This article originally appeared on BikeRadar
Today's Plan is a new Australian software startup that launched today at the Tour Down Under. It seeks to bring the knowledge of a qualified coach to an affordable, cloud-based training and coaching subscription service.
Although there are businesses in this space already, Today's Plan offers a range of unique features split into two distinct areas. The first is a computer-generated, yet personalised training plan that based on your riding history, fitness level and time available to train is tailored towards your exact event goal. The other area is in analytics, with endless data captured and displayed in easy to use graphs and summarised terminology.
Created with cycling coach Mark Fenner of FTP Training, Today's Plan claims to have thousands of training templates in its database that users can make use of after answering the setup questions.
Company director Ben Bowley, a former managing director of Apple in Australia and New Zealand, explained to BikeRadar that the starting point had been him meeting Fenner as a customer.
"I was disappointed in my mountain bike marathon results and wanted to do better," he said. "The following year, working with Fenner, I smashed my previous record and was competitive.
"I couldn't have done it without a coach's assistance – and our system is bringing much of that to your fingertips at an affordable price," claimed Bowley.
To get started with a plan, you need an event goal and a minimum of five weeks to train. You can enter this yourself, though Today's Plan also aims to have a comprehensive database of popular events to choose from.
There are only a few events in the database at the time of writing, but the range is set for substantial expansion
Interestingly, the system analyses course profiles of individual events entered in the database and will tailor your plan specifically to that event. So for example, all things being equal, racing a 100km race in the Alps will lead to a very different plan than racing 100km on a rolling-hill course. While the event database is currently limited to major Australian races, it is set to grow substantially over the coming months.
Another factor to tell the system is how many hours a week you have to train, with five being the minimum allowed. If this needs to include your commute to work, the system can be tailored to work with this too, including split workouts.
It only takes a few minutes to create a tailored plan. The system asks various crucial questions; where answers are not known, such as your anaerobic threshold (if using a heart rate monitor) or threshold watts (if using a power meter), it provides an average based on other parameters. This data is later automatically replaced following results from training tests.
From here, a plan is created and you're emailed with your training starting date and exactly what you'll be doing.
Creating a plan is only a small part of what Today's Plan offers
Like a coach monitoring and responding to your progress, the set training play may change based on the data you upload – if you're not meeting the desired load, or unable to do a particular session, for example.
While having a quick play with the system we came across terminology that was new to us. But after a quick read over the help section of the site and a look at the videos provided, it was all making sense pretty quickly.
At the time of writing, the system doesn't allow you to periodise your training plan, such as peaking for three separate events over a year. We're told however that this feature is likely to come in future.
The calendar keeps track of your upcoming rides, which can be drag-and-drop edited if you're unable to make a session or need to swap it
While these plans can benefit many cyclists, Bowley acknowledges that they can never offer direct a replacement for working with a qualified coach. "Our system will only take you so far," he said. It'll get you 95 percent of the way there, but if you're serious about results at a high level, then you'll still benefit from a coach that can hear or see your mood and tweak our plans further as your training progresses."
If you do use a coach, soon coaches will be able to enter your online Today's Plan profile and monitor your sessions, progress and make tweaks remotely.
While a two-week trial period is given, costs start with a six week plan at AU$29.95 (Approx £16 / US$24.20). The longest plan currently available is 16 weeks at AU$79.95.
In training, data is often key. While there are many services that record, compile and analyse this, the guys at Today's Plan say they're aiming to do it with more detail and easier to use layouts/formats.
A huge range of graphs are offered to dissect and compare data
"Many people are buying power meters, but few know how to use them," Bowley pointed out. "Along with our training plans, we seek to make this data accessible."
The analytics has been in beta testing long enough that a combined 145,000km in 7,800 hours of riding have been logged – no doubt helped along by its partnership with the Continental Avanti Racing Team.
Data transmitted through phone data can be live-streamed, enabling coaches (or loved ones) to monitor their riders from anywhere in the world. It's feature for the elite cyclist, and has got Fenner excited.
There's a staggering range of other features available, but the guys at Today's Plan chose to highlight the example of Shimano Di2 integration. Where users of the groupset have the ability to analyse time and choice of gear, from there a coach could work out where a rider could be more efficient through better gear choice.
Unfortunately, however, Strava users will need to upload data seperately, as Today's Plan offers no integration with the online racing network.
The analytics side of the business is included with a training plan or can be purchased separately at AU$9.95 for a month or a year for AU$99.95.
In addition to Bowley and his tech-industry experience, the Today's Plan team includes a small handful of developers, with Australian elite-cyclist Andrew Hall leading on development technology. Like Bowley, Hall met Fenner through racing and is a longtime client of his.
"It's an advantage having a rider in this position," said Bowley. "Hall will develop and trial features that he feels are beneficial for his training and racing."
In addition to PC/Mac compatibility, the Today's Plan team aim to have open compatibility with dedicated GPS devices and smartphones/wearable devices. Reversing the order the process often happens in, Android compatibility is available now with iOS to follow by late February.
The phone app has potential to replace a dedicated training device and offers live updates
We had a brief play with the Today's Plan phone app and found it turned a phone into a fully functional bike computer, with easily changed and near-endless data fields – there were even a few functions that we haven't seen before.
When plugged in, Today's Plan can automatically upload training rides straight to your device
While mobile interactivity is a large part of Today's Plan, dedicated GPS device users get nearly as much to play with. Plugging in a Garmin (Edge 500 or newer) will automatically upload ride data to the cloud and simultaneously download your setout training plans to the device too. Other brand compatibility, including Pioneer and Magellan, is said to be in the works too.
This means there is no need to print out or write down your workout, because the Garmin will bring it to life. "It brings the workout to life and becomes your coach on the road," according to Bowley.
We'll be putting the software to test over the coming few months and will report back with a full review. In the meantime, more information can be found at: www.todaysplan.com.au.