We Tested Top App-Based Training Plans to Find the Best Ones for Riders of Different Levels and Goals
Training apps offer a take-home way for you to get more out of your rides. Whether you want to connect with local cyclists, tweak your training plan to fit your schedule, or coordinate your training with your heart rate variability—there’s an app that can support your goals. In fact, these days, it seems like many riders may be able to gain much of the personalized benefits of working with a coach, without the hefty price tag.
While a coach can offer a personal connection and, arguably more important, hold us accountable and root for us to succeed, if one isn’t in your budget or you’re not interested in spending time emailing or on the phone, these new (and old) training apps are worth checking out. Each one offers app-based training plans to help you get consistent, build a base, or train for a specific event. We tested each one out to help you decide which one is worth your time and money.
Best for: beginners looking to get on a consistent schedule or train for their first event
The JOIN app definitely has a more welcoming, newbie cyclist vibe. However, a rummage around the workout library of more than 400 workouts and training plans show that it absolutely can be used by more serious riders, as well.
The aesthetic and friendly tone of the app’s messaging and emails feels more upbeat and motivational than many cut-and-dry training apps. And the in-real-life ride meetup element has potential to bring more cyclists of all levels together.
The setup process is very smooth and feels like a personalized experience—and it’s extremely beginner-friendly without feeling pandering.
Availability slider allows you to hone your training schedule to fit your life, and you can adjust it as your calendar changes right on the home page.
The goals that you choose when creating your training plan aren’t built toward specific races—rather, they’re ultra-specific in terms of performance benefits (for example, FTP Booster, or Crit Race Prep), and you can set the duration of your plan to align with your race or event date if you so choose.
You can find other cyclists in your area using the app and riding in real time (or join pre-existing groups for IRL rides!).
You do need to use Strava in order to have your workouts auto-upload into the app to track your training (manual upload is also available)
In-person riding component is primarily Europe-based right now, so U.S. users likely won’t see many people in their area using the app yet.
Limited options for mountain bikers.
No non-cycling workouts (yoga, strength, etc.) so the plans can feel one-dimensional.
Integrates with: Strava, Garmin, Wahoo, Zwift, TrainingPeaks (export only)
Price: $8.50/month, $78/year (Free two-week trial)
Optimize by FasCat
Best for: intermediate racers looking to improve their performance
Optimize from FasCat Coaching is longtime cycling coach Frank Overton’s most recent innovation. His goal of bridging the gap between coaching and training plans, using data from wearable sensors like Whoop and Oura, to provide recommendations based on your own body’s daily metrics is a great entry point into tailored training for you—without the price tag of an actual coach.
If you’ve never used a training plan before, this app may feel overwhelming as you get started, but it is incredibly comprehensive. With more than 300 workouts in the library, dozens of training plans that can be applied to your calendar in the app, and the integration of wearable information (like readiness scores) along with your power data, no plan will look exactly alike from person to person.
Also, because FasCat is largely a coaching company rather than just a team of app technicians, if you need to ask a quick question about your ride or get some feedback on your training, you can connect directly with one of their coaches within the app.
Actual coach support is available from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. EST in the chat if you have a question—you’ll be answered in 30 minutes or less.
There are bonuses for staying signed up, including coach consults and free months of one-on-one coaching.
Integrates with wearables, like Whoop and Oura, to use your heart rate variability to advise your training, which may mean tweaking your workouts to fit your day’s needs. More features are being added, but right now, it is limited to calculating training stress, based on power combined with readiness (which it gets from a wearable like Whoop). But there are more updates in the works.
The app can put your plan into TrainingPeaks, but you’ll have to contact coach support for that (otherwise, you can simply have your finished workouts upload to TrainingPeaks via your cycling computer’s connection).
Some strength, plyometric, and yoga workouts are built into the plans.
Limited training plans, many focused on specific events.
The data in the Optimize tab that shows your balance of training stress (based on your power) with recovery (based on your HRV or recovery data from your wearable) is interesting to show in the app, but it’s up to you to determine how to modulate your workout based on the information. (FasCat says adding automatic modification options are in the works.)
While you can modify your training to suit your schedule, it’s not super intuitive to move things around once you’ve selected a plan. (Though you can simply choose your workout from their Library onto any given day!)
The app has the occasional glitch—it’s still new and they are quickly making improvements, but expect to occasionally hit a stumbling block.
Nutrition information is included in the app and while it is an important part of cycling, it’s hard for an app to cover all the bases. Some folks may appreciate this, but if you have any patterns of disordered eating, it’s worth noting that you can only choose between regular and weight loss-focused meal plans. There’s limited information around calories or macronutrient breakdown available in either, they don’t seem to sync to the training load, and they lack reminders to also eat plenty during rides. It would be nice if you could opt out of any weight-centric info, but the app does send you an email specifically focusing on weight loss early on, which can be triggering.
Integrates with: Whoop, Strava, Oura, Garmin, Wahoo (with more to come)
Price: $34.99/month or $299.99/year (Free two-week trial)
Best for: riders of all levels looking to boost their fitness indoors
For riders who prefer a training plan that’s done primarily on an indoor trainer, Zwift offers a great place to play—especially if you are already paying for Zwift in order to do your indoor workouts in a fun environment. The app doesn’t just have one-off races and rides, but also training plans that you can opt into that will help you make cycling gains indoors. You can also DIY a training plan with the app’s more than 1,000 workouts, or choose to join a team or group and follow along with them.
While you can’t take the workouts with you outside, you can always opt to write out the recommended workout and head outside. Don’t expect personal coach levels of support or nuance in the plans, but for beginner or intermediate cyclists, these plans are certainly enough to get started with structured training.
Huge range of plans and workouts to choose from.
Events and races happening constantly on the platform.
Large community of virtual riders that you can chat with in-ride if you’re looking for a social component but don’t have outdoor riding buddies.
Plans to prepare you for outdoor racing (for example, the Gravel Grinder Plan).
Requires an indoor trainer (and a way to measure power, either with a power meter or smart trainer, to best take advantage of the training plans).
Obviously, this platform is skewed to indoor riding—no outdoor training, mobility, or strength training included.
Training plans aren’t truly tailored to in-person racing or specific rider needs.
Integrates with: TrainingPeaks, Garmin Connect, Wahoo, Strava
Price: $14.99/month (Free two-week trial)
TrainingPeaks Coach Match Bronze Level + Training Peaks App
Best for: riders of all levels looking for one-on-one attention
Prefer to work with a human, not an app? The closest in price to any of these apps—though significantly higher—is TrainingPeaks’s Coach Match program, which provides their Bronze level coaching at $149 per month. If the idea of someone looking over your shoulder at your training is what gets you out the door, this is likely the least expensive option you’ll find.
Using this, you’ll be paired with a coach who has opted into TrainingPeaks Coach Match program. And there is a real-life team behind this program who does the matching based on your needs and the coach’s expertise.
Accountability from having a person checking your workouts.
Feedback tailored to you, your needs, and your questions/struggles.
Training specifically based on your schedule, current fitness level, and your goals.
Pricier than the other apps.
You’re getting a person, not a program—which can mean you end up with a coach that doesn’t quite fit your personality and needs (but you do have a chance to interview them beforehand to decide if it’s a good fit).
Longer start-up period, again, because you’re working with a human and not an app. You might be waiting a week or two before you have workouts in the TrainingPeaks app, compared to the instant nature of the other apps.
Integrates with: Depends on the coach. Some may use data from Whoop, Oura, or other wearables. TrainingPeaks can pull your workouts from just about any cycling computer or watch, and syncs those workouts so your coach can see your progress.
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