Optimized Training Stress - new app being developed by Dr Phil Skiba and Frank Overton

It’s actually pretty well documented on Github. I found it recently as I was wondering if there was an API explanation for why Wahoo pops up a Training Peaks workout you’ve already completed when you turn on your bike computer. The answer being that the API has a completed flag to tell you it’s been completed and I guess they’re just not looking at it.

It’s not an open API though, they’ve closed it to partners only.

I’d be highly surprised if FasCat aren’t building their own workout player. Though a great many of their coaches seem heavily invested in the Zwift system so it might be moot. Maybe they can port directly there?

Join are working on their own player, and they’re not really claiming to be a one stop shop.

TR still seems to be far and away the best workout player. Interesting that something that seems so simple appears difficult to nail.

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How do they get the workout into zwift? Why does this seem more complicated then it needs to be

If I’m understanding the answers correctly, I think it’s the same as “before Optimize”. FasCat send the training plan to TrainingPeaks, which then sends the workout to Zwift. The only difference is you have to ask their support team to send it to TP if you’re using Optimize.

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I think this is a smart move: they are setting themselves apart from TR, giving users an incentive to try their coaching services and offer something genuinely new at the same time.

Of course, we should reserve some skepticism as to how well their OTS score actually works, but seeing as who has been involved, I have hopes.

That seems, hmmm, suboptimal. Previously, FasCat was all-in on TP, AFAIK you got a free subscription when you got coached by them (going by what Coach Frank said on past podcasts).

By the way, I checked their website, and I am thoroughly confused by it: I don’t see OTS touted anywhere, just a “Optimize subscription $34.99 per month” below the fold. And it is listed separately from “Training plans”. AFAIK you can’t get one without the other. Am I missing something obvious?

The pricing of its training plans also seem messed up: when I select the first training plan in the offseason section, the price listed on the overview page is listed as $34.99, discounted from $454.87. Once I select it and go to the details page, the price changes to $299. Now I think I understand how two of these prices came to be, but this is just super confusing and bad marketing. That is in addition to them not advertising their marquee feature.

PS I did register for FasCat’s OTS mailing list a few months ago, but never got any announcement I think.

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Same. It was brilliant to get Skiba involved.

That’s correct, and it’s why I said above it was weird that they seem to be trying to separate from TP, but the only way to do a workout is by having TP. I’m glad I’m not the only one who tried to dive in and walked away totally confused. That’s why I asked all the questions above. Between what I’ve found here, on the FasCat forum, on their FB page, and through their short articles and FAQ page, I think I finally understand.

As far as pricing, you can no longer officially just buy a training plan. There is a workaround of buying it directly in TP, but whenever anyone mentions that in their forum or on FB, FasCat do not “endorse” the answer, which leads me to believe they don’t want that to be available. Instead, they want you to buy the Optimize plan, which means you get the app and access to ALL of their content (cycling plans, meal plans, weight plans) for one subscription price, but you don’t own the content like you do when you actually buy a plan. As long as you subscribe ($34.99 mo), you have access to everything. It’s on sale for $299 a year, but with their discount code, it’s half that, $150 a year. That’s where all those different numbers are coming from. The website pricing strategy is super confusing.

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To clarify, if you are a coached Fascat, you can either use a the “free” (basic version) of TP or you can subscribe for the premium version but you got a 30% discount on the premium. Premium just allows you to move workout more easily and see all the cool graphs.

I don’t know what the situation is with the new approach. But sounds like you can still use basic TP but ask to have workouts pushed?

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I am interested, but perhaps too many open questions for me to pull the trigger. The biggest selling point to me is access to ALL the training plans, but it sounds like a hassle to get a training plan. I am the type who would like to go into each one and look at the workouts before I select it. Is it correct to say that I can’t do that unless I contact a coach and ask them to put the plan on TP for me? Am I going to get hassled /questioned by FasCat when I ask for them to put 10 different ones on there?

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Early adopters will benefit from the 50% off right now, but for most of us it certainly seems like a wait and see approach would be the smart play. Given the questions about HRV (device accuracy in the first place, and also how to apply HRV readings to training), as well as the beta nature of the app and device integration, I certainly don’t feel up to trying it yet.

Hopefully this will be a lot more sorted by Black Friday 2023.

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Slightly related but I’m curious of opinions on this - do people favor workout players over something like TrainingPeaks and doing the ride how they want?

I used the Xert player for a bit and actually found I preferred just getting it into TP instead, and then doing it via RGT or something else.

Having used the app I feel like they’ve bitten off more than they can chew. The app at the moment is just a portal for you to view your latest OTS score and to contact support/coaches. You can choose a training plan and add it to your calendar but you can only start on Mondays, can’t reschedule workouts or move anything. You also can’t do the workouts in app either so you need to contact them to get your plan sent to TrainingPeaks so you can sync with Zwift or a head unit. This then decouples your training from what is laid out in the app.

The OTS metric is interesting but I don’t get the decision to build an app around it rather than working with TrainingPeaks to integrate it there. Frank and team have effectively committed to building a trainerroad clone and seem to have grossly underestimated what it would take to do that.

From a business standpoint it makes sense for them to move to a subscription model as income from selling one off plans is inconsistent, but they’ve done it in a way which also moves the company towards becoming a tech company rather than a coaching company.

My suspicion is that Frank wanted to go down the app route as it makes a subscription based model easier, was aware that he needed something different to stand out against the competition, and that’s where OTS came from. I don’t think OTS is enough of a differentiator, especially when it relies on data from wearables which require a separate subscription.

I’ll keep tabs on where it goes but I think trainerroad is doing far more interesting things and represents much better value at this time.

