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The Downward Spiral…

Thursday, May 2, 2013 by  
Filed under Daily Blog


I was short on time yesterday, and it was raining cats and dogs. I was still not feeling 100% recovered from Monday’s 100 KM ride, but it was close enough that not riding would have fallen under the category of “Wussing out” and not “Intelligent rest”.

Considering the weather and my time constraints, some quality time in my Bike Torture Chamber was the logical choice. I’m between training programs right now (I’m going to start the Intermediate Build I program after I complete the 8 Days in California challenge), and so I decided to do a Sufferfest workout…

Knowing full well that my friend Craig would pick the hardest workout in the Sufferfest series, I posted the following query on Facebook:


The Downward Spiral

The Downward Spiral

So, “The Downward Spiral” it was. I’d not done this one before, but Sufferfest rates it a “9/10” on their intensity scale. The workout is basically two sets of descending intervals at maximum intensity.

The first seven working intervals (descending from 2:12 down to 0:34) were between ~130%-135% of my FTP (currently 270). The active recovery intervals between those efforts also grew correspondingly shorter. The eighth interval was a sprint at 160% FTP.

That was just the first half of the workout.

The second half of the workout was basically a repeat of the first half, but it finished up with four all-out sprints in rapid succession, each sprint more demanding than the last. The final sprint I rode at more than 200% of my FTP, which was not easy at the end of such a difficult workout.

The workout was tough, but I felt great. I had no problem exceeding all of my wattage targets, and actually rode the second half of the workout even stronger than the first half. Don’t misunderstand, it hurt. Bad. But I felt solid and strong, and really enjoyed the workout. Thanks for the great suggestion, Craig!

Here’s my entire workout on TrainerRoad.

Sufferfest workouts are notoriously difficult, but in their native form they rely on the athlete’s perceived exertion level. Personally I don’t like that, as perceived exertion is obviously highly subjective. TrainerRoad has full support for all the Sufferfest videos, and so you get real-time wattage-based targets that are based on your actual Functional Threshold Power. Wattage-based targets make for a much more effective workout, and they eliminate subjectivity: if you wimp out, you’ll know it–and it will be recorded on the workout graph, forever reminding you that you’re a big baby. Seriously, when you feel like backing down, knowing that if you do it will become part of your permanent training record makes for good motivation to press on!

For more information on terms like “Functional Threshold Power” (FTP) and power-based training, please check out my article Coggan’s Power-Based Training.

John Stone Fitness Comments

12 Responses to “The Downward Spiral…”
    • Very true, the videos are just different degrees of pain. It’s really raining hard here right now. Was hoping to hit the trails this morning, but not looking good right now. I think I might do “Local Hero” today. 🙂

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  1. John,

    I have to ask: after these intense workouts, do you ever feel ill afterwards? Or just tired, and perhaps back to normal in a couple of hours?

    I ask because I have this weird thing where if I push myself on a run (and not even that hard–we’re talking just a 5K with a moderately fast pace for me), I wind up with flu-like symptoms.

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    • Short (1 hour-ish), but intense workouts like yesterday’s generally require about 24 hours for me to fully recover. But yeah, I know exactly what you’re saying. After longer intense rides (like Monday’s 63 mile ride), I sometimes feel run down and, as you mentioned, even notice flu-like symptoms. On Tuesday I was feeling a little beat up, and so I just did a short and light 7 mile recovery ride. Sometimes I’ll even take the day off from riding entirely.

      In addition to ramping up your training so your body adapts to tougher/longer workouts, rides, runs and races, I think pre-, intra- and post-ride/run nutrition and hydration are critical to mitigating that run down feeling as much as possible.

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