Sure, we’d all prefer to ride outside all the time, but life doesn’t work that way. Whether for time, child care, or rained-out practices due to venue preservation concerns, I find myself on the indoor trainer during the fall cyclocross season almost as much as in the winter, if not more.
The key becomes finding ways to stay motivated and interested. Last year, I came across workout videos by The Sufferfest, which combine footage from pro and elite amateur races, on-screen interval prompts (and taunts), and great soundtracks. I actually found them a bit too intense for early-season base training, but for the top-end work you need to replace a rained-out ‘cross practice, they were ideal.
The kind (?) folks at The Sufferfest were kind enough to send a copy of their latest video for review. “A Very Dark Place”fits neatly within an hour, so you get your quality work in a small amount of time. The focus is on VO2 max-style intervals, going nearly all-out for 4:00 each. But these aren’t just put-your-head-down-and-gut-it-out efforts, as the workout combines on-screen prompts and carefully chosen race footage to throw in surges and simulations of attacks and steep, grinding climbs.
In fact, if I have a significant quibble with this workout over my other Sufferfest favorites (I’m a huge fan of “Fight Club” and “Revolver”) it’s that the intervals are complicated enough that it’s hard at times to follow the prompts. By the third interval, you’re gasping for air as you try to follow Gilbert and the Schlecks in Liege-Bastogne-Liege, and squinting through sweat, tears and snot to read a new prompt on sitting/standing/cadence every 10 seconds is a bit much. It’s a sequence that seems more suited to a spin class or group workout, where an instructor can call out directions.
My other whine is really just the fact that I’m getting old and don’t warm up as quickly as I used to. Five minutes (ok, seven with the intro screens at the beginning) plus a couple of :30 sprints just doesn’t do it for me. The sprints are good and help get things started, but for me, at least, I need closer to 15 minutes of warmup before I can get the most out of the first interval. That’s easily remedied, however, with a few minutes more spinning before I hit “play.”
The rest of the workout is quality — good balance of work and rest intervals, with a mix of high- and low-cadence efforts. The final, climbing-focused interval feels like a bit of a slog, but there’s a fair chance that my lack of sleep and poor training lately are as much to blame there.
The race footage is gorgeous and well-chosen (segments with a great solo win in Paris-Nice and following Cancellara in Paris-Roubaix show a particularly good editing touch) and the soundtrack is appropriately intense. Some great indie rock bands on the playlist, and although I’m coming to prefer electronica more for workouts (I blame VeloBeats), these are definitely some bands I want to check out now.
Sufferfest videos have a great flair for motivational taunts on screen, and “A Very Dark Place” is no different, with no less than Philippe Gilbert calling you out. That’ll get you going, if it doesn’t make you just curl up in the corner and weep.
This isn’t my favorite Sufferfest video, but it’s very good. If you need a hard workout that fits into an hour — I’m reminded of my team’s weekly hill ride — this will do the trick, and entertain you a bit at the same time.