Matt Fitzgerald And David Warden Portrait Of 80/20 Endurance For Coachcast

Keys to Training Plans with David Warden and Matt Fitzgerald

BY TrainingPeaks CoachCast Host Dirk Friel

Training plans are exceptionally valuable for athletes aiming for goals and an excellent means to diversify a coaching business. Listen to how 80/20 Endurance is evolving and continuing to focus on demand-driven services for athletes.

David Warden and Matt Fitzgerald are the founders of 80/20 Endurance, one of the pioneers of endurance training plans. 80/20 sold its first plan within the TrainingPeaks Marketplace in 2005. Their plans have helped hundreds of thousands of athletes of all experience and ability levels achieve their goals.

David Warden is an internationally recognized coach and author with clients including world champion age group racers, duathlon champions and multiple Ironman World Championship qualifiers. He is the co-author of “Triathlon Science,” the industry standard for triathlon coaches, and “80/20 Triathlon.”

Matt Fitzgerald is an acclaimed endurance sports coach, nutritionist and author, haven written over 30 books, including “The Endurance Diet,” “80/20 Running” and “How Bad Do You Want It?”

David and Matt sat down with Dirk to talk all things training plans. From valuable insight for coaches making and selling programs to advice for athletes choosing a plan, it’s a must-listen for anyone using training plans. Plus, the 80/20 duo reveal some exciting plans for coaches and athletes looking to advance their skills in the endurance athlete world.

Q&A with David and Matt for Coaches Making Plans

What first step would you suggest a coach take to build training plans?

David Warden:

Definitely, the first step is to be the best athlete that you can be. You’re going to be a better coach and a better author of a training plan. If you’ve been through the same steps you’re going to be asking the athletes that read your plans to follow. So being the best athlete you can be first and learning all that you can as an athlete before you transition to an author and a coach.

What have you found makes a training plan the most attractive to an athlete looking for a plan?

Matt Fitzgerald:

I’m going to go with empathy on that. When athletes are shopping for plans, they want to feel like the plan is talking to them. It needs to be understandable. It needs to be presented as the solution to a problem, whether it’s, you know, qualifying for Boston or avoiding injury or something like that. So for coaches, put yourself in the shoes of the athlete you’re trying to reach with your plans and really sort of try to inhabit their perspective and create plans. And also, package them in a way that speaks directly to the athletes you’re trying to reach.

Are any special marketing efforts around training plans that you sell?

Matt:

You know, we are not good advice givers on that because we started off, you know, this company was founded by a well-known author of endurance sports books like those that I write are marketing. You know, they really are like that. I built a reputation for myself — and with no agenda. I was not intending to build a business around training plans, but it worked out that way. 

So I’m not going to turn around and say, if you want to be successful in marketing your plans, write 31 books about endurance sports. All I can tell you is like, it’s a big reason we’re successful. It’s like, you know, marketing is a way to stand out from the noise. So, you know, writing books is not the most efficient way for most coaches to market their plans and services. But marketing is powerful. So just do it your way and get behind it, and it will help you succeed.

How do you approach customer service for an athlete who has questions about plans or needs to change to a different plan?

David:

[It’s] a highly competitive environment in coaching, endurance coaching. And there are hundreds of great authors and great coaches out there. One of the ways that you can differentiate yourself is through customer service. And my advice is just to embrace it, just accept it, not as overhead and not as something that is a burden, but as a way that you can get great feedback from great athletes on how you can improve your processes and improve your plan.

So embrace that whole customer support process. It can be a little bit overwhelming and frustrating sometimes, but it’s an important part of developing yourself as a coach and as an author of plans.

Training plans can be educational and lead towards one-on-one coaching later on with a well-versed athlete. Is it not a great educational effort as well?

Matt:

Yes, I’m a big believer that coaches should almost try to put themselves out of a job. Like, you’re doing your job well if you’re sort of pretending that you’re trying to turn your athlete into a coach. Because that’s actually how you get them to succeed as an athlete. If they really learn the sport and get to the point where they’re able to consistently and confidently make very good decisions for themselves, it’s like, yeah, it makes you as the coach a little bit redundant. But not really. That’s a sign that you’re a great coach, and so you can do that through plans as well. Don’t worry about giving away the farm and not being needed anymore. Just help your athletes learn to truly master the sport on a deep level. And you’ll get your reward.

What’s one thing we haven’t discussed that you may have wanted to get into the conversation?

Matt:

I’ve got one, for me, like a training plan…we tend to think of it as just a blueprint or a set of instructions. And, you know, at its core, it is that. But it’s also an experience. I think it behooves coaches to recognize that, actually. I mean, the training is the training, right? But the plan…athletes are actually spending a lot of time with the plan independent of the training. And you should see that experience for what it is. So make it fun. Make it interesting. You know, if you look at our plans, like every single workout tile in the entire plan — it could be a 24-week-long plan — has some original content in it.

So you open it up, and it like tells you a story about the workout or tells you something contextual about where you are with the plan. And that’s part of the whole empathy piece. Put yourself in the shoes of the athlete. Realize that there’s an opportunity in these plans you create to really just make it fun, put variety in there, and make it stickier in that way.

So, that would be my parting piece of advice.

80/20 Endurance and Matt and David Online

8020endurance.com
80/20 Endurance on Instagram
80/20 Endurance on Facebook
80/20 Foundation

David Warden Books
Triathlon Science
80/20 Triathlon

Matt Fitgerald Books
The Endurance Diet
80/20 Running
How Bad Do You Want It?

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About TrainingPeaks CoachCast Host Dirk Friel

Dirk Friel is the host of the TrainingPeaks CoachCast and Co-Founder of TrainingPeaks. He is a lifelong athlete with a passion for cycling and ski mountaineering and firmly believes in goal setting, dedicated deliberate training and coaching for all. Learn more about his work at TrainingPeaks and follow his adventures on Instagram @dirkfriel.

Visit TrainingPeaks CoachCast Host Dirk Friel's Coach Profile