The name is accurate. Turn any of the videos on and The Sufferfest starts telling you how you should soon be feeling pain. Celebrating pain. Embracing pain and kissing it passionately. Voluntarily.
A few months out from a small ordeal called having a baby, I sit on my bike spinning easily and feeling occasional twinges from a fickle right hamstring. The Rubber Glove is up first. An examination through intervals and one 20-minute sprint that will give me my Functional Threshold Performance (FTP), which in turn will measure all of my efforts from now until I emerge again in 10 weeks. I scroll through my new training plan on my iPad, only glancing up occasionally as the video begins playing on my computer screen. I catch a disclaimer . . . something about them kidding when they tell me to feel pain. I keep perusing the new plan, contemplating how to push my rest days from Saturday to Sunday. Spinning with little resistance.
Pro riders in the classics are shaking on the cobblestones, slithering down wet roads as the mud collects in designs on their faces. And I’m still spinning.
Until the music picks up.
And so does the pace.
And the familiar burn rises–forcing me to focus on Thomas Voekler’s grimacing style as he breaks free from the pack. I realize that I’ve forgotten to preset my Garmin to record my averages over these last 20 minutes. All of my settings are wrong, and the Garmin chirps annoying messages–“Heart Rate Too High”–darn training zone presets. I can’t stop to adjust them now. I open the notes app on my phone and type in my numbers at every cue.
These numbers are pathetic. I’ve got to stop drinking Coke.
In front of me the pros are attacking, and I’m strangely motivated to hammer. The still air in the room makes me wonder why I have always hated fans–what I wouldn’t give for a fan right now. Something to ease the asphyxiating heat. But I’m breaking away, and I’m not letting the pack catch me. I’m ignoring the lactic acid, and pushing past the pain . . . because the video is telling me to. Because it’s somehow reminding me how strong I am as it yells at me for being weak. Suddenly the pain relaxes, the room cools, and I am hammering.
Push the numbers. Play past the whistle. I can suffer more!
And I haven’t realized that Voekler hit the finish line. That the Minions are telling me to cool down. And maybe I can stop using that silly “I had a baby, so I’m taking it easy” excuse. Or “I’m nursing a bum hamstring.” Because I’ve chosen pain instead.
After the video ends, I cool off with a tall chocolate milk and a little math–I hate math. The Minions have pushed my limits, and it was kind of fun. And the only thing that makes me feel better about doing some lousy math is that I’ll be finding some much better numbers in just 2.5 months.
Here’s my starting FTPHR: 147
Also, since many cyclists can’t afford a power meter, I’m using the heart rate method. Although it’s a little less accurate, it’s certainly workable.
This article isn’t just about trying to get you to sympathize with me. It’s about measuring my work toward returning to racing form after life, work, kids, and responsibilities have claimed little chunks of my fitness level. And what better way to motivate myself than by publicly broadcasting my lousy training numbers, right?
Join Me, Won’t You?
Want to follow along with my training? Misery adores company, right? There’s something strangely motivating about these videos. You’re watching real footage from races like The Tour de France. You’re being yelled at to attack and hold the pack off because the pack is weaker than you, a true Sufferlandrian (in case you haven’t already gathered, that’s the kingdom in which you now reside–a realm of pain). The music builds and motivates you. The simple on-screen instructions constantly remind you where your cadence and effort should be. It couldn’t be easier to follow the plan.
Except it’s not easy. And that’s what makes it appealing. Because it’s all about IWBMATTKYT.
Please, please, please . . . one more? . . . PLEASE don’t make me suffer alone. If you’re already on The Sufferfest, or you’re planning to start, let me know. Tell me about your journey to serious physical fitness in the comments below, on any of our social media channels (share buttons just below the text), or via email. I want to know how it’s going for you too.
What Exactly Am I Doing?
There are a few options to get you started. Grab the training plan (they also have plans for cyclocross and triathlon) for $29.99 and download the official app with all of the necessary videos at your fingertips for $10 per month (a great way to go if you don’t want to hassle with downloading all of the files and copying them over to your mobile devices for easy viewing).
You can also purchase each video separately for around $12.99 each–or get them all for $199. For this particular plan, you’ll need 13 videos.
Because I have chosen to suffer publicly, the kind (wait, I don’t think that’s the right word) Minions at The Sufferfest have set me, and a couple of others in our office, up with their road and triathlon training plans as well as their full complement of videos. Videos with names like The Long Scream, and Nine Hammers. This is going to be swell! Right?