June 08, 2017


6 Steps for Getting Back on the Bike After an Injury

Disclaimer: I am not a Doctor. Even if I were, I can’t guarantee that the recommendations laid out here will work for you. Every injury is a unique snowflake, and everyone's recovery time is different. End of disclaimer.

Step 1: Acceptance

Yes, this sucks. You had big plans to crush mile after mile this year, but now you’re unable to ride your bike, and that sucks. As unfortunate as injuries can be, your first step to getting back on the bike is accepting that you are injured, and that no amount of anger, despair, or sadness will make you uninjured. In fact, studies have shown that people with a positive attitude about recovery can return to normal activity faster than those with a negative outlook. Instead of feeling sorry for yourself, focus your energy into what you can do to heal up faster.

Step 2: Be Smart. Or, more precisely: Don’t be Stupid

Often times athletes will listen to what their doctor has to say and then promptly ignore the recommendations because, “those suggestions can’t apply to me. I’m different. I heal faster than mere mortals.” We know, you’re a beast on the bike. You might even be the strongest rider out there. But unless you’re Wolverine from X-men you’re healing process is the same as everybody else. Your doctor isn’t saying you’re weak, so listen to what they say.

If the Doc says don’t get on the bike for six weeks, then don’t get on the bike for six weeks.

If the Doc says start with a five minute easy spin and add five minutes per week, then don’t bump it up to an hour on your third ride back

Even if you feel like you could do more, you run the risk of setting yourself back even further. This is why injuries that should only take a few weeks to heal become chronic issues with some athletes. They never gave their body enough time to really heal.

Step 3: Take care of yourself

This seems obvious, but many athletes end up treating their body worse when injured than they do while training. Maybe your diet has been great for the past three months, but now that you are injured why not have that pizza and ice cream you have been craving? While there’s nothing wrong with the occasional slice or dip into the Cherry Garcia, at the end of the day your body is trying to repair itself, and the higher quality food you give it, the more hydrated you keep it, and the more rest you get, the faster you will bounce back. Don’t slack on the veggies and fruits just because you are going to miss that target event of yours. The better you treat your body the faster you’ll be back on track.

Step 4: Ease yourself back into training.

It bears repeating: only your doctor knows what's best for you, and under no circumstances should you get back to training until you get the green light from them. “Returning to training” doesn’t mean hammering out an hour of VO2 max intervals. More often than not it means less than 20 minutes of easy spinning on a trainer, and you need to be okay with that. Remember, the whole idea of training is to give your body physical stress and force it to compensate so it gets stronger. When you’re injured, your body is using up much of your energy to heal itself. Jumping back into hard training before you are fully healed not only reduces the quality of that training, but the added stress will mean less energy available to heal.

Step 5: Rehab / Physical Therapy

Very few injuries affect both sides of the body equally. If you stack it coming into a high-speed corner one side will bear the brunt of the impact. By necessity you’ll tend to favor the less-injured side as you heal. This leads to all sorts of general muscle imbalances, whether in terms of strength or flexibility. That’s why proper rehab (once cleared by your doctor of course) is so important for the recovering athlete. Not only will you come out of this injury with fewer long term effects, but setting targets in rehab and then meeting them can serve as a substitute for training goals. Maybe you can’t hit a personal best up your favorite climb right now, but you will certainly be hitting new personal bests on your rehab exercises.

Step 6: Getting back in the saddle

The day will come when you can get back on your bike and have no restrictions on your riding, and it will be a glorious day. Depending upon how long you have been out of commission your fitness might have taken either a little dip or a monstrous nose dive. Regardless of where your fitness was before the injury, you’ll have some work to do if you want to get back to that level.

The first key is ramping things back up slowly. Starting with shorter sessions (again depending on what the doctor has approved) that won’t leave you gasping for air or your muscles burning. You’ll undoubtedly notice your heart rate is much higher for any given effort than it was before the injury. That’s because you’ve lost some of the plasma in your blood. Increased plasma volume is one of the adaptations your body makes after undergoing endurance exercise. This is why you want to take a few sessions of gradually increasing duration without much of an increase in intensity, so your body has time to increase your plasma volume again.

Once you have a week of easier riding in your legs and you still have the blessing of your doctor, you can start adding in tempo efforts. My favorites in this situation are either 6 minutes on, 4 minutes off or 7 minutes on, 3 minutes off. Not only does it give you plenty of time riding tempo, but it makes the time spent on the trainer go by that much faster.

This is also typically when I to transition to doing two rides a day, one in the morning and one in the afternoon. This means you don’t have to sit on the trainer for more than an hour at a time, but you still get a decent amount of ride time in each day.

Every injury is different, but they almost all have warning signs that tell you you’re overdoing it. Make sure you ask your doctor what sort of symptoms to look for (and avoid) once you return to riding. For some injuries, a little soreness at the injury site is okay, for others that is a major red flag.

If at any point during any of these rides you identify one of the “symptoms” your doctor told you to look out for, you need to pull the plug right away. You can very easily set your recovery back a couple weeks just by “pushing through the pain” at the wrong time.

After a few weeks of riding twice a day 3-4 times a week you should be able to bring in a little more intensity.

Upping the intensity

A good session at this phase is 10 x 90-second builds from an effort of just below threshold to an effort just above threshold. This workout has just enough sting in it to cause some adaptation, but has a very low chance of causing you to overexert yourself. Over-exertion is a surefire way to delay your recovery. At the end of the day the most important thing is to be honest with yourself. Be honest about how you’re feeling. Be honest about the severity of your injury. Be honest about how careful you need to be. You are in control. The only person who can really set your recovery back is you. As much as you hate to miss out on weeks of training, you will be even more upset if you push too hard too early and end up setting yourself back even further.