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I have many more thoughts! But unfortunately, not a ton of time on a very busy day off. For my perspective: I’ve been on the product/program management side of software for 20ish years in addition to, you know, riding bikes a bunch.

I think Optimize has an enormous amount of potential considering the brains on the training side of the equation, but I’m worried it was pushed out too quickly to try to catch the holiday rush and the start of serious indoor winter base training.

In the interest of time I’ll throw up a bunch of bullet points:

  • From a product/marketing angle, everything is a huge freaking mess. The Optimize app and the training plan subscription are two entirely separate products sold as one things, which leads users to expect them to work as one product when they don’t. The library of workouts and plans lives in the Optimize app and you can apply it to the training calendar within the app, but the only way to actually export them anywhere is through manual application of the plan to TP by Fascat. The obvious workflow here is User browses plan library → User applies plan to calendar → Workouts become available to devices/workouts players through integrations. I expect this is coming shortly, or at least really should be.

  • Even within the Library portion of the app, there’s no visibility into the workouts in a plan, just a high-level overview and description. We’re already past the paywall at this point, so we should have full visibility.

  • The training plans are the standard Fascat plans, with all the variations from Basic to Pro level depending on the plan. The availability of coaches to chat with a huge selling point, as well. So in terms of adjusting the plans for sickness and availability, that could make a big difference when things come up.

Again, I’m optimistic about the potential but it is definitely no threat to TR at this point, as TR is far and away the most polished and best working app out there. I’ll keep tinkering and will update.

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That’s interesting. Where did you hear this as I’m using JOIN and loving it.

Same here. And I used the 18 weeks of Sweet Spot base in early 2020 and saw better gains and broke thru the 250W ftp ceiling I had following (TR) plans with more intensity. Frank Overton has been using a power meter for ~20 years, coaching for nearly as long, ran a performance lab with lactate testing, turned 50 recently, partnered with Skiba, etc., etc.

I’d buy it if I didn’t have a FC coach. As someone with multiple years TR and TP experience, its clear to me that TrainingPeaks is far better at handling the pre-/inride-/post- workout lifecycle for those that train both inside and outside. Inside I’d rather have fully functional training experience, and ability to easily use the most powerful mode (Sim) on my Kickr direct-drive.

My 2 cents FWIW.

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Which leads to the logical question: when does Fascat start using the app with its coached athletes? That to me will the point at which Fascat thinks the app is really ready for prime time.

My coach and I met on Tuesday and we talked about the app’s OTS and Optimize score. Even though I’m in trial mode, I am monitoring and OTS and Optimize score. So far so good. The app complements TrainingPeaks, which is how I receive/execute workouts and interact with my coach. FWIW I’ve actually seen some useful OTS scores (vs TSS on Intervals/Garmin/TP/WKO), and discussed this with my coach including one from Monday this week. I’m ramping up time/load right now (11.5 hours last week, shooting for 12.5 hours this week), and pushing the limits of my personal ramp rate a bit, so the OTS feedback is timely and useful.

This is the first release and early days for the app. You can use a free TP account with it, to send workouts to TR, Zwift, RGT, bike computer, etc. Frank has posted on FasCat forums about plans to innovate by doing more stuff in app - he didn’t list specifics. I mostly train outside, and when inside I use free RGT to control Kickr in sim mode (Apple TV) which works perfect with using my bike computer for training UX. One UX to rule them all, reduced cognitive load and all that :+1:

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This is what I was thinking too. If it works, OTS score could be really valuable when you’re trying to push load/volume. I feel like I get a lot of good data from Garmin, but Body Battery isn’t one of them. I can’t tell you how many times it says I’m cooked and I have a great workout, or I take 2 days off and it still says I’m exhausted. I’d love to be able to use it for what OTS is supposed to do, but for me, it just doesn’t work.

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But your coach is not officially beta testing OTS with you correct? I would have expected that FasCat coaching will involve its coaches in beta testing OTS (at least on a voluntary basis). After all, isn’t the point of OTS to supersede TSS and derived quantities like CTL?

Then the website is a dumpster fire. From what I understand: there is only a single product now: their subscription. You can pay yearly ($299) or monthly ($35), although currently you get 50 % off.

All services except for 1-on-1 coaching are part of it: OTS, all training plans, strength training plans, meal plans. Why not make that clear? Why make it appear as if I have to choose between OTS and a training plan subscription.

Stupid question: how are you supposed to adapt your training plan depending on your OTS score? That’s all manual, correct?

Your perspective is appreciated. I will sound overly negative here, but I actually want FasCat Coaching to succeed: what they are attempting to do is genuinely interesting and could potentially give them a leg up. They have advantages already in how they integrate e. g. strength and yoga sessions into their training plans.

I also had a look at their training plans: for all the (justified) criticism TR gets, I sometimes forget the level of the competition. I am fairly knowledgable and found myself overwhelmed by choice — not a great customer experience. It doesn’t seem to structure the training plans into training phases, informing the athlete that e. g. naturally Plan B is the natural next step from Plan A. I am sure support would help you out here, but I think this can be done better. I can’t help but think that this was due to their old business model.

Going to subscriptions shifts the incentives and they no longer have to present plans in isolation.

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You can still purchase the stand-alone training plans from TrainingPeaks as opposed to the fascat website or app.

@OreoCookieu

Have a look at @fljones3’s post: according to the owner Frank Overton, this is not the case. Even if you can still buy them now, that seems to be deprecated and I presume sales will be halted very soon.

More generally, they seem to cut ties to TP to some degree. In the past, they used to be tightly integrated with TP, so much so that you’d get a discount or a free TP Premium subscription (depending on the service you are asking for).