IN THE MARKET FOR AN INTERNET COACH? Then you'll need to decide between a virtual coach (costs range from $0-$20 per month; no personal interaction included) and a bona fide online coach (costs range from $60 and up per month; live coach at the other end of the line). A virtual coach will offer preset workouts and/or use a computer program to spit out training schedules based on the personal data you supply (weight, fitness level, performance goals). Try it if you just want to ramp up your cycling for Saturday training rides with the club. But if you're serious about knocking off, say, an Ironman triathlon or a sub-three-hour marathon, then an online coach may be the ticket. Depending on the level of coaching you can afford, you'll get a customized training program, nutrition advice, technique tips, race strategy suggestions, and moral support when the going gets tough.
Be warned that in the fly-by-night anarchy of the Internet, anybody can put up a Web page and market himself as a coach. The four Web sites belowin addition to the CTS program detailed on the previous pagesare all reliable places to start. In general, avoid companies that charge more than three months' fees in advance. "There's no guarantee that those services are going to come through," says Kent D. Johnson of the American College of Sports Medicine. "The site could just disappear tomorrow." If you decide to go with an online coach, interview the prospective coach and make sure he or she will be with you for the duration of the program. Says Johnson: "The last thing you want is to get training advice from whoever's on duty when your e-mail query arrives."
(Beyond CTS——Four More Sites)URLTHE LOWDOWNRUNNING
COST: FREEThis runners' site, designed by Hal Higdon, training consultant for the Chicago Marathon, offers 5- to 27-week training calendars for anything from 5k's to marathons.SWIMMING
usms.org/training COST: FREEManaged by U.S. MASTERS SWIMMING, usms.org offers swimming workouts developed by Masters swim coaches from across the nation. Each week, three new weeklong workouts appear on the site, for beginners and elite-level athletes.FITNESS
COST: $30 per monthThis site provides users with personalized workouts for strength, cardio, and flexibility training. Each user is assigned a CERTIFIED PERSONAL TRAINER who supplies workouts and tips several times each week and is available for unlimited Q&As via e-mail.TRIATHLON
COST: $50 per monthRun by Roch Frey and Paul Huddle, coaches of Ironman triathlon champs Paula Newby-Fraser and Peter Reid, multisports.com features thorough (but not customized) training schedules packed with training minutiae for a variety of triathlon distances, from sprint to Ironman.