by: Sarah Caddick Thompson
As autumn nights close in tight and early, and the mornings’ peachy light colours the River Derwent, the whirr, whizz and not-so-soft conversation of clutches of cyclists in bright, branded-up lycra have become a cheerful backdrop-in-motion on Hobart’s main arterial roads at dawn and dusk.
The tongue-in-cheek references to cycling as a cult-like pursuit are rooted in truth. Us mortals know it’s not for the faint of heart, non-fancy-sports-watch-wearer, or lycra-avoider.
But, a few years ago, something new entered the market giving the rest of us a chance to enjoy the same pain-with-a-side-of-scenery experience — without the worry of keeping up with the peloton, or negotiating the morning Metro bus weave.
When the Studio SoHo client Tracey James entered the darkened cycle studio for her first Sufferfest class over 18 months ago, she was the sole female. And the only one without lycra shorts, clip-in shoes or serious Ks on the road.
For most of us, this could have been a little unnerving. Read: turn and run for the yoga class.
“I thought, you know what, I’m going to give this a red hot go.”
Motivated by the ultra-sized flat screens flicking through crisp imagery of rolling European hills and real-as tour-de-France route landscapes — no CGI here — Tracey was hooked from class one.
“When I came to Sufferfest, I was coming back from a life challenge. I found during the class I literally couldn’t think about anything else while I was trying to hit the rpms (revs per minute).
For Tracey the format of the class is the key to making it through to the end.
“The visual stimulation means when you’re going up a hill, you can see the hill.”
“I also really felt like I was somewhere else — once you walk in, you’re immersed in the atmosphere of music and scenery, and motivated by trying to hit the rpm target on the screens.”
This is the Sufferfest model, and for Tracey, it’s been a winning — and addictive — combination.
“I couldn’t believe how quickly I saw improvements; now I barely miss a class.”
Sufferfest Founder Dave McQuillen says it’s this focus on maintaining rpms and power (measured in watts) that sets the program apart.
“Each Sufferfest workout is designed for a very specific fitness outcome,” he says.
These outcomes relate to the use of different combinations of speed, power and repeated efforts to target specific muscle groups and energy systems in the body.
“This is the big difference — all Sufferfest workouts are coach-designed workouts based on sports science.”
Dave says this is the reason regular ‘sufferlandians’ (as sufferfest participants are dubbed) see such super fast results.
“People are seeing changes within 4 weeks of riding — because we are hitting every aspect of your fitness we are going to make you a lot stronger a lot faster.”
The super unique workout names — like ‘Angels’ and ‘Revolver’ — help class-goers get to know what they’ll be working on without the need for a sports science degree.
And the measurability is also built-in. Participants take a fitness test which helps them to match a score out of ten to the number of watts on the bike display. All packaged up in your own handy little card to take to class.
“The card will tell you what your power output should be for your specific fitness level. So, if we say ‘go at an 8/10’, you’ll know ‘I need to be at 200 watts’, for example.
“This is what makes the class so different to one based on say, just the beat of the music”
‘When you do a fitness test a few weeks later, it’s likely your power for 8/10 may be even more; there’s a real focus on measuring improvement.”
But never fear, unlike on the road, you don’t have to worry about being left behind at the back of the group wondering if your mates are just around the corner … or already at breakfast.
“You run your own race, and you are in control of what you do in the class. Some workouts are really painful but others aren’t hard, and focus more on say endurance.”
And the demographic has also shifted a lot since Tracey’s first experience.
“There is a real mix of males and females. There are always going to be the mad keen cyclists as it’s such a great training tool for them. But there are heaps of people who hardly ever or never road cycle,” says Dave.
As for the cult of cycling — well you’ll still get a taste.
“There is bike jargon, but it’s done with a sense of humour,” says Dave.
And as a long-time Sufferlandian, Tracey’s made some concessions for the cause.
“I even have lycra shorts now.”
Sufferfest is an app which has a worldwide market, in addition to being a program run in 180 studios around the world. Founder Dave McQuillen is based in Hobart and sometimes tests his new workouts on lucky clients at The Studio before the rest of the globe gets to try them. To give Sufferfest a try for yourself – book here.