Boulder-born remote training platform connects athletes, musicians to coaches

Creating a layer of dialogue between trainer + performer

By Tatyana Sharpton May 20 2020

While many companies have seen decreased numbers throughout 2020’s Covid-19 freeze, Boulder-based TrainingPeaks, an endurance-focused training offshoot of software company Peaksware, has seen 100 percent increase in training plans delivered to athletes in March and April compared to the same time frame in 2019.

The platform provides coaches with a way to digitize training plans and track progress for athletes working toward a goal. The data the system tracks include completed workouts, metrics, and comments on what they did and how they feel, with immediate feedback.

Dreamed up in 1996 by Boulder pro-cyclist turned cycling coach Dirk Friel whose father also coached cyclists and triathletes before him, the company launched in 1999 with the addition of Dirk’s friend, fellow cyclist and web developer Gear Fisher. They collected their first revenue in 2000 and a couple years later went in full time.

Dirk Friel

“It was all bootstrapped from the beginning,” says Dirk. “No business plan, no debt. Just sweat equity.” Today, tens of thousands of coaches and even more athletes use its training programs.

Back then, communication between coaches and clients relied on email attachments, and Dirk, as a coach, needed a better way to organize his data and clients’ training information.

As more coaches signed on to use the TrainingPeaks software, and with the investment of now-CEO Andy Stephens in 2007, the company saw an opportunity to expand that model into new domains, including music and strength training, leading to the development of Peaksware. Since 2007, Peaksware has done a few rounds of funding with Andy, but not any big VC funding rounds.

Peaksware’s race-day-ready program through TrainingPeaks. Image:

In 2014, the founders expanded into the music realm and officially launched Peaksware, which now coordinates three more brands in addition to TrainingPeaks, including TrainHeroic, a strength and conditioning platform, Alfred Music, a global educational music publisher, and MakeMusic, a music technology company.

MakeMusic, Peaksware’s biggest acquisition, provides an interactive software product called SmartMusic that functions in a similar fashion for music teachers and students as TrainingPeaks does for coaches and athletes.

Teachers can log onto the platform and see who did their homework, how well they performed, and even listen to it. Through Covid-19 regulation induced remote schooling, SmartMusic saw a 15-times increase in music practice minutes in March and April as compared to the same time period in 2019, according to Peaksware co-owner Dirk Friel.

Boulder x startups

“Boulder is a hotbed for startups and a great environment to be a part of the tech startup world,” says Dirk. “I love the energy and vibrant business community. It’s also a hotbed for fitness and endurance athletes; it’s always been a natural fit.”

With performance-tracking technology becoming increasingly ubiquitous across the globe as smart watches and phones track fitness data and easily upload it to the Cloud, Peaksware has kept its training platforms relevant by focusing on its coach-first approach. The goal isn’t to have millions of users and eyeballs on deck — through TrainingPeaks and TrainHeroic, Peaksware wants to help coaches grow their businesses.

“Our sweet spot in the market place is a person signed up for an event,” says Dirk of TrainingPeaks. “Once you’ve gotten to that point you’ve made a commitment to do some level of performance — even if it’s just to finish your first marathon or triathlon — you graduate from Apple watch’s Map My Run to TrainingPeaks. It’s more about instruction rather than the social aspect of sharing your workout.”

With over two decades in business, Peaksware has grown its Gunbarrel office to 140 employees and 20 at its smaller Denver location. Its team leads everything from engineering to marketing, sales and production; it doesn’t outsource anything.

Peaksware continues to see great opportunity through its location and a silver lining in Covid-19’s shift to remote learning and training as music teachers had to find new ways to teach remotely and trainers could no longer coach in person.

TrainingPeaks in action

Boulder-based triathlon coach and founder of online coaching platform D3 Multisport, Mike Ricci, has used the TrainingPeaks software for more than a dozen years.

TrainingPeaks has allowed him to grow his business efficiently by giving Mike and his assistant coaches one program to communicate on and share training plans and even clients.

TrainingPeaks also acts as a publisher, allowing coaches like Mike to upload their personally-designed content to their web store where anybody can purchase a training plan without specifically having a TrainingPeaks athlete account. TrainingPeaks processes the funds and delivers a portion to the coach. The company has seen a large increase in this area of its business during COVID-19.

One of the features TrainingPeaks provides its athletes. Image:

Header image: Some of Peaksware’s employees in Boulder. Image: Peaksware.