In some countries races have already started again, in some they haven’t, but a lot of races are currently planned to take place this fall, including a lot of major marathons. You might be making plans for your fall races and might also be considering training plans.
You could obviously train without one or get a personal trainer to write you one or get a standard one on the internet. But these days there are also training plans that adapt to you, rather than you having to adapt to the training plan.
I’ve tried several training plans over the years, but since I’m not the average runner, the average training plan does not work for me. So I wondered if these Artificial Intelligence based training plans could cope with me. I’m not just a little bit outside of average, I’m not anywhere near the average runner. My heart rate and pace manage to throw off most trackers or computer based analysis (It probably thinks I’m a very overweight, very out of shape person who just started running a week ago or something like that).
The point of trying these “smart training plans” is obviously to see how the plans would adapt to me rather than me to the plan. If I’d been planning to follow the plans to the letter, then I could have just stuck to a regular standard training plan and I wouldn’t even follow those to the letter anyway. Sometimes life just gets in the way of training or your training gets in the way of your life, depends on how you look at it. But the whole idea of Artificial Intelligence plans is that they adapt based on you and your plans. Life sometimes gets in the way of training and that’s fine, you can either skip the training or adapt your training plan. The point of these AI training plans is that they should help you adapt your plan to you as an individual.
Both Train as One and Trenara have free versions as well as subscriptions that get you more features.
Out of the two, TrainAsONE has been around the longest. For years they did not have an app, only a website. They now have a first version of the app, which can give you audio cues while working out. When I first tried it in 2017 there weren’t that many options to upload your activities yet and I had to get a seperate app to upload them to TrainasOne, now you can connect it to Garmin, Strava, Fitbit, Runkeeper, Apple Watch ect.
Train as one can push the workouts directly to your Garmin watch, but on the free version it will only push the assessment workouts and not the other ones. If you want those on your watch as well, you’ll need to connect your watch and load them on yourself.
It has trouble coping with my slower than average speed. It’s suggesting paces that are very slow, just walking speed for me. And paces that are very fast for me and I can’t keep up with for as long as they want me to. I was already uploading activities to the website while I was actually trying to follow the Trenara app at the same time. At one point it got mad at me for my heart rate being too high during a time that I should have been standing still, since they had limited the HR to 100 for just standing up and standing still. Which is fair enough, although to be honest, I can’t guarantee that if I was actually standing still it would actually remain under a 100.
It also sometimes suggests very short workouts, like 10 minute long ones. Sorry, but I’m not getting changed into my running gear and out the door for just a 10 minute run. It also just takes into account running workouts, it doesn’t really adapt your training for cross training workouts you might have done. It also keeps asking you after a workout to confirm what type of workout it was, rather than just analyzing it.
You can’t move the workouts in the free version, but if you train on another day than the training plan it would just adapt the training plan for you. If I did a certain run on Thursday instead of Friday it would recognize this and adapt the rest of the schedule accordingly. Which I think is a really nice feature.
In the free version it only plans one week ahead, while with the paid version it plans three weeks ahead. It will also adjust for weather and elevation in the paid version. You’ll get a more extensive analysis and you can also train based on heart rate in the premium version. It also gives you the option to train for multiple goals at once. You can either pay for the premium version per month, which is ￡6 per month, or per year. If you pay per year it’s obviously a bit cheaper.
Trenara is an app and it’s easy to use. It hasn’t been around as long as the TrainAsONE platform. On the free version you cannot change the day on which you want to do the workout and you can only change your goal once or twice a month. In the paid version you can move your workouts and you can change your goal as often as you like. On the free version there are set days you do your workouts, depending on how often you want to train. I set it to 3 days, because I know if I do more days this app will not give me enough time to recover. Set days were Monday, Wednesday, Saturday. I could not tell the app I wanted the set days to be different, nor could I move a workout to another day. If I worked out on another day it would recognize it and tell me it wasn’t my day to workout, but it wouldn’t do anything with this workout. I would just keep the training plan the same since it wouldn’t budge on the 3 set days.
The pace when I started was a lot more realistic than the TrainAsOne app. The app plans your entire schedule at once and you can see all of the workouts. It does adapt once in a while and it tells you the date it was last adapted. Trenara claims it adapts after every workout, but I noticed it only adapts every so often in the free version, it doesn’t adapt to workouts you did that weren’t on the plan. So, if the schedule says Monday and you run on Tuesday instead it will count Monday as a missed session and not do anything with the run you did on Tuesday. It just leaves the schedule as is. Later on in the training program the paces became a bit less realistic. For example 30k run at what would be 10k pace for me, while suggesting some 12k tempo run at a pace that for me would be a recovery pace.
You can’t send the workout to your Garmin watch in the free version. You can in the paid version and that works pretty seamlessly. I noticed that the second month I was using the app in the free version I just started to ignore it more and more, since it wouldn’t adapt to my schedule or to the workouts that I did on other days than that they were assigned. And also that it didn’t really start the marathon schedule until 12 weeks before the race regardless of when you start the training plan. The extra weeks are just used to keep your fitness level stable, but it doesn’t build up distance yet and neither can I tell the app to spread the training plan over 16 or 20 weeks if I wanted it to.
When I went for the paid version it gave me the option to switch my runs between days or even remove them from my training plan all together. When I started using the app they only had one payment level at €9.99, but later they also added a cheaper version at €3.99 that allowed you to still adapt the days of your training plan, but doesn’t allow you to adjust the training for the terrain you are going to run on. It also doesn’t take into account heat or other weather conditions. In the paid version I set my training plan to 4 days, since I knew I could delete or change runs if necessary.
Just like with TrainAsOne it doesn’t take into account any other activities you’ve done. I can cycle or walk for miles and therefore not complete my full run for that day, but the only thing the app sees is that I wasn’t able to complete my run even though cross training can also benefit your training.
Out of the two I prefer the Trenara app. For me it gives me a bit more realistic paces and workouts compared to the TrainAsOne platform. Although both of them are still missing some features, but I’m sure both of them will also keep working on improving their apps. I like that Trenara has two different payment plans, although in essence so does TrainAsONE if you consider the monthly or yearly subscription.
If a standard training plan isn’t for you or you just want to try a different training plan for once, you should definitely check out an AI training plan.