Winters in the northern plains can be a harsh mistress. While I’ve never had a harsh mistress, I imagine if I did, she would be a succubus that would siphon energy and motivation away while slowly gnawing away at the bloody stumps that represent your ego and self-worth, leaving you feeling like your recliner and a lot of beer is the best option to escape reality. At least that’s what the early part of this winter has done for many. Visions of a mild winter with rides enjoying the winter wonderland quickly got buried under a few feet of snow and -50 wind chills.
Those wanting to make progress on their 2010 cycling goals and fitness found themselves locking into their trainers earlier with the knowledge there is a lot of winter left. After spinning away to a cavalcade of online TV re-runs, a few movies and plenty of training DVD’s, boredom easily sets in.
Enter The Sufferfest. The Sufferfest (www.thesufferfest.com) currently offers two videos – “Downward Spiral” and “Fight Club”. Both are approximately an hour of effort and feature brief warm up and cool downs. Both do an excellent job of providing driving, beat-intensive alt-rock music that helps push the tempo and video that puts you “in the race” and matches the required pace and effort. Each video offers clear cue sounds informing you when to ramp up and wind down your efforts. But that’s where the similarity ends.
“Downward Spiral” starts you off on a fun 10-minute warm-up with downhill MTB video bouncing by followed by some criterium action that starts to ramp up the efforts a little bit by prodding you to bridge the gap. After that, the fun (and the work) begins with two sets of eight descending intervals. What makes this different is the video footage – Paris-Roubaix and Fleche-Wallone. The video footage matches the intensity level you need to put out, encouraging you to put a better effort forward as you try to make the selections in the Arenburg or close the gap after watching Hushovd go down. After a brief recovery riding through some Oregon forest, the second set puts you through the same paces (with a little bonus work) through Fleche-Wallone. After an urban bike cool-down, you’ve put in a good, but manageable effort.
“Fight Club” is an entirely different beast. It’s sadistic, it’s cruel, but it’s the kind of effort needed to become a better bike racer. The scene for “Fight Club” is all based around the 2009 World Championships. After a brief warm-up (depicting you on a bicycle with a basket)…it’s off to the races. It’s a 5-lap “race” with the first lap breaking you in slowly with tempo work and a brief recovery. By slowly, I mean a tempo effort that is intermittently broken with +15 rpm 10/10 effort to chase down attacks by those damn Italians. That’s where the pain of Fight Club comes in; where most videos take you from sprint intervals down to a recovery, with Fight Club, you return to your previous intensity level. That level, for the next 4 laps, is TT effort and Climbing effort (7-8 out of 10 levels). 23 of these attacks come at you randomly, some in pretty quick succession throughout the hour. The Sufferfest folks aren’t completely sadistic – they do let you have 3:00 minutes of solid recovery after each lap. My first effort riding “Fight Club” resulted in a tire meltdown during lap 3. My second effort made me realize this is one tough, but rewarding workout.
While I don’t have a point or star-rating system, I will say that both current videos from The Sufferfest are must buy products and possibly the best training videos available for anybody looking to stay motivated and increase their fitness on the trainer. The only downsides would be for those watching on larger computer monitors or have their computers plugged into larger TV’s, the video isn’t HD. I have to limit to size to about 2/3 of my 22” screen for the video to be good quality. Additionally, if you’re downloading, you need either patience or a decent internet connection – the downloads are over 700MB each and the exchange rate of the dollar makes you think the Euros are getting a better deal. Seriously, the $9.49 USD per video price is a bargain, although a $16.99 combo pack might not be a bad idea. Other options include backup CD’s, backup download and group/class options with additional features.