"This workout is about going very, very hard until you arrive at a very, very dark place." That's one of the opening warnings on The Sufferfest's A Very Dark Place, and it's an apt description of the intense interval training contained in this roughly 50-minute-long video.
That isn't groundbreaking in and of itself, but A Very Dark Place – and other The Sufferfest titles we've sampled – is surprisingly interesting and engaging to sit through, meaning you're more likely to actually finish the quality workout instead of just uselessly logging a few junk miles watching reruns of Glee.
Video footage is a combination of point-of-view clips shot by members of the Singapore National Team (whom The Sufferfest sponsor) and licensed race footage, in this case from Paris-Nice, Paris-Roubaix and the Critérium du Dauphiné.
The clips are good to watch but it's also the high-energy soundtrack and on-screen prompts that grab – and keep – your attention. This means you don't have to have quite as much self-discipline to get through the prescribed 5x4:00 interval regimen, which is neatly outlined at the beginning of the title.
"I source and license the pro racing footage from groups like UCI, ASO, etc," said The Sufferfest creator David McQuillen. "Warm-ups and warm-downs tend to be amateur stuff that I find – in the case of AVDP, the footage is from Darren Low, member of the Singapore National Team (which I sponsor) and silver medalist in the TT at the South East Asia games."
From there, on-screen prompts for effort (rated on a scale from 1-10) and cadence plus cheeky gunshot and engine revving sound effects dictate the action. It's not a perfect formula, however. Some of the video clips are annoyingly tilted and there is some repetition (though less than in other The Sufferfest titles). The perceived numerical exertion prompts can also be tough to translate.
For example, if The Sufferfest define 4 as "Pass the sunblock please" and 6 as "Early evening is so charming", what's 5.5? Workout segment durations are also called out at their onset with follow-up warnings (":30 to go", etc) afterward but a continuous running timer would be more helpful, or at least partial ones for the various segments.
Small complaints aside, A Very Dark Place and The Sufferfest videos in general are still about the best of their genre that we've encountered. They certainly won't make riding indoors fun but they do help make more effective and focused use of your time.
Downloads are relatively inexpensive but the files are huge – A Very Dark Place is over 3GB – so a fast connection is key. There's no physical DVD option but modern HDMI connections allow for easy playback on your big-screen from your laptop with the correct cable. We previously knocked The Sufferfest for their limited library but there are now nine titles in total to help get you through a long winter.
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