Now I know what you might be thinking. “Yeah, yeah that’s all sensible advice, but what makes you such an expert on recovering from an injury?” Well, (un)fortunately I have had my fair share of down time from injuries beyond the normal wear and tear you get from kissing pavement on a bike. Over my eight years of racing at the elite level I’ve broken an ankle, had a bout of Epstein-Barr virus (Mononucleosis for you pathologists out there), broken my collarbone, and had back surgery. In 2014, nine weeks after breaking my collarbone I won 3 collegiate national championships on the track. In 2015 I raced the Team Time Trail at the Richmond World Championships with a herniated disc (not the smartest move, in hindsight). A few months afterwards I lost the ability to walk and had to undergo surgery which kept me off the bike for three months. Four months after that surgery I was able to get 3rd in the Individual Pursuit at Nationals, and a few months later I was representing the US National Team at the Pan American championships. Each and every time I was injured I followed the steps I outlined above. That’s not to say that it was easy. The absolute worst thing you can ask an active, highly-competitive person to do is to “take things slowly”. Every time I’ve had to let my body recover from some injury the hardest part has always been patience. Patience to not ride, patience to go through the sometimes tedious rehab exercises, the patience to sit there doing nothing (nothing except healing) while all of your competitors are out there training hard and getting faster.

The one thing I’ve really learned is that getting injured and fighting through pain is easy. Taking a step back and allowing yourself to fully recover is the hard part. You need to embrace your recovery and think of it as your ultimate training goal. Be as smart and dedicated to your recovery as you are to your training (which is NOT easy) and you will find yourself back to your pre-injury form before you know it.

Read more from Mac Cassin

Mac Cassin has been coached by Sir Neal Henderson since 2009 and is a coach at APEX Coaching, with a focus on masters and junior racers. As an elite cyclist who also has to balance the demands of ‘life’ with his goals as an athlete, Mac has a deep understanding of how to get the most out of those who have limited time to train. Mac has raced at the World and PanAmerican championships and holds several US national and state titles. His studies were in Integrative Physiology from the University of Colorado and has worked as a research assistant in the CU Neurophysiology lab.

Did we miss anything? Make sure to ask a question or leave a  comment in the space below.

June 06, 2017


Podium Position: A Successful May for the Sufferfest African Dream Team

The Mad Month of May

May has been a crazy month for the team, with 6 races contested over consecutive weekends. It has also been a very successful month, winning Continental Championship medals, as well as 11 podiums/ 7 wins across the various categories. To our great surprise and excitement, we have climbed a few places to 25th in the UCI world rankings, which is beyond our wildest expectations.

The month of racing began with the UCI Class 1 South African MTB Cup Series in Bloemfontein. The city of Bloemfontein is only an hour’s drive from the Lesotho border, so this race was very much a home race. We fielded a big team of 10 riders: 7 Elite men, 2 Elite women and 1 junior and I am sure that we were the biggest team represented there. Renowned as one of the toughest courses on the SA Cross-country circuit, it was always going to be a difficult race. We were very busy in the pits, dealing with crashes, broken chains, punctures and a broken crank and were very satisfied with the results of 9th for Likeleli in the Elite Women and 11th / 15th for Phetetso and Tumelo in the Elite Men categories. This translates to some useful UCI points and some well-deserved prize money for Likeleli.

Phetetso (centre) battles with Yannick Lincoln (MRI) and Arno du Toit (RSA) for the bronze medal at the African Championships.

Continental Success

There was no time to rest, as we were immediately jetting off to Mauritius for the African Continental Championships representing Team Lesotho. Mauritius is an island paradise - great for holidays, but a completely foreign mountain biking experience for our riders. The cross-country course was in the relative highlands and, with plenty of climbing on each lap, suited us. Our riders performed way beyond our expectations and we were ecstatic to come home with two medals Lesothos first ever medals at Continental level XCO -- Silver: Tumelo Makae (under 23 men) Bronze: Likeleli Masitise (elite women)!

We are very proud of the entire team performance, with Phetetso just missing out on a medal with 4th place in the cross-country and 5th place in the marathon.

1st: Tristan de Lange (NAM), 2nd Tumelo Makae (LES), 3rd Henry Liebenberg (RSA)

African Continental Championships Results:
  • XCO Elite Men: 4. Phetetso Monese, 6. Teboho Khantsi

  • XCO u/23 Men: 2. Tumelo Makae, 5. Malefetsane Lesofe

  • XCO Elite Women: 3. Likeleli Masitise

  • XCM Men: 5. Phetetso Monese, 6. Malefetsane Lesofe, 9. Tumelo Makae

  • XCM Women: 4. Likeleli Masitise.



1st: Michelle Vorster (NAM), 2nd Aurelie Halbwachs (MRI), 3rd Likeleli Masitise (LES)

At the same time as we were competing in Mauritius, the remaining team members raced in Reddersburg near Bloemfontein, South Africa. Even without our top riders, we managed to win the top two podium places in the 72km main race through Paseka and Tseko respectively, as well as 3rd for our junior rider Eric in the 50km race.

Tumelo & Likeleli celebrate their medals

On the 20th May, the team was back to full strength and competing at one of Lesothos top MTB eventsthe Malealea MTB Monster. Again it was a show of strength-in-depth for our team, winning the top three podium places in the main 75km event, through Tumelo, Phetetso and Paseka respectively. We also won the shorter 55km and 25km events as well. We were very encouraged to see that each of these categories were won with record-breaking times - another indicator of the progress we are making as a team.

The month rounded off last weekend, with the first round of the South African Free State Province MTB Marathon Series across the border in Ficksburg. This is always a tough test, with some of South Africas best MTB riders hailing from this region. The pace in the 60km race started off quite gently, but Phetetso and Tumelo ramped up the pressure when the climbing started at around the 15km mark. They broke away and managed to stay away together for the entire distance, with Phetetso just edging his younger teammate out at the end. Likeleli also won the 60km elite womens category, with Eric placing 2nd in the junior men 40km race.

Phetetso (front) and Tumelo set the pace at the Free State Marathon Series.

Thank you to all our #DreamMakers for your fantastic support!


UCI Rankings (as of 23 May 2017):

25 in the world THE SUFFERFEST AFRICAN DREAM TEAM, with 1239 points!

The Sufferfest is the principal sponsor of the The Sufferfest African Dream Team (formerly  ACE-The Sufferfest-Lesotho MTB Team), based in Lesotho. Team Manager Mark West will be updating us every month with an inside look at this underdog team. Words and photos by the recent-made Knight of Sufferlandria, Sir Mark West. 

Read more from Mark West on The Sufferfest African Dream Team...

