In this last article of Frank Smuts’s three-part series explaining the ins and outs of Strava, the veteran triathlete explains the many training benefits you get when signing up as a premium member

Strava offers excellent training programs. This is no exaggeration. What would you say if I whispered in your ear that Lance Armstrong’s ex-cycling coach writes the cycling programs? Or that the running programs are constructed by MacMillan Running, one of America’s leading run coaching academies? My point is: As much as Strava is a cyber-based platform, you’d be wrong to think its coaching structures are based on computer generated algorithms alone – there are real coaches with years of training experience and solid reputations behind it all.

However, to access this level of Strava functionality, you have to commit and spend some cash. Training programs are only available to premium account members, which costs about R120 per month. To put this amount into perspective, though, if you join a local group coaching program in your area, you can easily expect to pay around R600 a month. So you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to work out that spending R120 for all the premium account perks, plus the training programs makes the Strava option well worth the money.

I really mean this. Other than perks like Strava Live, audio books, and discounts on personal programs from Carmichael Training Systems and Macmillan Running, you also get access to all their dedicated Strava training programs. This includes training videos, cycling and running training programs, along with “Power Curve” and “Fitness and Freshness”. For those not in the know, Power Curve tracks the progression of your power based training, while Fitness and Freshness analyses your fitness, fatigue and form.

These Premium Perks deserve an explanation of their own, but for now we’ll just focus on the different training programs Strava offers.

Showing you the way
First on the menu are the training videos that focus on specific areas of training such as endurance, strength, speed and climbing. These are great as they guide you minute by minute through their entire programs. They’re also very good for solid indoor bike training workouts. All you have to do is get on your indoor bike and do as the video instructor tells you. They’re all designed to meet definite fitness goals, with energetic soundtracks to keep you going. Plus their workouts get uploaded when your sports watch syncs (if you used its Indoor Bike setting), or manually if you just followed the real time prompts on the video without a watch. These days IDT set-ups like Zwift offer excellent features, but if you don’t want to break the bank, then these training videos are a great alternative.

Customised training programs
The real value in signing up for a premium membership is in the training programs that get emailed to you on a daily basis. Your program will be customised around personal factors such as your age, fitness level and the amount of hours you can afford to train in a week. Programs also address the fitness elements required for a good race result, like speed, stamina and strength.

These programs are not totally personal in the sense that your execution will be analysed with personal feedback, but they offer superbly structured programs. And, if you’re able to stick to them, they can be as valuable as a personalized program. Most coaches know that missed sessions and injuries are the main factors that necessitate personal adjustment to programs. So if you stick to what Strava tells you, you’ll be sorted.

That said, if you’re new to structured training you’ll undoubtedly come across key words like endurance, steady state, tempo, intervals, intensity, frequency and other training-related terminology that makes you go cross-eyed – don’t stress, Macmillan’s website provides a great glossary that’ll enlighten you in all respects.

Running training
Running programs take care of the most popular distances and include 5, 10, half marathon and marathon. Like any other good coaching plan, your program will be designed according to your ability and the goal time you set for the distance you want to race. The McMillan pace calculator takes your age, fitness and preferred time into account and customizes your program accordingly. The correct frequency, duration and intensity will then be maintained to get you into optimal shape for race day.

Strava also gives you an overview of the full program so you can better understand the bigger picture behind your training plan. Programs run from 6 to 12 weeks. However, if your next race comes up sooner, you’ll be started later in the program according to the weeks you have remaining before race day. Here’s what you need to do: Just go to Training Plans under the Training menu, select the plan that suits your goal and click on Start Plan. You’ll first receive a confirmation email. Then your first workout will be mailed to you the afternoon before your starting date, and then every day thereafter.

Cycling training
Strava cycling programs comprise 10 customizable 4-week programs, all starting on a Monday and ending 28 days later. Once again, like with the running programs, endurance, speed and strength can be improved – so you can better your performances on all types of segments or races. As with running, you just enter your personal details and the program will adjust to suit your ability and goals.

All plans allow for Mondays and Fridays to be rest days. That’s so you can deliver quality, rather than quantity on all the other weekdays, and especially on weekends. Your endurance, climbing and sprinting will definitely improve if you stay with each program. However, it needs to be mentioned that a good base fitness is required to embark on any one of these programs. They’re somewhat past entry level, but again don’t stress – the MacMillan training site offers a test that’ll determine your current fitness level and assist you in choosing the right program.

What Fitness and Freshness does for you
If you use the Strava training programs to their full potential, your fitness will improve dramatically – and in this regard, the Fitness and Freshness gauge that comes with Strava Premium adds substantial value. Here’s why: To get fit, training is required, but with training comes fatigue. The correct way to stay on an upwards curve in terms of fitness gains, is to allow for sufficient rest. When fitness, fatigue and form are properly balanced out, you can peak on race day and get good results. Good form means you’ll be able to perform at your best. Or in the case of bad form, not. Simply put, fitness, fatigue and form go hand in hand, and the Fitness and Freshness gauge tells you exactly where you’re at – using an easy to read graph so you can better understand these aspects of your condition.

Bottom line: Strava training plans can definitely add value to your sporting life. My advice is that you make use of their 30 trial option and see for yourself what it can do for you. Happy training! – (c) 2017 NavWorld

Gear up for your next training session by downloading the Strava Mobile app here.

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