Ultrafit One-on-One Coaching
PRICE: $200 initial fee plus $250$1,000 per month, depending on coach
DETAILS: If top trainers were stocks, this would be your broker. The site hooks you up with endurance coaches like two-time national cycling champ Lynda Wallenfels and training guru and author Joe Friel. A typical plan includes unlimited e-mail contact, with some phone access.
PROS: Only four to six new coaches are welcomed to Ultrafit's exclusive ranks each year. The screening process, which includes reviews from current clients, makes getting into the CIA look easy.
CONS: It's pricey if you don't need an expert, and Ultrafit doesn't provide centralized online support after the handoff.
BEST FOR: The high roller who retired early to focus on competing at the Ironman level
Carmichael Training Systems
PRICE: $99 per month (Signature package)
DETAILS: Launched by Chris Carmichael, Lance Armstrong's longtime coach, CTS offers six packages, delivering more one-on-one coaching with each upgrade. The Signature level provides the most economical approach to working closely with a personal trainer.
PROS: Preoccupied with work issues during your training? Your coach will see the dip in productivity on your daily logs, call to find out what's up, and tweak your program accordingly.
CONS: Coach time is limited to roughly two hours per month. If your schedule changes frequently, consider the Select level ($50 extra).
BEST FOR: The recreational endurance athlete who needs a kick in the ass to train more efficiently
PRICE: $75 per six-week cycle
DETAILS: Feel like you're part of a team with this site. You'll train with a virtual group of athletes during each six-week program cycle, supported by an online forum with your coaches, Roch Frey and Paul Huddle, both former Ironman pros and coaches of past champions.
PROS: The cohort acts like a training peloton, keeping you motivated and providing access to online discussion boards where you can share experiences with others going through the program.
CONS: Because the coaches don't initiate any communication, there's no accountability from the top.
BEST FOR: Triathletes looking for the best program without the coddling of a daily coach
PRICE: $65 per month (Platinum membership)
DETAILS: HDO combines the customized program development and e-mail contact of personal trainers with a boatload of site-specific resources, courtesy of Harvard software developers. The result is a personal approach that still puts a lot of tools in your hands.
PROS: A fast and intuitive new interface was launched last summer. The slick program is also being used as the official training planner for entrants in this November's New York City Marathon.
CONS: For the price, you'd expect to talk to your coach on the phone, but you're limited to corresponding by e-mail.
BEST FOR: The time-crunched executive who wants daily workouts sent to his BlackBerry
PRICE: $6.99 per month
DETAILS: Here's a true Digital Age option: Your workouts are developed exclusively by software created by a team of fitness experts, and supported solely via e-mail customer service. The customized programs are impressive for the price.
PROS: My Diet, a nutrition component available for $3 more per month, allows you to personalize meals based on what you like to eat, not just the number of calories you should consume.
CONS: With no phone support, you need to be versed in fitness and computer basics to maximize the benefits.
BEST FOR: Tech-savvy former high school heroes hoping to lose the gut