April 26, 2017


News From The Front: The Sufferfest African Dream Team Surges to Top 30 in UCI Rankings

We are proud of being Africa’s number 1 mountain bike cycling team and our exploits over the past few weeks highlight the efforts we put in to keeping that top rank. We know that there are better riders out there (particularly in South Africa), but there is certainly no more consistent or better represented team on the continent.

news from the front: Windhoek, Namibia

The past few weeks have seen us take the +3,000km drive through the Kalahari Desert to Windhoek, Namibia. The XC course was fantastic, the organisation and hospitality was great and the racing was fast and furious just the way we like it! The only negative was the extreme heat, which caused two of our riders to feel unwell shortly before the race. To their credit they all dug in deep and raced to the end. We didn’t get any podium places, but we had all four of our riders inside the top 10 of this UCI Class1 race.

Of course, this race did not receive as much fanfare and publicity as the Cape Epic, which had finished the previous weekend. We had feared that we would lose ground in the rankings to the big teams at the Epic, but picking up useful points like we did in Namibia keeps us in touch with our competitors. When working on such a tight budget like ours – we just can’t afford to blow our entire annual budget on a race like the Epic.

We were not able to take the whole team to Namibia, so on the following weekend we gave the others a chance to race in the Clarens MTB Marathon. This used to be part of the UCI World Marathon Series, but has transformed into a 2-day stage race configuration. It was great to see our riders battling towards the front of the field once again. There is a perception that cycling is a ‘white’ dominated sport, but we hope that young Africans seeing our riders competing so well, will realise that it is a sport for all. We are very proud that our riders are consistently the top black riders in most of the events we compete in.

Sportsman of the Year

Back home, cycling is starting to get some of the accolades it deserves and we were extremely proud when Phetetso Monese scooped Sportsman of the Year in the Lesotho Annual Sports Awards ceremony two weeks ago. Phetetso has been such a great ambassador for the team and continues to compete at the top of his game. He is an inspiration to the rest of the team and to countless young cyclists in the country.

Pretoria and an old Giant XTC 26”

Our crazy few weeks climaxed last weekend at the SA MTB Cup event in Pretoria, South Africa. Both the men and women’s field were packed with Africa’s finest riders – out to prove a point after Europeans dominated the opening round in Cape Town. The course had been worked on since last year, with the addition of some tricky rock gardens and long, loose climbs. Phetetso settled in well in the opening exchanges, but lost touch with the leaders on the long-winding descent. It’s certainly something we have to work on, because all of our riders were gaining ground on the climbs and then losing out on the declines.

In the end, Phetetso had to settle for 14th position with 20-year-old Tumelo Makae following him in 15th position. This is Tumelo’s best result by far in this Series, with his previous best being 25th at the same venue last year. He is showing massive improvement. Teboho shocked everyone by lining up on a retro Giant XTC 26” on the second row of the grid. His bike was in for repairs and he wanted to remain true to Giant. He managed to stay on pace for the first half of the race, but eventually succumbed and finished in a respectable 23rd place. Malefetsane also finished in 22nd after suffering some pain during the race.

In the elite women’s race, Likeleli continued to show great improvements and battled hard to win 9th position. It’s great to see the elite women’s field getting more competitive and larger, buoyed by the influx of some very talented young girls. We also had our young girl, Bakang from Botswana, in the race and she showed a lot of improvement to come home in 12th.

Top 30 Ranking and More Travelling

All the hard worked has paid off. We had expected to lose ground to the big teams after the Cape Epic, but instead we have gained a place to 27th in the world. I wonder how much longer we can keep up this dream of remaining in the top 30.

Ahead of us are some more great races. We have already travelled to races in 3 different African countries and we have 3 more to come with African Championships in Mauritius, followed by some racing in Swaziland and Botswana. We are, without doubt, the most travelled and consistent MTB team on the African continent and we are proud to showcase our #DreamMakersproducts everywhere we go.

We would like to thank everyone for your great support without which we would not be able to make these African dreams come true for our riders...Thank you!

The Sufferfest is the principal sponsor of the The Sufferfest African Dream Team (formerly  ACE-The Sufferfest-Lesotho MTB Team), based in Lesotho. Team Manager Mark West will be updating us every month with an inside look at this underdog team. Words and photos by Mark West. 

Read more from Mark West on The Sufferfest African Dream Team...


Introducing The Sufferfest African Dream Team!


The Sufferfest, creator of the world’s most comprehensive indoor cycling app and training videos for individual and group use, announced today its premiere title sponsorship of The Sufferfest African Dream Team, an International Cycling Union (UCI) team based in the small African country of Lesotho.  Formally known as the ACE Lesotho MTB Team, The Sufferfest African Dream Team is the first indigenous African team to be licensed as a UCI MTB team and is the first to compete at the World Cup and World Championship level. 

With almost half of Lesotho’s two million people living in poverty and the team riding shared or borrowed bikes, David McQuillen, founder and CEO of The Sufferfest, knew he had to help. Working hand in hand with Mark West, team manager of The Sufferfest African Dream Team, The Sufferfest is now in its fourth year of sponsorship, proving that a little help goes a long way. This dedicated group of African athletes have shown that they excel not just at their sport, but at shattering expectations. 

“These men and women are the very definition of what it means to overcome adversity,” said McQuillen. “This is exactly what The Sufferfest embodies – suffering to become the best possible versions of ourselves.”


Listen to episode 8 of the Everybody Hurts podcast 

As a testament to the team’s hard work, they are the only African team to meet the requirements necessary to receive UCI mountain bike team status. Recently, the team received their highest ranking yet: first in Africa and thirty-third in the world. 

“What these women and men have to go through on a day-to-day basis would stop most people,” said West. “Despite it all, they ride. They ride to break the devastating poverty cycle, they ride for their families and their future. We appreciate all the help we get, in particular The Sufferfest, who were one of the first companies to provide sponsorship for our riders.”

