Is Suf Getting Easier?

Forgive me if this has been covered elsewhere before, but it feels to me like old SUF workouts have been tweaked significantly downward in intensity lately. I was mostly away from SUF during the period when it was being ported over to SYSTM. (I was working with a coach who used a different platform, and I recently ran out of money!) Now that the weather is turning bad and I’m getting back into SUF, I’ve finding that videos such as Nine Hammers that used to bring me within a hair’s breadth of losing consciousness on the trainer are not very challenging at all.

If the workouts have simply been tweaked downward in intensity by a constant number, would one of the minions please say what that number is? My estimate is that it’s somewhere around 7%, overall. That said, it seems like the AC and NM ranges may have been tweaked downward more, while the lower intensities may have been tweaked downward less. Ideally, we could perhaps have a binary setting in the SYSTM app that reverts at least the Sufferfest workouts back to their old (utterly merciless) intensities. Maybe call the setting “Old-School”, and it’s just a switch you can turn on or off.

The #1 thing I’ve always appreciated about SUF is the way that it pushes me beyond what I would otherwise be willing to do to myself if I were just working on my own. It knows exactly what the absolute limits of my physical abilities are, and the way its hardest videos are structured are such that, right about when I truly feel like I can’t hold the power any longer, I look up at the clock and see that it’s “just for another X seconds”, and (with the beat of some great music helping me out) I just barely force myself to get through the interval clean.

I want that experience to remain the essence of the Sufferfest brand. Please don’t water SUF down for the masses. If you want to make it clearer to the general public that these workouts are race-specific training, and that there would be little reason for anyone who doesn’t race to use them, maybe rename that area of SYSTM “Sufferfest Racing”. Maybe make users check a checkbox that they have read a warning page telling them that The Sufferfest is not the equivalent of spin classes for general aerobic fitness, and they should get a doctor’s approval, and yada-yada…


I have no experience of the old SUF workouts so cannot comment on those but taking a new 4DP test would give you a good idea where your current fitness is and future workouts will be based on this. If you really want to nail yourself to the wall you can always go into the app and “up” all or some of your 4DP metrics individually or each time you start a workout you can increase the difficulty of all or each metric separately by percentage points. I don’t think the platform is geared, or needs to be geared for racers only as there is plenty of opportunity to adapt it as you see fit.

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Hey @Erik_Midtskogen ,
Yes, this has been addressed by @Coach.Neal.H

Sep '21

As you have noticed, there have been some adjustments made to many of the Sufferfest sessions in SYSTM. There are 24 SUF workouts that were not changed in any way, but 23 have been adjusted (not including any mashups in either of those counts).

The primary reason that I personally made the adjustments to the 23 workouts was that our sports science team reviewed all of our workouts from various physiological models (with heavy computational lifting from @Coach.Mac.C including W’ analysis of anaerobic capacity, predicted oxygen consumption and oxygen deficit, TSS, and Intensity Density of all of our sessions) as well as looking at completed workout compliance to see where users typically have issues completing sessions.

While you will see some reductions in TSS in those 23 adjusted workouts, none of them are easy. It is important to keep in mind that training does not need to be maximal to be effective. In fact, having workouts that are possible to be completed without completing depleting yourself is in fact much better in the long run.

Being able to consistently finish workouts is better for building physical capacity and confidence than is continually hitting a point of failure. You can see an analogy of this philosophy in use by Eluid Kipchoge - the best marathon runner - with references to these ideas at: Brad Stulberg Reveals More About ‘Groundedness’ and Getting Ahead 40

Also, keep in mind that any TSS value for any workout (and the associated changes) will vary for each user based on their unique 4DP. The concept of Intensity-Density that we are working on is going to be a much better representation of training load/intensity than TSS…but still isn’t completely ready to be included…but stay tuned!


Can’t wait for this.

