Electronic Triathlon Training Plan or Training Book? Which is Best?

Karen Parnell November 12, 2021


By Karen Parnell

If you are a triathlete, runner, swimmer or cyclist training for a specific event your know you will need structured training to reach or exceed your goal or smash your A race. There are many ways to do this from buying a training book, joining a local club, downloading a free training plan PDF, engaging a 121 coach to write you a specific plan or purchasing a training plan from a training platform like Final Surge or TrainingPeaks.

Here we will discuss the differences between buying a training book or buying a training plan from a platform and the pros and cons.

Triathlon Training Books

Many triathletes have reached their training goals by purchasing a triathlon training book. Books are packed with a plethora of information on training phases, periodisation, training sessions, nutrition & hydration advice and more. Once you purchase one you can follow the level of plan your require (beginner, intermediate or advanced typically) and read all the relevant sections as many times as you want. Many contain a matrix of training sessions which you need to piece together from various tables and probably type up or write out before each session.

The books will be based on the training principles of the day it was written so if you buy a book published many years ago it may be a little out of date but if you stick to the plan you will probably meet your goals. They don't tend to include links to videos detailing the drills and exercises.

Choosing a book has shown that you know you need guidance and structure to your training which is a big step towards meeting your goals. Using a training book will mean you need al lot of self motivation and you will need to construct a plan based on your needs and level. Most training books have the training sessions in one section of the book referenced from a table so you will probably need to flick between several pages to find your daily sessions and piece them together.

Training Plans delivered via a Training App

Training plans delivered via an App like Final Surge, TrainingPeaks and TrainingTilt are relatively new but gaining traction for a number of reasons. The plans are written by professional coaches and delivered to your phone, table or PC daily, weekly, monthly or annually depending on your preferences.

Many training platforms like Final Surge and TrainingPeaks are FREE for athletes so you can sign up quickly and easily to start using a structured plan. You can choose a plan from the online store based on your specific needs from a coach you like. The coaches bio is usually there so you can check out their credentials and read athlete testimonials. Most of the App sites let you filter down to event type, distance, how many weeks you have to train before your event and even race name! 

As you can see you can get really specific with what plan you need. Once you have selected your plan you purchase it and that´s a one time fee. You assign it to your athlete area and start the plan. Your sessions come through every day and most plans include structured sessions so you can train to RPE, Heart Rate, Pace or Power. You can even download your session to your Garmin, Polar or other device so no more writing down your sessions. Some plans include sessions compatible with Zwift, The Sufferfest (now part of Wahoo X), Trainer Road etc. If the sessions are structured you can send the details to your Garmin or other smart watch and see your step by step swimming, running and cycling plans so no need to print them out - just follow along.

Because they are electronic they will be using the latest training methodologies and some even include the ability to email your coach for extra advice or join their Facebook group for extra training tips and peer support. You can also swap sessions around if you can´t get to the swimming that day for example. You should also get videos of swimming drills, running drills, strength exercises, Pilates, stretching, foam rolling techniques and more embedded in each training session so you always know what you need to do.

This table below shows the main differences between book and App based training plan delivered via TrainingPeaks, FinalSurge etc. 

training book versus app plan

Table: The differences between training book and online training plan delivered by an App like FinalSurge or TrainingPeaks


As you can see there are pros and cons for each method of training and it comes down to your budget, how you like to train and whether you would like to train with the latest techniques. The price differential is not that great so maybe take a look at Final SurgeTrainingPeaks, TrainingTilt or other training platform to see if there´s a plan for you?


Training Plans

Are you training for a triathlon, cycling, swimming or running race or event? I have written plans for all levels and distances and they are on TrainingPeaks and FinalSurge. You can take a look in the links below.

Triathlon, Cycling, Running and Swimming Training Plans on TrainingPeaks.


Off-season and Maintenance plans:




Triathlon Plans on FinalSurge.

Cycling Plans on FinalSurge.

Running Plans on FinalSurge.

Swimming Plans on FinalSurge.

Strength and Conditioning Plans on FinalSurge.