While the team continues to dominate both at home and on the global stage, The Sufferfest African Dream Team is always looking to aim higher, with its sights set on the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.
Through hard work, dedication and the support of sponsors like The Sufferfest, the team will continue to take their dreams and turn them into reality.
About The Sufferfest African Dream Team
The Sufferfest African Dream Team is an officially-licensed UCI MTB Team and the first indigenous African team to be licensed by the UCI to compete in World Cup and World Championship level competition. The purpose of The Sufferfest African Dream Team is to identify cycling talent from the developing nations of Africa, particularly Lesotho, and give those riders an opportunity to race on the world’s biggest MTB stages. More than just a team, The Sufferfest African Dream Team serves as a training ground for future champions developing self-confidence and rising above the poverty and hopelessness that many riders were born into. For more information, visit http://africandreamteam.net/




February 27, 2017


motivation ›  

The Sufferfest African Dream Team Races the Voortrekker Monument


The Voortrekker Monument in Pretoria commemorates the Pioneer history of South Africa and, in particular, the history of the proud Afrikaner (Dutch) people.  To some it is a symbol of Hope and to others it is a symbol of oppression.

I’m not even sure if the 6 Lesotho boys noticed the impressive monument in the background, or knew anything about the symbolism as they lined up against the region’s best mountain bike riders last Saturday.  Their focus was on the tough seven laps of the XC circuit ahead of them.

Some might claim that the Monument and the Apartheid system that it represented is the reason why their South African opponents were riding more expensive bikes, latest trends in helmets and flashy eyewear.  But that was not on the minds of the boys as they lined up for the start.

That’s why I love the Basotho people of Lesotho.  They are incredibly poor and disadvantaged, but rarely complain or try to blame other historical groups.  Instead with an incredible resolution they determine to work hard to lift themselves up.

That’s exactly what our team did on Saturday.  Seemingly out-gunned and out-biked by the local Pretoria riders, squeezed to the back of the start-line because they do not look like pro MTB riders – they soon showed everyone what they are capable of!

From the starting whistle they began to pick up places and by the second lap, they had taken complete control of the race by occupying 6 of the top 7 places in the Pro-Elite race.


Phetetso Monese led the race almost from start to finish.  20 year-old Tumelo Makae finished just a few seconds behind him, both riders scooping top prize in the Elite and Under 23 categories respectively.  Local rider Frans Nel, put up a great fight to push our riders all the way and claim second spot in the Under 23s, followed by our own Malefetsane Lesofe in third spot.  Our new rider, Paseka Makhebesela, took our total number of podium places up to four – taking the silver medal in the Elites.

The race was a great benchmark for us at the start of the season.  We are very happy with where we are in terms of fitness etc., but we still have some work to do to get all the equipment back in race-shape.  That’s one of the hardships of balancing a tight budget – where do you spend the money?  Do you spend it on athletes’ well-being to make sure they get the proper nutrition and are able to look after families – or do you spend it on bikes and equipment?

We are very thankful for the support we get from our #DreamMakers in the cycling industry and we are already making plans to get all the bikes up to shape.  We have recently received chains from KMC, we have Token wheels and bottom brackets on the way as well as Limar helmets and DMT shoes.  We are also negotiating special deals and sponsored frames with Giant Bicycles South Africa.

Most exciting is the news that our Headline sponsor, The Sufferfest, has increased their cash sponsorship for the season to enable us to reach even higher dreams… and that is why we have decided to rebrand ourselves as The Sufferfest African Dream Team.  We also look forward to the regular sponsorship from our local partners, Unitrans Lesotho.

So what does Pretoria’s Voortrekker Monument symbolise to The Sufferfest African Dream Team? 

It’s an imposing building – but not as imposing as the obstacles some of our riders have scaled to get to where they are.  The cycling talent of Africa is just waiting to be discovered.  All these young riders need is for someone to believe in them and give them the opportunity they have been dreaming of.  Alongside the cycling, they are building up their self-belief, social skills, productivity and character and these are just the tools needed to empower them to break free from the poverty they were born into.


Elite Men:

1. Phetetso Monese: 1:35:05

2. Paseka Makhebesela: 1:42:21

4. Teboho Khantsi: + 1 Lap

Under 23 Men:

1. Tumelo Makae: 1:36:13

3. Malefetsane Lesofe: 1:38:29

5. Patrick Manasi: 1:53:43


1. Phetetso Monese: 1:35:05

2. Tumelo Makae: 1:36:13

3. Frans Nel (South Africa): 1:36:33

4. Malefetsane Lesofe: 1:38:29

5. Paseka Makhebesela: 1:42:21

The Sufferfest is the principal sponsor of the The Sufferfest African Dream Team (formerly  ACE-The Sufferfest-Lesotho MTB Team), based in Lesotho. Team Manager Mark West will be updating us every month with an inside look at this underdog team. Words and photos by Mark West. 

Need inspiration? Watch this video now:

He went pro on $100 a month - now he's going to the Olympics. from The Sufferfest on Vimeo.


January 19, 2017


The Sufferfest becomes partner of Kathryn Bertine's Homestretch Foundation

As long-time Sufferlandrians know, The Sufferfest has been a big supporter of women's cycling. We produced the first cycling training video, Hell Hath No Fury, to feature female professional racing (and today we have 9 videos featuring female athletes), were the first sponsor of the UCI's Women's World Cup (where we introduced 'The Suffer Prize) and support many female teams around the world and elite female athletes.

We were also the first corporate sponsor of a documentary on women's racing called 'Half the Road' That film was created by Kathryn Bertine, an absolute legend and incredible change agent in the world of cycling.

So when Kathryn, who just retired as a pro cyclist, told us she was setting up the Homestretch Foundation to make the lives of female cyclists more comfortable we knew we had to be involved to help them Suffer more.

The Homestretch Foundation, a nonprofit organization in Tucson, Arizona, provides free housing and training support for up to ten female cyclists, helping to relieve the financial burden that many athletes face. Throughout the rest of the year, the foundation works to eradicate salary inequity – not just in sports, but in every occupation. Their ultimate goal is to help reduce the immediate living expenses of female athletes who have reached the same level as their male counterparts.

We strongly believe in The Homestretch Foundation’s mission as it's all about facilitating change, promoting equality and empowering women in the cycling community. We’re proud to be a part of that movement -- but, of course, we needed to bring more Suffering to the table.

So! Thanks to The Sufferfest, athletes will now receive free, weekly motorpacing sessions, a key element pro riders use to build race fitness, but which is often out of reach because of the cost. We also provide all Homestretch Foundation athletes with unlimited use of The Sufferfest Training Centre App.

“We are incredibly grateful for The Sufferfest in helping our athletes take advantage of motorpacing, which is not only a key component to training, but  suffering in its purest form,” say Kathryn. “Since The Sufferfest has come on board to support equality for female cyclists, it has been a win-win situation for everyone in our sport.”