I took a 4DP three weeks ago, I believe it was. What I did just before my scheduled session on Saturday with The Shovel was to bump my FTP up by 12 watts, my MAP by 7, and I think I left the other two dimensions alone. Even after that, “The Shovel” just didn’t bring me as close to my limit as it used to. I think it was the previous week I had “A Very Dark Place”, which used to be very hard for me to get through clean (since MAP is my relative weakness). As it got underway, I wasn’t feeling very challenged, and my heartrate was barely getting out of Zone 2 during the intervals. So I kept using the “up arrow” key on my keyboard to increase the intensity. By the end of the workout, I think I had it up to +10%. I’m sure I’ll figure out what works for me, eventually. But I just wanted to make a feature suggestion to The Minions that The Sufferfest be fitted with an option to restore the old intensities that those of us who do drafting sports have come to rely on to provide the training effect that is optimized for crit racing and classic-style racing, which involves a heavy concentration on intervals between 5 seconds and 5 minutes.

Thank you for that update, Coach Spencer! Maybe what I’m seeing is that, whereas SUF used to be very focused on group-start road racing, it might be adjusting itself to accommodate a wider range of sports. At least, that’s how it appears to me.

However, as I’m sure you’re aware, the power curve of a racer in the drafting sports is going to be dramatically different from that of a triathlete or a marathon runner, and the training optimized for these different sports will also be quite different, as well. For example, there would never be any reason for Kipchoge to do a standing-start session. In fact, building type II muscle would probably be detrimental to the shape of Kipchoge’s power curve for his sport. (Do they have power curves in Marathon running?)

My own experience has been that my breakthroughs to new levels of performance in real races after a period of stagnation in progress have all occurred in the weeks after a single, specific effort that pushed me to my absolute limit, to the point where I could barely maintain consciousness. Some of these efforts occurred at key separation points in actual races. However, the infamous and widely-dreaded last two intervals of “Nine Hammers” have had this breakthrough effect for me on many of those occasions when I got through them clean (probably a little over 50% of the time). Although it may seem likely that whoever designed those seven minutes of SUF has a sadistic streak, those particular seven minutes really do get results in the type of events I do, given my particular VO2 weakness on five-minute climbs and efforts at bridging across gaps to a breakaway group a hundred meters off the front.

Now, of course, those breakthrough moments aren’t going to happen week after week. I totally agree that they’re not supposed to. But that’s why they are breakthroughs. You build up to them for a long time with a varied diet of base and intervals training, back off a little for a week or so, and then smash your key weakness so hard on fresh legs that you don’t fail to complete the session. And then, your body adjusts to that new performance expectation. (Or, at least, that’s they way it works for me.) That was what the old intensities, within the context of the old training plans, specifically used to do, specifically for the critical power needed to keep me in my races.

So, I would like to be able to recapture that. I can probably tweak things in my 4DP settings to make it happen. In fact, I can even remember roughly the power target numbers that used to be set for me for many of the intervals of the workouts I used to do most often. However, it would be nice to just hit a switch in the top-level settings to bring back the pain.

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My guess is you’re fighting a losing battle @Erik_Midtskogen. What you’ve asked for (an “old school” or “return to Sufferlandria” button) has been asked for by others before and has not been delivered (and most likely won’t). There has been LOTS of discussion on the issue of the changes and Sir Neal himself has made his position very clear in the pasted comments from the post Sir @Coach.Spencer.R shared.

Here is a link to the discussion where it came from. Why have workouts been made easier in the new Systm app? be prepared for a long read.


Thanks! I did try to search and review discussions on intensity, but didn’t happen upon any mention of the change. Maybe I searched on the wrong terms.

