If you asked any coach, from any sport if they would like to include a Mental Training Program for their Athletes, I don’t think any of them would turn that down. The psychological side of sport isn’t something that amateur athletes invest time and money into; mostly because they have limited time and limited money. However, you do see the psychology within sport extensively used at the professional level. There is also no shortage of books or online articles when it comes to mental training, but sifting through this information becomes an insurmountable task within itself. One company has just made all of this easier for their subscribers. The Sufferfest has just changed the game with their introduction of The Sufferfest Mental Training Program introduced within “The Sufferfest Complete Training System” on July 10th.
The Science Behind Mental Training
The science behind mental training has always been evolving. You can read more about current views and thoughts in the two research papers Super Champions, Champions, and Almost: Important Differences and Commonalities and the Rocky Road or Making Champs and Super-Champs: Current Views, Contradictions, and Future Directions. In summary, the first article discusses how the individual athlete’s life experiences and how they interpret those experiences affect outcome. The second article talks about current and future views and methods when conducting Total Development (TD) of an athlete.
To simplify this discussion even further (not that easy when dealing with any psychology field), we look at two athletes that have the exact same physical attributes and physical skills. We line these two athletes up for a bike race or running race, and with all things being equal, they will finish at exactly the same time. That outcome will rarely occur, and one athlete almost always bests the other. Both athletes have the same sets of skills, but one athlete is better prepared in the execution of those skills than the other. That my readers, is the difference mental training can make. Next, we are going to talk about this chart below and some of the key elements needed in a Mental Training Program.
Mental training focuses on skills just like you focus on threshold efforts to get stronger on the bike or intervals to increase VO2 Max. Psychologist David J. Collins, Author of the works above, categorizes these skills into segments he calls Psychological Characteristics of Developing Excellence (PCDE). You can see the list of skills on the table above with the discussion below about the metrics below.
This list has evolved from the original ideas of Terry Orlick (e.g., Orlick and Partington, 1988), and been refined as a result of several studies focused on talent development (e.g., MacNamara et al., 2010a,b). Parallel strands have examined characteristics of effective TDEs “Talent Development Environments” (e.g., Martindale et al., 2010) and the design and deployment of quantitative instruments to operationalise and track the constructs, such as the Psychological Characteristics of Developing Excellence Questionnaire or PCDEQ (MacNamara and Collins, 2011, 2012). In short, PCDEs are the product of a significant body of work, rather than a single investigation. More recently, work has focused on the development of a second version of the questionnaire, the PCDEQ2, which measures these skills (Hill et al., in review), generating the important factors presented on the right of Table 1. In simple terms, the skills can be thought of as equipping the performer with a “hand of cards,” which are then deployed to achieve or counter the factors. Notably, four of these factors are positive (numbers 2, 3, 5, and 6) so athletes are encouraged to maximize them. Two are negative (1 and 7) so skills are deployed to counter and avoid whilst one (number 4) is “OK in moderation” or when expressed in certain ways.
This is just a summary at defining the categories and scope of mental training for the athlete. It is a specific development of skills that can be employed as a tool that is just as effective, if not the most effective element of sports training. An athlete can be talented, but prolonged success can only be achieved when effectively engaged and deployed with strong mental training. That leads us to The Sufferfest Complete Training System.
The Sufferfest Complete Training System
The Sufferfest started with one man (David McQuillen) making cycling videos set against music, a storyline, and a workout profile. Cyclists have gravitated towards the Sufferfest because it not only engages the body with world class workouts developed by Apex Coaching, but the immersion into the story along with heart pounding music creates beneficial physiological results. It is really as simple as this, you can ride your indoor trainer or run on your treadmill and get a decent workout while watching TV, or you can do the same thing except your workout is your visual and auditory experience that pushes you to new levels of “Suffering.” New levels of Suffering create better fitness, hence the name “The Sufferfest”.
The “Complete” Training System
In the military I was taught that “Words Mean Things.” There is a difference between “Defend” and “Delay”. The title of the Sufferfest’s new App has changed. They are now calling themselves the “Complete” Training System, and they have the material to back it up.
There are run workouts, bike workouts, triathlon workouts all set to dynamic storylines and music. There are 20 Yoga and breathing videos where Abi Carver guides you along to help keep you relaxed and healthy. Not only that, they have a nutritional guide. What other cycling app provides a nutritional guide? On July 10th, they added 21 Mental Training modules to their App that are now integrated with various types of training plans that cover everything from road racing, triathlons, CX Mountain biking, and many more. No other platform provides such dynamic inclusivity than The Sufferfest, and they do all of this for 10 dollars a month or 99 dollars a year.
Who Else Does This?
Yes, I said it, “Nobody Else Has Anything Like This!” Sure, we could look at TrainerRoad and say there is an element of Mental Training in their workouts and plans. As a person who has done the TrainerRoad Traditional Base and Sweet Spot Base plan, I would say you are incorrect. TrainerRoad does a good job of focusing on skills work with Coach Chad in their individual workouts but that is not a Mental Training Program. Take a look at that table at the top again. The workouts I did on TrainerRoad don’t line up with the PCDE Skills list. TrainerRoad is teaching bike/endurance skills and not mental skills, that is the difference. The Sufferfest Complete Training System is not only teaching skills, they are giving you the tool necessary (Mental Training) to employ those skills in a effectively focused and guided manner. So, how does it work?
The Sufferfest Mental Training Program
The 21 guided audio modules take you through week 1 to week 10 (event week) of your Sufferfest Training Plan. They provide an in depth and detailed handbook to guide you along the way in your journey to crush your Mt. Sufferlandria. Think of it as a journal for crushing your goals. You start off by focusing on yourself and what your goals are. As you move along in the modules, goal setting habits are put in place, matter of fact, lots of very good habits are put in place. You work on “Getting Positive” and “Relaxing to Recover”. One of my favorites is “Positive Self-Talk,” where Dylan Robbins (the man behind the mustache) talks you through being positive and rethinking some of that negative self talk that gets into your head. I don’t know about you, but I need more positive self-talk all of the time.
Useful For Cycling or Crushing Any Life Goals
These series of modules are not just focused, but highly and effectively focused. You are looking at yourself honestly, setting some goals outside your comfort zone, you are changing habits, and you are reviewing and rewarding yourself along the way. I had the opportunity to test out the mental training modules before they were released by The Sufferfest. I can affirm that you can also use this outside of athletic activities. Yes, I found myself using these modules to help me focus on my website ahletictechreview.com. That is how you know a mental training program is done correctly, elements can be applied to shore up other areas of your life.
The Sufferfest Takes The Lead
I am excited to see what is coming in the future. With visionary ideas like Mental Training and their Yoga program for Time Crunched Athletes, the Sufferfest will continue to blaze new trails in the future. These Sufferlandrians know what it takes to make you Suffer, and that is a good thing for their subscribers. It is going to be interesting to see how the indoor training market breaks out over the next 8 months. How many new Sufferlandrians will be coming out of winter mentally prepared to shred chamois and drop Couchlandrians? I have a feeling it is going to be an Army, and they are going to be more mentally prepared than anyone else.