To learn more about The Homestretch Foundation listen to The Sufferfest podcast, ‘Everybody Hurts’ and the interview with Kathryn Bertine here.


Everything You Think You Know About LTHR is Wrong

THE APEX LTHR Rationale  

Since APEX Coaching first partnered with The Sufferfest we have continued to refine our training philosophy. Some of this has been in response to feedback and questions from the close-knit community of Sufferlandrians toiling tirelessly in their torture chambers and Embassies around the world. A common question from those concerned about maximising their Return on Suffering is how best to set up heart rate training zones based on Lactate Threshold Heart Rate (LTHR)

What is LTHR and How do you Use it?

First let's define what exactly Lactate Threshold Heart Rate is, and why it is useful. If you were to do a sustained, maximal, one-hour effort your average heart rate during that effort is your LTHR. Just like maximum heart rate, LTHR can vary widely from person to person. Knowing your particular LTHR is vital if you want to get the most benefit out of your workouts. The key to maximising your training is to make sure you are Suffering at the correct intensities for the correct amount of time. Knowing your LTHR will allow you to tailor your training zones to your specific heart rate and maximise your Return on Suffering.  

For subscribers to The Sufferfest Training Centre App, you have the ability to input your LTHR into your profile. The app then uses this value (in parallel withor Functional Threshold Power (FTP) if you’ve determined that) to automatically set recommended heart rate zones for each section of the workouts. This functionality shows you, in real time, what zone you should be in at any given moment. But in order to take advantage of this feature you first have to determine your LTHR.  That’s where the head scratching often begins.

The Old Way of Calculating LTHR

Enough digital ink has been spilled on the “correct” way to measure LTHR to fill the crater of Mt. Sufferlandria. The old, traditional method is to take your average heart rate for the last 20 minutes of a 30 minute all-out effort, or alternatively, your average heart rate for a 20 minute max effort. This value would then be used to set up your training zones. At APEX Coaching we feel there are some downsides to using this method. The main issue is that your heart rate during a 20 or 30 minute all-out effort will give you a higher heart rate than you could hold for an hour long effort. That’s like saying, “I can average 1,000 watts for a 10-second sprint, so I should be able to average 1,000 watts for 10 minutes.” While optimistic, this isn’t realistic. Let’s look at why.  

Physiologically when you ride at intensities above your FTP your body starts releasing stress hormones, such as norepinephrine and epinephrine (commonly referred to as adrenaline). Your heart rate increases in response to the epinephrine in your blood. As the levels of epinephrine rise so will your heart rate. That is why it is tricky to base your LTHR off of a test where your average effort is greater than FTP. All that epinephrine is muddling the results, making it seem like your LTHR is higher than it actually is.  

Our observations and empirical studies at APEX Coaching have led us to believe that there is a better, more effective way to calculate LTHR and use it to determine the appropriate training zones to give you the greatest Return on Suffering.  

The APEX Method for Determining LTHR

If you have a full hour to do a maximal effort, you certainly have that option. Just make sure you don’t have anything strenuous to do for the next two days. Like walking. There is, however, a quicker way. It’s not going to be pretty, but it will get the job done. It’s time for some Tough Glove.

The aptly named “Rubber Glove” is a Sufferfest fitness (ahem) “examination”, a workout designed specifically to help you determine your FTP or your LTHR. On its face it seems harmless enough: one hour on the bike consisting a solid warm-up, some high-cadence drills and then a 20 minute maximum effort, but it has been the undoing of many a Sufferlandrian.

A few words of advice before you step into the doctor’s office. The key is not to go too hard too early. The more evenly paced you can complete this maximal effort, the more accurate your LTHR will be. Perfect pacing can take time to master, so don’t fret if you struggle with your pacing during your first few cracks at Rubber Glove. If you have your heart rate monitor connected to The Sufferfest Training Centre during the workout the app will take care of calculating LTHR for you, and then set heart rate zones for all subsequent workouts based on that value. If you don’t yet have a subscription to The Sufferfest app, find your peak average 20 minute heart rate from this ride (please note this is not the same as your average heart rate for the 20min of Rubber Glove, your heart rate will remain elevated after finishing your effort, and we want to make sure that is taken into account). Once you have that peak 20 minute heart rate you will want to subtract 12 beats per minute from that number, and Voila! You now have your LTHR. Since individuals vary in LTHR, if your peak 20 min heart rate is under 155bpm then we suggest subtracting 10 beats per minute instead of 12.

How APEX Developed a New Way of Calculating LTHR

The APEX philosophy of LTHR and training zones is based off of APEX founder Neal Henderson’s years of experience as the head of Sports Science at The Boulder Center for Sports Medicine (BCSM). During his tenure he performed over 10,000 physiological tests in the lab. By comparing the results of these tests with data collected from athletes in the field, he was able to refine the testing protocol to create a new, more accurate method. It’s important to note that everyone’s heart rate will respond differently to the same workload, and no one method for calculating training zones will be universally applicable or yield results that are 100% accurate for every single individual.

If you have previously set up LTHR based on your average heart rate from a 20 or 30 minute test it is likely that the LTHR you get by using our method will be a little bit lower. To accommodate this we have adjusted the Recommended Perceived Exertion (RPE) values and how they equate to HR zones on The Sufferfest LTHR mapping sheet. A good example of this change can be seen in the HR Z2, or “Endurance”, pace. Previously the upper limit for Z2 was 83% of LTHR. Based on the APEX method we have increased Z2 to 87% of LTHR. But don’t worry. Despite the change, you haven’t gotten slower. You’re training has only gotten more effective.

Keep in mind that your heart rate can vary quite a bit from day to day. Things like hydration, fatigue, and stress can have a profound effect on heart rate. That is why when determining how hard to go during a given effort it’s best to combine heart rate with RPE (and power data if you have the ability to measure it through a power meter of via virtual power). By comparing multiple factors like heart rate and RPE you can adjust efforts accordingly. You will also want to ensure your Torture Chamber has adequate cooling by using a good fan. Your body produces a lot of heat when exercising, and if you start to overheat your body responds by diverting some blood closer to the surface of your skin where it can be more readily cooled. Your legs still need the same amount of blood, though, so the only way your body can simultaneously provide blood to your legs and divert it to the surface of your skin is by increasing your heart rate. This can cause of what is called “heart rate drift”, which is when your heart rate rises above your LTHR despite the fact you are doing an effort under your FTP.

