When we recently announced a partnership with indoor cycling training platform The Sufferfest (we're providing hydration advice for their brutal Tour of Sufferlandria and Global Knighthood Challenge), it immediately brought back some great, albeit painful, memories of using the app in it's early days.
I went and looked back through my old Training Peaks logs and found my very first Sufferfest training session. It was on 03 February 2011, 8 years ago! Back then you had to buy the training videos, download them, then ride against them. The first one I bought was 'Hunted' and I distinctly remember my thought when I first came across it "that's brilliant, why didn't I think of that?!"
It was a brilliant idea and superbly executed by 'Chief Sufferlandrian' David McQuillen. I loved the story he weaved around his fantasy nation of 'Sufferlandria' and all the trash talk that popped up on the videos.
But, over time I drifted off the platform and my primary indoor training aid became Trainer Road.
I found the original videos were just too intense for me to use regularly. I remember finishing some of those sessions completely spent. The other reason was the lack of structure, you had to fit the sessions into your existing training plan however you thought best.
Between originally leaving Sufferfest and now — like many other cyclists/triathletes — I've used just about every indoor training platform: Trainer Road, Zwift, Xert, FulGaz, etc.
So when we partnered up with them I was intrigued and decided to jump back on again.
The first thing I noticed was the new User Interface (It actually had one!). It's a good one, easy to understand with lots of configurable components. The next thing that made complete sense was that all of the videos are now available all of the time and you can stream them (although you can still download them if needed).
The third thing that jumped out at me was that now it's become a fully-fledged training platform. That's the part that really interested me, so that's what I'm going to concentrate on here.
What particularly excites me about the 'new' Sufferfest is something they call 4DP™ (developed by the very capable guys at APEX Coaching and Consulting in Boulder, Colorado).
Most platforms provide an FTP testing protocol that allows you to gauge your relative workload during any particular interval session. The standard protocol is a one hour session with a 5 min depletion effort followed by 20 mins of sustained power. Most tests take 95% of that 20 min effort and that's your current FTP.
I got my first power meter back in 2005 and I've used this method ever since. And, whilst it's great as a reference tool, I have long thought that it had serious limitations. That's why when I read about the 4DP™ methodology used in The Sufferfest, it made complete sense.
Once you've completed the test you'll get a result for:
- Neuromuscular Power (NMP), a 5-second power measurement that indicates your pure sprinting ability.
- Anaerobic Capacity (AC), a 1 minute power measurement that indicates your ability to do short, sharp efforts, like an attack from the pack.
- Maximal Aerobic Power (MAP), a 5 minute power measurement, basically a few minutes at VO2 max. (Great for indicating your ability to get up the Oude Kwaremont in the Tour of Flanders...)
- Functional Threshold Power (FTP), the classic 20 minute effort that indicates your current endurance capacity.
The resulting numbers will be personal to you. For example, if you and I both have the same FTP it doesn't necessarily follow that we will also have the same NMP, AC and MAP.
This begs the question, why are we all following the same training plan?
As an example here are the results of my own test which I did on February 14th. In my case it showed something I already knew but was ignoring. My FTP is solid for this time of year but my ability to recover is weak. The Sufferfest suggested that I work on that weakness and that's exactly what I've been doing for the past 4 weeks. It's painful! I'll retest at the end of March so I'll let you know how it goes.
(BTW: Please ignore the LTHR (Lactate Threshold Heart Rate) in these results. My HRM was playing up that day. It is certainly much higher than 118!).
I like this approach so much because it adheres to the same philosophy that we have here at Precision Fuel & Hydration. We're all different, so why use the same hydration product as someone else and why train the same as someone else? With sophisticated tools like this (that would never have been available to us amateur athletes 10 years ago) we can train to our own personal requirements rather than just following the herd.
And on that subject, my recommendation is to step away from the herd. Everyone's on Zwift but is it the right training platform for you? The Sufferfest have put a lot of thought, time and effort into this platform and I definitely think it's worth considering.
And finally, my favourite session? 'Favourite' is probably the wrong word but the most effective I've done so far is 'The Shovel'. You need to be a little fresh to get into it but they certainly named that correctly because someone will need to scoop you up with a shovel at the end of it.