Trainer Time: Download Suffering!

Personally, I can never run out of ways to trick myself into thinking I'm having a good time, or otherwise working hard, on the trainer. I've got race videos, tried a training DVD or two, and taken in my share of Seinfeld reruns... all while chasing the quicksilver dude from Terminator 2 on the computrainer. So it's saying something when I finish with a new video and think, that was pretty damn good.

Enter the Sufferfest.

The Sufferfest is a company that makes downloadable video workouts using race footage from a selection of pro events and local crits, the usual adrenaline music, and some of the more effective peanut gallery comments around. The workouts are structured 60-minute efforts -- the first one called the "Downward Spiral" is a series of short, max intervals starting at two minutes and decreasing by 15 seconds each time (with breathers in between of the same length), then starting the process over for a second round. When it's time to recover, you're watching a suburban crit helmet cam from Australia, but when it's game on, suddenly you're chasing Tom Boonen into Roubaix, or busting out of the peloton as they hit the Mur de Huy.

Take a peek at the trailer:


The coaching consists of telling you to go at a particular intensity level, and goading you to kick it out for a few more seconds. Attitude is definitely part of the package -- starting with their motto, "I will beat my ass today to kick yours tomorrow" -- but it's not tedious or overdone, particularly if you allow yourself to get caught up in the workout. And no video is harder to resist than the carefully selected clips from Paris-Roubaix or La Fleche Wallonne when the riders are on the rivets. Watching Johan Van Summeren get on the front and hammer Gilbert and Evans into position 2km before the Mur de Huy is just pulsating, frankly. It's equally smart of them to use footage from an amateur race during the off-periods, the effect of which is to make the pro clips in the on-intervals that much more exciting.

But what I like best is the downloadable aspect. No mail orders, no waiting, no material, no production once the first video is uploaded. If you want to watch it on a TV, burn it to a disc. All of this undoubtedly keeps the cost down (currently $9.49 to buy an episode). My hope is that this simplicity will lead to a longer list of videos, because if the death of most videos is boring repetition, the downside to a video like the Downward Spiral is that it's a specific workout that might not fit your program every time your training gets forced indoors. The second video, Fight Club, uses licensed footage from the Mendrisio World Championships to compel you through longer intervals -- more in line with a January workout than the Downward Spiral. A few more of these videos, enough to cover a wide range of different 60-minute workouts, and you'd have an excellent program to get you through the whole winter. Two isn't enough, but after the Downward Spiral, I actively want to try Fight Club. How often do you hear that about an indoor training video?

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