Get access to everything we publish when you sign up for Outside+.
D3 Multisport Head Coach Mike Ricci tells us what to look for in an online training program—and how to maximize results.
I’ve never followed an online training plan, how do they work? I’m also on a budget. How much do they cost?
Online training plans offer a variety of options to fit the needs of any runner, whether you are a beginner just starting out or an old pro preparing for your next marathon. With an online training program, you have the ability to customize a plan based on your schedule.
This allows you to move or copy/delete workouts if, for instance, you have a busy week where you can’t get in as many workouts, or if you only have 10 weeks to prepare for a marathon. A customized plan allows you to make adjustments to maximize your time.
While you can download basic plans for free, remember that a training plan is probably the single most important part of getting to the finish line. Our plans start at $29 for a 5k or 10k training plan and $39 for a half or full marathon, and increase based on the breadth of the program. Keep in mind, most trainers charge an hourly rate to customize a plan.
Some plans even offer interactions with a coach through weekly consultations or unlimited e-mail contact. With the latest in GPS-enabled heart rate monitors, coaches can view your heart rate, speed and even track your run to provide necessary feedback.
How do I know what plan is right for me?
To find an online training plan that best fits your needs, do your research and contact the trainers of programs that spark your interest. Inquire about their credentials, background and how the plan works. While it is great that someone may have won the 10k in the Olympics, it doesn’t always mean they know how to write a training plan compared to someone with 20 years of experience who has success in training athletes.
There are many organizations, such as USA Track and Field and USA Triathlon, which offer certifications. Just as important, find out if the trainer’s personality clicks with yours—the likeability factor is an important component. You won’t succeed with a training plan if you don’t get along with the coach you’ll be interacting with on a regular basis.
What are the benefits of online training compared to other methods?
Online training offers numerous benefits for those consumed with career, school and family responsibilities. You can log your workouts online for a coach to review, which creates a dialogue that isn’t possible with a paper plan. And because you’re interacting with a coach via phone or e-mail instead of in-person, you can train night or day to fit your busy schedule. Let’s say you missed a workout, but you have a day off later in the week where you can make it up. With an online program, a coach can adapt the workouts to fit your schedule.
A paper plan is great for self-motivated people, but for the rest of us, I think it is best to receive
feedback through an online training plan. Typically, people tend to do too much or train too hard, which is what we’ve always been taught in gym class and in sports. If you seek advice and feedback on your workouts, online training is the way to go. You also learn valuable time management skills. For example, Tuesdays might be a hard run day, while Thursdays are long runs and Saturdays are easy runs. While we mix up your workouts, we try to keep a consistent workout schedule each week.
For those who live in remote areas, online training gives you access to expert coaches and training groups. I send mass e-mails each week to my group of runners that shows everyone’s training results. This feedback really motivates the group and provides a sense of camaraderie. While my runners don’t have the option of training together, it’s a great way for them to stay connected and get expert advice from a trusted source. In fact, many runners prefer online training to other methods. You get the best of both worlds—flexibility to train on your own time and trainer support/feedback to help you succeed. n
Mike Ricci is a Level III USA Triathlon Certified Coach and has been coaching endurance athletes since 1989. In the past four years, D3 coaches have coached hundreds of athletes to their first triathlon and hundreds more to become Ironman finishers. You can find more information about D3 Multisport at d3multisport.com.
*As told to Breanne George