The Sufferfest videos are awesome. They offer (mostly) short, sharp, bang-for-buck workouts, expertly put together to push you right to the edge but not quite over. They are engaging, motivating, stimulating and, when completed without cheating at 100% FTP setting, rewarding and body-shattering in equal measure. I’ve been a fan for a long while.
Time and time again over summer this year, I re-visited the delightfully painful worlds of Revolver and Nine Hammers as I prepared for the Haute Route, seeking a twice-weekly cocktail of lung-busting, leg-searing, eye-popping intervals in a bid to find a short cut to peak race fitness. Never did the videos disappoint. They caused me all manner of distress and discomfort, but they did the job better than any other system or platform I’ve tried and they were the perfect time-effective way to complement my longer endurance rides.
Now that it’s off-season, priorities have changed and most of us will be focusing on building a solid base over the winter. The traditional, bread ‘n’ butter Sufferfest workouts don’t really lend themselves to helping with this – they’re designed to be high intensity sessions which really help to fine-tune your engine and build top-end fitness. They’re brilliant, but perhaps not the best option for those of us who are looking to train primarily at sweet spot (roughly 83-97% of FTP) or below for longer periods through the winter months.
So I was hugely interested, and just a little excited, to hear about the release of two videos from the Sufferfest which are designed to offer slightly lower intensity workouts. The Way Out is one of those videos (I’ll review the other, To Get To The Other Side, separately, but it is similar in style and principle).
The Way Out is marketed as “a sweet spot workout that gives you an hour of efforts just below threshold and at a series of different cadences“. It’s in the “base training” category, and it’s really a video for recovery days, or days when you’re looking to keep the legs ticking over – with a few short grinds – between tougher interval sessions. It features a lot of climbing, mostly to be completed at low cadences, but the overall power numbers aren’t too stressful and the intervals aren’t particularly long (up to 10 minutes max, with a number at less than 5 minutes).
That said, in my view it isn’t as easy as it first looks. Those 50-60 rpm climbs take their toll and I definitely didn’t feel like I’d been for a recovery spin when I climbed off the bike (although I hadn’t eaten properly, and I rode fairly hard for 2 consecutive days before trying it, which may have had a bearing).
As ever, the presentation of the video is great. It’s professionally produced, looks slick and tidy and features a fitting soundtrack which helps keep you gee’d up without sending you into that familiar Sufferfest gritted-teeth frenzy.
The featured climbs have different personalities in reality, and this is captured well on-screen. You’ll sail up the (relatively) gentle Col d’Allos and Col des Champs, but things get fittingly tougher when you tackle the Col de L’Iseran and Monte Zoncolan (complete with 30% ramps and cadences low enough to feel like you’re on the leg press machine at the gym).
The whole workout is knowledgeably presented by the likeable Mike Cotty, and it’s as interesting as it is taxing, with snippets of info about the local area and little cultural insights as well as details of the climbs themselves. I wasn’t such a fan of Mike when he was attacking me with 60km to go during the final stage of the Haute Route back in August, but that’s another story and I’ll forgive him in light of the excellent geo-history lesson he gave me during this video.
Overall, The Way Out is excellent. It’s well-executed, and provides a perfect session when you want to give yourself a workout without building up significant fatigue. It was tougher than I thought it would be, but at 60 minutes it’s short enough not to cause any real training stress whilst giving you a chance to open the lungs and build a bit of climbing power. It has also opened my eyes to a number of lesser-known climbs which have, thanks to this video, been added to my Bike Climb Bucket List.
I’m really pleased the Sufferfest have acknowledged the demand for workouts that keep you below threshold, and they’ve demonstrated via The Way Out that it’s very possible to make a lower intensity alternative to the core Sufferfest sufferfests whilst keeping the workout varied, engaging and ultimately beneficial.
Good job guys! And as a side note, you’ve just won my allegiance to the Sufferfest platform going forwards, as I’ve now subscribed to the excellent Sufferfest Training Centre app. I’m looking forward to trying more new videos over the coming weeks and months – watch this space for more reviews!