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Yeah, wow. Sir James mentioned AVDP right at the top of the discussion. That was exactly one of the workouts I recently noticed that had gone from bringing me close to literally passing out to feeling like maybe a lighter-side-of-FTP workout that you might do the day after your HIIT session.

there is also a lengthy one on the changes to Thin Air along a similar vein only that the concern was that the description of Thin Air no longer matched the profile. The description has been changed so no longer reads the way it did when it was first added to the Sufferfest library back in the before times. A fun read too though…Thin Air is a completely different activity now


one of the things that made me chuckle about that long thread (with 200+ comments) was that Sir James was the OP and once Sir Neal addressed his question, he marked it as “solved” :white_check_mark: but that clearly didn’t deter people from weighing in :wink:

It’s clear that people are passionate about The Sufferfest. I am one of them, just not in the “give us back the old targets” way of some folks, though I do understand the sense of loss. I think you’ll find that there is a LOT to like about SYSTM and the content that’s been added since you’ve been away (including a few new brilliant Sufferfest vids).


There’s definitely a change of emphasis. The idea being that smashing yourself every time can be counter productive. As you point out though, there is a time and a place. May be stick with the new targets, but when it suits you in your plan to really go for it it, put the trainer in level mode and see what you can do? You might find the overall result even better than before…?


This was over a year ago, any idea when it will be up and running??


Have you considered that Half Monty might give you more accurate results than Full Frontal?

This is the case with me. My workouts weren’t difficult enough. I did an FF, complete with prep week, and barely nudged my numbers. My workouts still felt too easy. I did an HM, which bumped my MAP and FTP significantly. My workouts now feel right.

I think I’m simply better at HM than FF. You may be, too.


I agree that the new content is great, and certainly a welcome addition. At this point, there is a tremendous variety of videos and workouts to choose from. I’ve also discovered that, by connecting to Suf through Bluetooth instead of ANT, you can almost completely eliminate that lag of up to 4 seconds that used to be especially noticeable in videos like Fight Club.


My power curve is very strange. Compared to most racers, I’m strong at the far ends, but weak in the middle. I really struggle with maximal efforts between about 3 and 6 minutes. So, I’m guessing a ramp test would set my FTP lower than what it actually is.

The only experience I’ve had with what amounts to a ramp test was when I went for lactate and VO2 testing at my coach’s lab, twice. The first time, I didn’t get a valid result on the VO2 test, because I’m so weak in VO2 that I couldn’t reach Respiratory Exchange Rate of 1.15. My second time, a year later, I reached it, but the last three minutes felt like the last three minutes of Nine Hammers back in the old days, which means pretty damn close to “lights out”. The VO2 portion of that test felt much more difficult for me than the FTP portion.

And then, the weird thing is that, even though I’m relatively small and don’t look like a beefy sprinter, I actually find the short, explosive efforts of crit races not merely tolerable, but actually fun! In fact, I’m often the one doing the attacking. It’s just that last lap (that usually lasts about four of five minutes on a typical course) that has me watching the group sprint from a few bike lengths back most of the time. :disappointed:

So, this very atypical power curve is part of why I really like the concept of 4DP. It actually tests, rather than making assumptions


Funny thing is there are people who swear the reverse for them. I’m in the ant+ lag boat and BTLE has been perfect. The only time I use it is for cadence builds cuz my ant+ only sensor is the only one that registers rpm over 200 :nerd_face:

This does sound interesting. It would seem related to the concept of “time in zones”. I imagine it could be very useful for periodization.

During my year of coaching, one thing I noticed was that periodized training doesn’t mean that what you’re doing during “base” season is wildly different from what you’re doing during “build” and “peak” seasons. The difference throughout the year is subtle enough that, without keeping a close eye on your time in zones, you can end up going off track for the period you’re supposed to be in. If you had a simple marker on your profile (something that looks a bit like the graphic 4DP meter) showing you which periodization period your training has resembled over the past few weeks, that could be a really nice way of keeping yourself honest.

LOL! And I thought I had fast “gerbil legs”.

Say, they scrapped the video on that one, didn’t they? I liked that video.

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Nah. There’s still a vid. Just no music. I’m hoping they make it an actual SUF vid one day. Like they did with Taper Efforts, now just called Tapers.

Edit. There is a couple of no-vid cadence sessions but Builds still has a vid.

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