Interview with David McQuillen of Sufferfest

An unexpected Saturday morning storm put me on the rollers this past weekend.  It seemed like appropriate timing as I had just sent some questions over to the man behind what is at the same time the most suffering and the most fun I have had during an indoor workout.

David McQuillen is Mr. Sufferfest.  If you have read my reviews of A Very Dark Place, Blender, Revolver, and Half is Easy, you‘ll know just how highly I regard the indoor training videos from The Sufferfest.  Read on to learn a little more about David, his creative process, Sufferlandria, and what to expect from The Sufferfest in the future.


The first time I rode Fight Club and The Downward Spiral, I was immediately impressed by how great the videos were and how much fun you were able to combine with all the suffering compared to every other video I had tried.  How did you first come up with the idea of The Sufferfest, and when was the first moment that you knew you had made something really special?

I was living in Zurich, Switzerland and trying to train indoors during the winter. Within one minute of getting on that damn trainer, I‘d want to get off. I got so bored with everything else out there I created my own training videos to keep me entertained and focused on a structured workout. I shared them with a few friends, they liked them, and next think you know I‘m negotiating video rights with the UCI and ASO (owners of the Tour de France). I certainly never expected to leave my banking career to focus on the spread of Suffering around the world. It‘s a fulfilling cause.

What is the usual production time for one of your videos?

Most of them, from initial idea to final product take a few months. We start with the design of the workout, then figure out what footage will go best with it. From there, we design a storyline and then lay down the right footage accordingly. When that‘s all done, we put in the graphics and sound effects and, finally, the music. And music is the hardest part by far.

It seems like there is less wait between releases than there used to be.  Do you have a current goal of getting a certain number of videos released each year?

We‘re certainly getting things out faster these days, and that‘s because we‘ve become much better at putting the videos together but also because I have a couple of great people helping me.

Does it bother you that so many people curse your name or is this a badge of honor?

No. We love to be hated. And it would be even better if I had a dollar for every time I‘ve been cursed….

What is the worst thing that anyone has ever admitted to calling you during the course of a Sufferfest?  I‘ll edit any expletives.  ☺

There is hardly a name that I have not been called.

However, there is one word that would absolutely break my heart if I was called it. It‘s the C word. Couchlandrian.

I admit I still have a fondness for some of the original Sufferfest videos.  The scene when the first interval starts in Downward Spiral with the entrance into Arenberg may still be my favorite scene and interval in any of your videos.  Do you have a favorite and least favorite video?  What makes each so?

That‘s like asking which of my children is my favourite. They are all special in their own way. For each of them, I have a very personal story about how I came up with the story line, edited the footage, the struggles in getting it to come out right…stuff like that. Perhaps I‘m most proud, however, of Hell Hath No Fury, because so many people told me that a video featuring only women‘s racing would never sell – it‘s one of our best sellers. I‘m also extremely happy with ISLAGIATT – that two hour monster was an absolute beast to put together but it‘s one of the most engaging story lines in all of Sufferlandria.

Even before you had coaches designing some of your workouts, they seemed to be just the right balance of hard efforts and recovery.  How did you determine how hard to make the workouts without overdoing it?  

I‘ve been a cyclist for 20 years and there are tried-and-true interval workouts that just get results. Those include things like the 3 x 8:00 (which is the basis for Angels) or the classic 2 x 20:00 (the foundation for Hell Hath No Fury). The key is to make sure there is enough recovery between intervals so you go from thinking ‘˜There is no way in hell I can do that next interval‘ to ‘˜You know, I might just give that next interval a go‘ over the course of that rest period.

Has there ever been a time when you tried an early version of a workout and scrapped it because it was just too hard?  Or did you just name it Revolver and call it good?

Too hard? HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAH. Was that a real question?

I know I‘ve seen massive increases in my spring fitness when I do a regular regiment of ‘˜fests over the winter months.  Tell us about the gains you have made when using your own product?

With three very young kids, a full-time job and a wife that would like some attention from time to time, the only kind of training I can do is high-intensity/low volume stuff. I‘ve done races and sportives in Europe and Asia exclusively on the back of Sufferfest training. After doing one of our 10 week training programmes, I was stronger than I‘d ever been and hitting power numbers way beyond what I‘d done before. In fact, Sufferlandrians normally see a 10-15% improvement in performance after doing one of our plans. They hurt. But, as we say, Success Hurts.

What‘s the population of Sufferlandria, in your best estimate?

There is a global diaspora of Sufferlandrians – more than 118,000 of them have found a home at our Facebook page and countless legions more have yet to discover their inner Sufferlandrian. We are coming for them.

What are the current requirements of Knighthood?

Besides steely determination, COURAGE and a very large bucket? Basically, 10 videos back-to-back with no more than 10 minutes between videos. The nuances, and honour roll are here:

With Jens‘s retirement from racing, is Grunter von Agony nervous that he may be replaced as DS?  If not that role, are there any governmental positions in Sufferlandria Jens should be eyeing? 

He would certainly be very effective in our Ministry of Immigration. He‘s spot a Couchlandrian from a mile away and get the flogging station fired up.

Thank you for your time, David.  It‘s been fun getting some perspective from the guy who has caused me so much pain.  Let me say I personally look forward to new releases from you.  What can we be excited about, or perhaps dread, in the future?

We‘ve got lots of new ways for you to Suffer coming later this year, including the world‘s first training videos featuring on-bike camera footage from the World Tour. It‘s going to be mind-blowing stuff. We also have more running videos in the works as well as a new subscription platform through Roku, the Apple and Google Android. New casual wear with Apres Velo, too! The thing we‘re most excited about, though? Re-inventing indoor group cycling with our new Group & Class Edition product. Stay tuned!

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