20 Years Of Trainingpeaks: Living Our Purpose And Where We Go Next

20 Years of TrainingPeaks: Living our Purpose and Where We Go Next

BY Dirk Friel

A look back at our beginnings, a deliberate shift in focus, and a call to action for our coaches.

It’s hard to believe, but September marks 20 years since I first began building TrainingPeaks along with my co-founders Joe Friel and Gear Fisher. How did such a journey begin? Well, I was working in the family coaching business along with my father, and we were tracking, analyzing and planning our athlete’s training programs via a multitude of ways—most notably the fax machine and email attachments. Our daily tasks included gathering fax paper that had piled up underneath the fax machine and three-hole punching the pages in order to add them to a binder. 

We also had numerous desktop software packages open in order to analyze every type of heart rate and power file available in the market. Every device manufacturer had their own desktop app which would not work with any other device file type. 

We were trying to make sense of disparate and fragmented data, which meant we had to be at home to do our best work. Being away from the home office meant you left vast amounts of valuable data behind within those three-ring binders.

In a nutshell, none of this was very efficient or scalable. 

And so the TrainingPeaks journey began. Our initial intent was to make our lives as coaches easier and at the same time deliver a better quality service to our clients. It was the late 90s and this thing called “the internet” was here to stay. I envisioned a calendar and training log that could be accessible from any computer and could capture any training data. 

Luckily a good friend (and the best man in my wedding) just happened to be a web developer. Gear Fisher was the one and only person Joe and I approached with our concept and we hoped he would see our same vision. After discussing the project over a few beers in Vail, and a follow-up email on September, 20th 1999 to confirm our vision, Gear was onboard and we were off and running. No business plan, no venture capital money. Just a strong need and a clear vision.

The focus and purpose of TrainingPeaks for the past 20 years has always been to empower endurance athletes and coaches to achieve their goals, pursue their passions, and improve their lives. Simply put, we are here to serve the coach so they can provide the highest quality service possible to their clients. We also believe the coach needs to be successful in order for TrainingPeaks to fulfill its mission and continue to grow. 

Never Stop Evolving

TrainingPeaks was the first to upload and analyze power and heart rate files within a web browser. In fact, the significance of this pioneering milestone was met within the industry by, “So what? No one analyzes their data after they workout.” 

But guess what? Coaches knew the importance of this solution. It made their lives easier and they were able to leverage this new innovation to become better coaches and deliver higher quality services. Fast forward 20 years and now the world expects seamless tracking of not only power and heart rate, but also their steps and sleep patterns. 

What a ride it has been, and we are far from being done.

We are continuing to add tools and integrations to help you coach more efficiently, including our latest WKO5 product release with new training metrics. In 2019, we were the launch partner with Garmin on their new structured workout sync, and we released a direct integration from Fitbit. We will continue our integrations in the near future with Apple Health, and remain committed to providing integrations with partners offering the latest training methodologies. 

Along the way, we’ve built a marketplace in order to help you, the coach, sell your services, including a Coach Directory, the world’s largest Training Plan Store and the world’s most successful Coach Match™ Service.

Our Big Opportunity 

Even with the work we have done within our software offering, we continue to be made aware of an even bigger opportunity that awaits our coaching customers. Keep in mind that when I say “our,” I’m including you the coach. TrainingPeaks has built a trusted brand that athletes seek out when they ask themselves, “What should I do tomorrow?” This is the one characteristic that separates TrainingPeaks from Strava, Fitbit, Garmin Connect, Apple Health and all of the other fitness tracking devices and apps.   

Recently, TrainingPeaks commissioned a research firm to analyze why athletes come to TrainingPeaks. The results were humbling as they show just how much more opportunity we have to serve the needs of the endurance athlete. As a result of this, we have successfully shifted demand away from software releases to coaching services. Simply put, more than 500,000 unique athletes come to TrainingPeaks monthly looking for your services.