If you’ve used the old standard method of determining LTHR you might feel that this new method results in an LTHR that is “too low”, meaning that longer efforts—particularly sustained climbs like those in Hell Hath No Fury and Thin Air— are now “too easy”. Physiologically speaking, a sub-threshold effort gives your body 99% of the same training stimulus as a full on threshold effort. However, the total stress on your body is higher after threshold efforts compared to sub-threshold efforts. In practical terms this means if you’re using the heart rate zones based on the APEX LTHR method as part of a complete training plan, going “easier” isn’t necessarily a bad thing. In fact, quite the contrary. Staying right below threshold will leave you fresher to smash tomorrow’s workout.  Hitting two workouts back to back is a much better training stimulus than hitting day one at full gas but falling apart on day two.  If you aren’t as concerned with being fresh the next day, then by all means, see what the weather’s like up there above your LTHR and Suffer like there’s no tomorrow. You won’t hear the Minions complain.

Read more from Mac Cassin

Mac Cassin has been coached by Sir Neal Henderson since 2009 and is a coach at APEX Coaching, with a focus on masters and junior racers. As an elite cyclist who also has to balance the demands of ‘life’ with his goals as an athlete, Mac has a deep understanding of how to get the most out of those who have limited time to train. Mac has raced at the World and PanAmerican championships and holds several US national and state titles. His studies were in Integrative Physiology from the University of Colorado and has worked as a research assistant in the CU Neurophysiology lab.

Did we miss anything? Make sure to ask a question or leave a  comment in the space below.

December 22, 2016


Is ERG mode killing your training?

With the advent of the smart-trainer, indoor turbo sessions have made a massive leap into the 21st century. In addition to allowing you to capture and review performance data from your workouts, many smart trainers also offer what’s called “ERG Mode”. This mode allows the The Sufferfest Training Centre App to dynamically control the resistance of the trainer to match a given workout profile. We call it “AARGH Mode”, or “The Minions in the Machine”.

Tell The Sufferfest Training Centre what your Functional Threshold Power (FTP) and it sets power targets for the workout based on that value. Trainer resistance is automatically adjusted so you are forced to hit those targets, whether you like it or not.

While ERG Mode does represent some serious next-level Suffering, there are some situations in which good old slope or “dumb trainer “ mode may be a better option. Today we’re going to break down the pros and cons of ERG Mode so you can use it—or not—most effectively.

ERG Mode and Pacing

One of the biggest problems athletes have when it comes to training is pacing themselves during an interval. All too often riders start out an effort well above a sustainable pace. One reason is that innate Sufferlandrian impulse to turn it up to 15 and rip the knob off. Another is athletic optimism. When you’re fresh it really does feel like you could hold that effort. By having a smart trainer control your effort it forces you to pace it correctly. This gives you a much better idea of how RPE can shift throughout a single interval, or throughout an entire workout.

Revolver is the perfect example. If you’re not familiar with this little slice of Sufferlandrian sadism, you are tasked with holding roughly the same power for 15 (more or less...) 60 second (mostly...) intervals. When you naively stroll into interval number one, the first 10 seconds feel like a cool breeze carrying scents of bergamot and Couchlandrian coffeecake. By the last 10 seconds of the 15th 16th, interval you’d swear that someone replaced the fine blood you usually have in your body with dark, smouldering lava crystals. While they feel different, they should be done at the exact same effort for maximum benefit. That is where ERG mode really makes a difference. It’s far better to hit all 15 16 efforts at the same, barely sustainable effort, rather than destroying yourself on the first few only to whimper and soft pedal through the last half of the workout..

ERG Mode = AARGH Mode: There is No Escape

Not only does ERG mode hold you accountable during the actual intervals, but it also keeps you in check during the recovery between efforts. Despite our best efforts, when riding a normal trainer or outside, the tendency is to completely back off the power as soon as you finish a hard effort. With ERG mode you still get to recover, but at a level that is more active recovery than spa day.

Lastly, ERG mode also helps you deliver consistent power over a given effort. Our natural tendency is to surge and ease off power at random times. With ERG mode you don’t have that option. The trainer will increase and decrease resistance in response to your output, resulting in consistent power, whether you’re pedalling at 70 rpm or 110 rpm. This allows you to complete workouts exactly as they are intended, meaning you maximise your training time and ultimately your Return on Suffering.

When To Resist the Urge to ERG

Despite these benefits there are times when ERG mode can actually be detrimental to a given session. The most obvious is during sessions when you are trying to determine your Functional Threshold Power, or FTP. If you haven’t been to see the doctor for a dose of tough glove that is Rubber Glove, you’re in for a….treat. The whole idea of doing a power test like Rubber Glove is to determine the absolute maximum effort you can sustain, allowing you to set your FTP for future suffering. The issue with ERG mode is that The Sufferfest Training Centre sets the power targets for all of the efforts in a workout based on your  current FTP. It’s a classic Sufferlandrian Catch 22: how can one possibly know the percentage of one’s old FTP that is sustainable for 20 minutes when the reason for the Dr’s Visit is finding your new FTP?

The main limitation of ERG mode is this: all effort levels are based off of your your FUNCTIONAL Threshold Power. That F-word makes all of the difference. FTP isn’t a fixed value. It’s  a fluid, ever-moving target, one that can change from week to week and even day to day. When you’re on the bike you have your own internal Suffer-meter that tells you whether pushing 220 watts feels like a 5 out of 10 or an 11 out of 10 on any given day. 

As smart as it is, your smart-trainer isn’t plugged into your Suffer-meter. You’re going to have days when you feel like your legs are made of Couchlandrian balsa wood. Everyone does. Sometimes it’s because you are at the tail end of a 2 week block of structured suffering and your body is reaching its limits.  Or maybe you just didn’t eat and drink enough before entering your torture chamber.  On those days your FTP might be 5% lower than when you last did Rubber Glove. Again with the F-word. What is Functional Threshold Power one day won’t necessarily be the next. That’s normal.

