company dime while you’re at work, a web-based online training log might be a good option. Many online training logs have both, but before you get too deep into a system, be sure you’re not just going to be suffering through a mobile website while trying to enter your morning run intervals.
“I want to compare my NP and %FTP with my L/R balance, smoothness, and force vectors, and my TSS score versus my daily RHR and HRV.”
If you can understand 75 percent of that sentence or more, then you’ll probably want an online training log that can crunch a serious amount of data. If it just looked like random letters connected by conjunctions, then you might want something that starts simple with room to grow. Some online training logs might be the best for quick-and-dirty logging, some might be the best for super deep dives into every metric that your body can possibly produce. Keep in mind that while you might eventually get into that level of nerdery, if you feel overwhelmed by the amount of data, options, and graphs, you might not be that likely to use even the most simple features, and you’ll find yourself in the big group on Jan. 17—not where you want to be.
That said, if you have a cycling power meter that does pedaling smoothness and force vectors or a running power meter or have spent money on physiological testing, the best online training log for you might even have more than you know you want. If this is the side of tri you already like, there’s a good bet that you’ll have more fun with even more data crunching.
Help!/Mind Your Own Business…
While most of the best online training logs offer pre-packaged training of some kind, a few go a step further. Some training logs will give you premade workouts—like a swim, bike, or run set—that operates basically in a vacuum, without an overall plan. Some training logs will provide you with a whole plan—monthly, weekly, daily structure and all. Others even have the option of getting a real-live coach in there—through their service—to help you out along the way. Obviously cost comes into play here, but the best online training log will fit into what you think your goals might look like this season and in the future. Are you interested in hiring a coach? If you have a coach already, it’s likely that he or she has already set you up with a training log. Have you been in multisport so long that you know how to set up a season’s structure, but you get into a sweaty panic when it comes time to come up with the nuts and bolts of a day’s workout? You might be able to save some cash if you carefully select the best online training log for you based on your realistic needs—but it’ll take some research.
Get Fit with A Good Fit
Before you go through the whole sign up process for an online training log, be sure the service is compatible with your existing devices/programs. Do you have a Suunto watch you truly love? Make sure it will upload easily to your new training log. Do you use Strava for motivation/bragging? Be sure it integrates with your new training system, if that’s what you want it to do. While some services might say they’re compatible with a device/program, be sure they actually play well together before you start forking over your hard-earned cash or investing time. If it takes five steps to transfer, download, format, upload, and process your ride, run, or swim, it’s unlikely you’ll be using the service as much as you should. Today, the best online training logs are very easy to use, so don’t think we’re still in the early 2000s where everything had to be jury-rigged. Don’t just make do.
So now that you understand a little bit about what makes an online training log the best one for you, let’s take a look at a few picks:
The Best Online Training Log for Data Monsters
Basic (free), Premium ($10-20/mo. depending on billing plan); Trainingpeaks.com
TrainingPeaks is by far one of the most popular online training logs and simply one of the best for triathletes who produce a ton of training data and want to analyze their metrics in detail. While you can use just simple functions in TrainingPeaks, the mere presence of options can make it a little intimidating if you only use miles/time/pace/etc. At the same time, TrainingPeaks also has a HUGE roster of coaches, plans, workouts, and content via their blogs and newsletters and a fantastic app that’s compatible with a host of devices/services. Premium unlocks a host of functions, while the basic is fine for logging simple workouts. The sky is definitely the limit with this training log; this is a good thing, unless you have casadastraphobia (fear of falling into the sky).
The Best Online Training Log for KISS (Keeping It Simple, Stupid)
For athletes (free, but plans cost extra), For coaches ($190/year for up to five athletes); Finalsurge.com
FinalSurge used to be the new kid on the block, but it’s ease of use and very impressive menu of well-curated training plans from coaches like Mark Allen, The Sufferfest, and the Iron Cowboy (??) make it a strong service. While the plans cost anywhere from $50 for 12 weeks to WAY more, if you’re only using FinalSurge as a log, it’s free for athletes. The interface is simple enough for first timers, but powerful enough for all but the most data-obsessed. They’ve also recently released a smartphone app that follows the simplicity-first model of the web log and the service is also easily compatible with Garmin Connect and Strava.
The Best Online Training Log if You’re One of Millions Who Own A Garmin
No real surprise here, but in terms of coming home and instantly logging your workout online, Garmin’s Connect service/app is a must-have (if you own a Garmin, of course). Wi-Fi-enabled Garmin devices will automatically upload straight to Connect upon saving a workout on your watch or cycling computer. From there, you can use a midsized range of data tools to look at your workouts and training, but the real benefit is a skipped step of getting the info from watch to log. Even if you don’t use Garmin Connect as your final destination for your data, it can also be synched up with other services like the two above to serve as a (much-needed) middleman between device and training log.
The Best Online Training Log For Compatibility
Though not exactly as sleek as FinalSurge or as content-deep as TrainingPeaks, SportTracks does a good job of hitting the middle ground in online training logs. While it’s quite a bit cheaper than TrainingPeaks, it doesn’t offer any coaching plans for sale, so this is the best online training log option for either someone who writes their own program or has a coach who uses SportTracks. The biggest win here is the long list of devices that SportTracks is compatible with and the unconventional functions like weather, PR tracking, and more that other services don’t feature as prominently. bear in mind, that as of this writing SportTracks does not have an app and is entirely web-based.
The Best Online Training Log That Exists Only in “Meatspace”
Believe Training Journal
Lauren Fleshman, Roisin McGettigan-Dumas
Ok, so right off the bat, this is not a tri-specific training journal—it’s geared more toward runners—but it’s also the best training log in terms of goal setting, format, and construction. Authored by a former pro runner, the Believe Training Journal has a host of inspirational quotes, essays, tips, and mental-training exercises to help get through the long, hard season. If you’re the type of person who likes to have a physical training log that you, gasp!, actually write in, this is a great option that might not do any data crunching or provide any workouts, but it will help keep your eye on the prize.