Once a committed athlete sets a goal and discovers TrainingPeaks, they will be driven toward your coaching services and our marketplace offerings enhanced by our software solutions. It has taken 20 years, but the shift in the marketplace has taken hold. Athletes used to come to TrainingPeaks for software, now they come looking for expert instruction. 

This shift makes me, as a founder, very proud as it was my mission from day one. I believe in helping people reach their potential, which in turn leads them to achieve their dreams. 

Together we have a huge opportunity to better serve the needs of today’s athletes and tomorrow’s champions. 

Improvements to our training plans store are also underway to make it easier for athletes to more quickly interpret what they are buying. We will also create a recommendation engine to help the athlete find just the right plan for their needs.

New Technology & Marketplace Services

Our research also showed that athletes are looking for services that we do not provide today. Currently, we really only offer static training plans, which don’t adapt to the athlete’s lifestyle, or, we offer premium coaching, which can accommodate all the needs of the athlete but costs a lot more. Many of today’s athletes want to start with a plan that can adapt to their busy lives and continue to grow with them until they see the true value in hiring a personal coach. Our message will always be that an experienced personal coach is always the best choice.

Feedback from potential endurance athletes has been clear. We attract a lot of event participants, but we don’t have the services they are looking for. We need to enable coaches to easily deliver next-generation services.  

New technologies will provide the coach with more coaching tools to help them make faster, better decisions. We want to embrace the machine to do things that make the coach the hero. Even with these new advancements, we continue to believe that only humans can integrate all the complex variables of coaching in order to prescribe the most effective training for the goal at hand.

There are hundreds of apps available today to athletes that try to replace the coach. Often times these apps don’t have a coach behind them, but instead are a brand that may or may not truly know what is best for the athlete. We want to empower the coach by building solutions with them, not around them.  

The next generation of training plans will be adaptive, taking into account lifestyle, work, family and overall athlete availability rather than a “one-size fits all” approach. However, we are not forcing coaches to create solutions to solve the needs of hundreds of athletes if they don’t want to. These same solutions can help a low-volume, high-priced coach become even more effective for their limited client numbers. Coaches should be given the ability to spend less time on the computer, and more time with their athletes doing what they do best—listening, understanding, empathizing and strategizing. In the future, TrainingPeaks will function like your own assistant coach, freeing up your time to do just that. 

We are at our core a technology company. Our job is to bring you the tools you will need before you know you need them. We’ve learned to do that well and we need to follow these principles:

1) Trust matters most. 

2) Show steady progress.

3) Minimize variables. 

Over the last two years we have been doing the R&D on an adaptive engine to drive the future of your training plans. We are now embarking on our first test of the engine with an app in collaboration with legendary running coach Hal Higdon. It’s very important we tune the engine with real athletes to make sure the answers it provides are always trusted. Once we are confident in running we will move to other sports like cycling and eventually expand to multisport plans like triathlon. It’s critical that we do this methodically, continuously tuning the engine to make sure we deliver answers you and your athletes trust.  

Ultimately, our goal is to develop new tools and services that allow you to utilize technology through TrainingPeaks, driving more athletes to you, and making you as efficient as possible, so you can focus on what you love most, coaching. 

While an adaptive engine for creating training plans is just one way we’ve identified to help bring new services to you, we also need your guidance on other tools and services we can help you provide to your athletes. What services do you offer today that we can streamline and make even better? How can we help you become more efficient so you can become a more successful coach? There are many questions that need to be answered so we can continue to move down this new path unhindered, and with a clearer focus. 

The road ahead is bright, and we’re so happy to have you on this journey with us.

To learn more about our 20-year milestone and our vision for the future, watch the video below from the 2019 Endurance Coaching Summit:

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About Dirk Friel

Dirk Friel is co-founder and Chief Evangelist of TrainingPeaks and Peaksware. Dirk has been helping age-group athletes, Olympians and World Champions track, analyze and plan their training for more than 20 years.