You have to put your ego aside and listen to your body, it knows a thing of two. Take the hint and dial back the intensity of your workout by 5% or so. If you don’t and insist on pushing it, the chances are you’ll overextend yourself, not complete the workout, and send your mental state into a Downward Spiral that is more toilet-like than Sufferlandrian, all because of a single bad session. But remember: a single bad session does not a Couchlandrian make. It simply means that you need to rest and recover as enthusiastically as you Suffer.

The opposite can also be true. After several weeks of good, consistent Suffering, and *gasp* proper rest,  your FTP might have gone up 5%. Unless you’ve booked an appointment with The Doctor, your smart trainer would have no idea. It can’t read your mind. You might end up breezing through a workout that was supposed to leave you with a third-class, one-way ticket to grovel town. That means you didn’t quite Suffer like you should have, and that makes GvA shed a tear. 

Apart from Rubber Glove, there are two other videos that simply aren't suited to completing in ERG mode: Violator & Half Is Easy. These short, rapid fire, on/off efforts are best done in slope mode, so you can unleash your high speed and power for each effort (without waiting for the resistance to ramp up).

With ERG Mode, there is nowhere to hide. There is no try, there is only DO.

Every tool has its purpose. Building a house? Use a hammer. Dialing in your carbon race bike? Maybe try something less...hefty. Pacing, accountability, consistency—all of these are made easier by ERG mode, that beautifully nasty Minion in the Machine. But tools are only as good as the craftsman who uses them. When it comes to establishing baseline metrics like FTP, or when your body is telling you something different, let your smart trainer play dumb and get reacquainted with your shifters. They’ve missed you.

Read more from Mac Cassin

Mac Cassin has been coached by Sir Neal Henderson since 2009 and is a coach at APEX Coaching, with a focus on masters and junior racers. As an elite cyclist who also has to balance the demands of ‘life’ with his goals as an athlete, Mac has a deep understanding of how to get the most out of those who have limited time to train. Mac has raced at the World and PanAmerican championships and holds several US national and state titles. His studies were in Integrative Physiology from the University of Colorado and has worked as a research assistant in the CU Neurophysiology lab.

Did we miss anything? Make sure to ask a question or leave a  comment in the space below.

December 20, 2016

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Dropping LSD: Base Training Isn’t Right for Everyone

Winter is a glorious season in Sufferlandria. Lava snow covers the slopes and peaks of Mount Sufferlandria, reflecting the glow from the occasional volcanic eruption. Turbo trainers are dusted off, Torture Chambers spruced up, and talk turns to that age-old winter tradition: Base Training.

Time to do LSD, right?

Conventional wisdom holds that winter is the season of LSD: Long Steady Distance. This means countless hours riding at a steady mellow pace for weeks and months on end in order to lay a ‘foundation’ for the more intense training sessions in the spring. Without all those base miles, the thinking goes, your body can’t possibly handle all that intensity later on. But is that true?

Fortunately for the time-crunched Sufferlandrian, the supposed benefits of high-volume, low-intensity training is more about tradition and less about science. Don’t get us wrong: doing long, steady base miles can improve your overall fitness, but that doesn’t mean it’s the only way, or even the best way to structure your winter training if you want to be fast.

The Myth of Creating a ‘Base’

The problem with the traditional “base phase” of many training plans is the time commitment required to see any real benefits. To see any substantive return from Long Slow Distance rides you need to dedicate a minimum of 16 hours a week, with some weeks requiring upwards of 25 hours of training.

While that might be an option for Sufferlandrian monks and full-time professional cyclists, chances are you’re not able to get out and train that much. For you, LSD riding is a waste of time -- time you don’t have.

You see, studies have shown (see reference at the end of the article) that when athletes with a fixed amount of training time switch from training that includes high intensity efforts, to only low intensity training will actually see a decrease in critical metrics like VO2 max, your body's maximum ability to utilise oxygen. Training only works when your body is subjected to a new stress that it hasn’t encountered before. Training stress triggers adaptation and improvements in fitness. Only when you present your body with a different challenge, a novel stimulus, will it make changes to become stronger and more efficient. If you’re a seasoned Sufferlandrian with a few years of riding under your belt, then doing a few 10 hour weeks of nothing but Long Slow Distance rides will only serve to de-train you. You’re riding a lot, but you’re getting slower. If you’re going to keep your title of Sufferlandrian Speed Demon come spring, you can’t afford that.

Many unfortunate souls have convinced themselves that doing high volume weekends during the winter is enough to get those benefits from LSD riding. No - not going to work. For LSD riding to really work you need to be hitting those big days at least five times a week. So hitting your weekends hard and riding once or twice during the week for an hour isn't going to cut it.

What you should be doing in the off-season

The question then becomes, “How should I be suffering over the off season?”  Well, your off-season training should include:

  • Sessions that really push you to your limits (“Nine Hammers”, anyone?)
  • Sessions that are taxing but...manageable (something in a leisurely “Thin Air”, perhaps?)
  • Enough quality rest to prevent cumulative fatigue (Yoga! Yoga!)

All of our training plans, which work in both the offseason and the season, are based upon balancing these elements.  

Another kind of training that you probably aren't doing but really should

Another key area to work on year round—and one that most athletes neglect— is neuromuscular training.  Unlike swimming or running which require good technique, cycling is a bit more forgiving. You can be “pedalling squares” all day and still go fast, albeit not efficiently.  One of the biggest differences between elite and amateur cyclists is how efficient their pedal stroke is.  By incorporating a variety of cadence drills (like you can find in our plans) you train your muscles to contract when they are supposed to, and relax when they are supposed to.  

Ultimately combining quality neuromuscular training with a dash of high intensity efforts and an assortment of “this sucks but it isn’t that bad” type efforts, you have the perfect recipe for improving your overall fitness over the winter, while leaving enough in the tank so that you can crush all comers once the arm warmers and booties come off.

Why you won’t burn out in Summer

But can you just go into intervals without having a ‘base? Won’t you just burn out come summer time? No. You won’t. Incorporating high-intensity training into your winter programme isn’t the culprit. It’s only true if you hit things too hard, for too long, too often and overtrain in the spring. Burnout is usually more likely when a rider is already engaged in high-volume training that piles high-intensity training on top of it.