You can take a look at more training plan examples HERE.

Would you like a free training plan? Claim your free plan or e-book.

Cant' see the training plan type or distance? Let me know and I will create it for you free of charge. Request a plan here.

FAQ: Triathlon training plan books, free PDF plans, and training plans on TrainingPeaks and Final Surge

What are triathlon training plan books?

Triathlon training plan books are resources that provide comprehensive training plans designed specifically for triathletes. These books typically cover various distances, from sprint to Ironman, and offer structured workout schedules, guidance on training volume and intensity, as well as tips on nutrition, recovery, and race preparation.

What are the benefits of using triathlon training plan books?

Triathlon training plan books offer several benefits:

  • Expert guidance: Training plan books are often written by experienced coaches or accomplished triathletes who share their knowledge and insights. They provide expert guidance and tried-and-tested training methodologies.
  • Structured training: Training plan books offer structured workout schedules, taking the guesswork out of planning your training. They provide a clear roadmap to follow, including specific workouts, rest days, and progression over time.
  • Goal-oriented approach: Many training plan books are designed to help athletes achieve specific goals, whether it's completing their first triathlon, setting a personal record, or qualifying for a specific race. They often incorporate periodization and goal-specific workouts to help athletes reach their targets.
  • Convenience: Training plan books are readily available in bookstores or online platforms, allowing athletes to access training plans at their convenience. They provide a comprehensive resource in a compact and portable format.

Are there any recommended triathlon training plan books?

There are several popular triathlon training plan books available. Some recommended options include "The Triathlete's Training Bible" by Joe Friel, "Be IronFit: Time-Efficient Training Secrets for Ultimate Fitness" by Don Fink, and "Your First Triathlon" by Joe Friel and Gordon Byrn. These books provide detailed training plans, insights, and valuable information for triathletes of all levels.

Can I find free PDF triathlon training plans online?

There are numerous websites and resources that offer free PDF triathlon training plans. Many coaches and organizations provide downloadable plans that cater to different distances and skill levels. It's important to review the source and ensure the plan aligns with your goals, abilities, and training preferences. Check the qualifications of the plan author.

What are TrainingPeaks and Final Surge?

TrainingPeaks and Final Surge are online platforms that provide tools and services for athletes and coaches to plan, track, and analyse training data. These platforms offer a wide range of training plans designed by professional coaches, including triathlon-specific plans.

What are the benefits of using TrainingPeaks or Final Surge for triathlon training plans?

Using TrainingPeaks or Final Surge for triathlon training plans offers several advantages:

  • Customization: These platforms allow athletes to find and choose training plans that suit their specific needs, such as target race distance, available training hours, and individual fitness level.
  • Flexibility: Training plans on these platforms can be customized to fit an athlete's schedule and preferences. They often include features like workout adjustments, rescheduling, and progress tracking.
  • Data integration: TrainingPeaks and Final Surge can integrate with various fitness devices and apps, allowing athletes to track and analyse their training data in one place. This helps monitor progress, identify trends, and make informed training decisions.
  • Coach collaboration: Athletes working with coaches can use these platforms to receive personalized training plans, communicate with their coach, and receive feedback on their workouts and progress.

Are there costs associated with using TrainingPeaks or Final Surge?

TrainingPeaks and Final Surge offer both free and premium subscription plans. While some training plans and basic features are available for free, premium subscriptions unlock additional functionality, such as advanced analytics, enhanced data integration, and more extensive plan customization. The cost of premium subscriptions varies depending on the features and services desired. Training plans from qualified coaches are also available on both platforms and are an affordable way to get a professional training plan. Check the qualifications of the coach who wrote the plan.

Remember, whether you choose a triathlon training plan book, free PDF plans, or utilize online platforms, it's essential to select a plan that aligns with your goals, abilities, and lifestyle. Consult with a coach or experienced triathlete for guidance and listen to your body throughout the training process to avoid overtraining and reduce the risk of injury.

Karen Parnell is a Level 3 British Triathlon and IRONMAN Certified Coach, NASM Personal Trainer and Sports Technology Writer.

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