“The Sufferfest” training videos combine sweat-your-face-off intervals with race footage and taunting remarks that will keep you coming back for more
We were resigned to thinking that riding the indoor trainer would always be boring—until we tried “The Sufferfest” video series.
In late 2009, triathlete/cyclist David McQuillen tried everything to train through a punishing winter in Zurich, Switzerland. After exhausting his collection of music, movies and lackluster workout DVDs, he decided to make his own training video. He thought back to his time racing as a junior cyclist in the ‘80s, when he would pop in videos of the Tour de France and fantasize about climbing with the riders. He used that as inspiration for his own first video, taking footage of cycling races and designing a workout that matched the action on screen. He sent it to a few friends and—unexpectedly—it took off. “It scared the hell out of me because I didn’t have the rights to anything,” McQuillen admits.
The video’s surprising popularity led him to approach the International Cycling Union and the Amaury Sport Organisation (organizers of the Tour de France) to ask about licensing rights, and they wound up creating a new category that allowed him to use real race footage. Ten videos (and counting) later, “The Sufferfest” is easily the fastest growing training series in the world.
The videos range from the “Extra Shot” 30-minute time trial following specialists like Fabian Cancellara, to the 85-minute “Local Hero,” filled with tempo, climbing and sprint efforts. The 75-minute “Hell Hath No Fury” workout tackles 2×20-minute intervals with footage from the UCI Pro Woman’s World Cup. The videos are intense, grueling and (often) menacing, all with an underlying sense of humor. “Everyone forgot that you can entertain people,” McQuillen says. “If I can entertain you for an hour, you’ll come back.” Each workout has a storyline and features pivotal moments in a real race (when they’re out of the saddle on Alpe d’Huez, you are too). McQuillen uses upbeat music with appropriate intensities for intervals and useful sound effects, such as a gunshot alerting you to start your next effort. Provoking remarks like “How bad do you want this?” guilt you into pushing the pace even when you feel like collapsing to the floor of your guest bedroom pain cave.
McQuillen, who now lives in Singapore and works full-time in banking, plans to improve the quality of the design and effects by hiring support staff (he’s self-taught and does everything by himself). Good news for 2012 Tour de France watchers: He plans to use footage of this year’s race in upcoming videos. He also hinted at a future video specifically for triathletes.
The “Sufferlandians,” as devotees call themselves, are a dedicated community—there are more than 23,000 Facebook fans, and they even celebrated National Sufferfest Day on March 31 with events in 138 cities across the globe. Apparently pain brings people together.
$12.99 per downloadable video or $94.99 for all 10, Thesufferfest.com
Here’s your chance to win a Sufferfest download. Answer the following question in the comments section below in 150 words or less: What’s the hardest workout you’ve ever suffered through?
The Triathlete editors will pick their two favorite answers and will send the winners each a code for a free download at Thesufferfest.com. Contest ends Friday, July 13 at noon PDT.
UPDATED July 13: Congratulations to Stephen Gerber and Patrick Stoddard for submitting the winning entries!