Suffering, not LSD, Makes you Fast

As a Sufferlandrian you already know the benefits of high-intensity interval training. Get in, Suffer, get out, rinse and repeat. We use it because it works, regardless of whether the lava snows are covering the dormant vineyards of Sufferlandria’s Whine Region. To quote Sir Neal Henderson, “More is always more, but more is not always better.” By incorporating high-intensity efforts into your winter training program you can continue to increase your fitness without increasing volume, and emerge from your Torture Chamber in the spring ready to show mere mortals the true meaning of Suffering.

Read more from Mac Cassin

Mac Cassin has been coached by Sir Neal Henderson since 2009 and is a coach at APEX Coaching, with a focus on masters and junior racers. As an elite cyclist who also has to balance the demands of ‘life’ with his goals as an athlete, Mac has a deep understanding of how to get the most out of those who have limited time to train. Mac has raced at the World and PanAmerican championships and holds several US national and state titles. His studies were in Integrative Physiology from the University of Colorado and has worked as a research assistant in the CU Neurophysiology lab.

Did we miss anything? Make sure to ask a question or leave a  comment in the space below.

  1. Mujika, Iñigo, and Sabino Padilla. "Detraining: loss of training-induced physiological and performance adaptations. Part I." Sports Medicine 30.2 (2000): 79-87.


Do As You're Told: Why You Need A Structured Training Plan

Why You Should Follow a Structured Training Plan

Sufferlandrians are known for their superhuman capacity for, well...Suffering. They’re also known for their self-sufficiency and strong sense of motivation. It’s part of their identity and a source of national pride. So when the subject of the value of structured training plans arises, some Sufferlandrians are skeptical. You might even be one of them. And sure, you may lock yourself in your Torture Chamber every day with almost religious devotion, regardless of what other commitments you may have. And sure, you may be seeing fitness gains. The high-intensity interval training that a Sufferfest session dishes out will do that. So why follow a structured training plan? Can’t you just pick a video, flog yourself into oblivion, and call it good? You could, but you wouldn’t be making the most of your time. Structured training has many advantages over random, undirected workouts.


Whether you’re trying to learn a new language, master an instrument, or vanquish your competitors come race season, there’s one common, critical component: consistency. Talk to any coach and they’ll tell you the most important thing you can do to get faster is to be consistent with your training. An odd workout here and there isn’t enough to produce real fitness gains, and will only get you so far.

  • Having a plan laid out for you is a fantastic way to start cultivating discipline, and to leave behind the notion that you can only get in a good workout when you are feeling motivated for it. 
  • Having a training plan written out helps take some of the decision making out of your hands. No more time wasted scrolling through all of the workouts trying to figure out what ride you’re doing that day. With everything mapped out for you, you know the workout you do each and every day is going to be the one that will ultimately make you faster down the line.
  • Any training plan you undertake should have some rationale behind it. Not only should it cater to your skill level, but also towards your specific fitness goals. If you want to ride your first century but are only doing speed work you probably aren’t making the most of your training time. Left to their own devices, Sufferlandrians will tend to do workouts that emphasise their strong suits. Nothing makes a sprinter cringe like climbing, and you’re more likely to see a Sufferlandrian wildebeest doing a gymnastics floor routine than a self-professed climber doing sprint work. Training plans are about creating a more well-rounded, complete athlete.
  • A well-designed training plan will include a wide variety of interval types, and will introduce them at very specific phases of the plan in order to maximize their effectiveness. For everything (turn, turn, turn) there is a season (turn, turn, turn).
  • If performance gains aren't your motivation for Suffering and your goal is to improve your overall health and wellness, following a training plan will help you strike a good training balance so that you can you don't accumulate too much fatigue and burn out. More on balance in the next section.

The word "balance" gets used a lot these days, and with good reason. Busy Sufferlandrians are always trying to balance their burning desire to be a total BADASS, with the everyday commitments of being a good employee, husband, daughter, spouse and friend.

  • A good plan will help you strike the right balance between Suffering, lower intensity training and rest or days off (*gasp*), as well as make enough time for your other commitments, like paying bills, shovelling snow or schlepping the kids to ballet/piano/hockey/Mandarin practice.
  • A good plan will also help you manage the balance between training stress, fatigue and recovery in order to get the maximum Return on Suffering.
why the sufferfest?
  • The Sufferfest has partnered with APEX Coaching, whose staff includes some of the best minds in coaching and sports science (your humble servant among them). With plans tailored for all skill levels and covering disciplines from road to cyclocross, Olympic distance triathlon to cross country mountain biking, you’ll be able to find one that fits your needs and goals.
  • Subscribers to The Sufferfest Training Center App now have free, exclusive access to the full array of training plans. This allows you to check out all of them, eliminating the risk of paying for a plan only to find it’s not what you’re looking for.
  • Sufferlandrians are busy people. All of the training plans, like The Sufferfest workouts, are developed to give maximum benefits in minimum time. Less time training means more time crushing your enemies, or making lava snowmen, or opening up that Pain Shake shack you’ve always dreamed of.
  • Each plan integrates our new Yoga for Cyclists videos developed for The Sufferfest by Abi Carver, founder of Yoga 15. Instead of just being a one-trick pony you’ll can be guided to make improvements on and off the bike to help you become a more complete athlete.
  • Did I mention the full array of training plans is available free to subscribers of The Sufferfest Training Centre App? Hmm. Must’ve slipped my mind. Really, there’s no reason not to. You can start a plan and see how you like it, and if you decide you want to try something else, there is no penalty for moving on to a different one.

Do you want to get faster? Be more disciplined? Maximize your Return on Suffering? Stop “training” aimlessly and train with purpose. You have nothing to lose. Your competitors, on the other hand, they’ll probably wish you didn’t.  

Read more from Mac Cassin

Mac Cassin has been coached by Sir Neal Henderson since 2009 and is a coach at APEX Coaching, with a focus on masters and junior racers. As an elite cyclist who also has to balance the demands of ‘life’ with his goals as an athlete, Mac has a deep understanding of how to get the most out of those who have limited time to train. Mac has raced at the World and PanAmerican championships and holds several US national and state titles. His studies were in Integrative Physiology from the University of Colorado and has worked as a research assistant in the CU Neurophysiology lab.

Did we miss anything? Make sure to ask a question or leave a  comment in the space below.


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