I have been on TR once a few years back and resigned back up around August. I have never finished a full plan so you can take that as you will.
First time going through SSB HV 1 &2 I saw about a 7 watt threshold increase but also felt much stronger. Realized I could ride SS work all the time and even when legs didn’t feel amazing they had the power for those workouts.
I didn’t come from Sufferfest actual plan. I have their original videos on DVD. I do find TR VO2 and workouts above threshold to be unrealistic for me, probably because I’m better at SS & threshold work. Jump into the build going from the base seems unrealistic to me.
I have yet to complete a training cycle. The build has kicked my butt. Two years ago it burnt me out totally. This year I was getting really worn down. Decided to pull the plug on the build and then about a week and a half later I found out I had/have COVID.
It’s nice having thousands of workouts already built. But it can be overwhelming to trying and build something yourself when you feel the canned plans don’t necessarily work for you.
Both times I signed up for TR I felt I owned it to the company after listening to the podcast so much and scanning the forum. I first had it when it was $99 a year and that’s an amazing deal. Even the $189 is a smoking deal if the plans work for you or you know what you’re doing and have no problem picking out workouts.
I do believe it would be nice if the search features added a few other things, such as interval length, rather than workout length and main zone.
I again believe that TR is a great value, the podcast is great to listen to, and this forum is nice. I do find that I struggle with the plans though and maybe its because I get into my head a bit too much but when a plan does not work for me I find it hard to adjust and figure out what is best for me. Don’t be afraid to adjust levels or give yourself a Z1/2 day if you’re feeling like you’re doing too much.
The beauty of being able to switch a workout indoors to outdoors or vice versa alone is worth the money IMHO. A click on your Calendar, then a Sync All on computer head unit, and the workout is there with interval beeps and a graphic for workout progression? Hard to beat.
I’ve been with TR, SF & Zwift, variously for about 4 years and i’ve used them all for different things. I only started road riding 4 years ago and didn’t have any idea what i was doing, especially when i got a trainer. Sufferfest was the first one i found and i had great fun with it. I used to enjoy the way it was actually a little bit scary going into the workout when you knew it was going to be hard, really hard. I’ve now let the subscription lapse last year.
I use Zwift for playing at indoor racing and for aggressively paced group rides which are occasionally fun. I often cancel the subscription and pick it up again a few weeks later.
I’ve always kept TR as my main training tool. The others are just fun toys to use. My N=1 is that i’m just an average middle aged office worker but thanks to TR, come summer i can ride a decent 70.3, a time trial, a crit, and Zwift race and bring 4.4 W/Kg to the table. Their stuff works. And it’s fun.
Only own 1 SF video and no experience with the current plans. A little over twice your age, back in 2015 I got to ~250W ftp just by doing Tue/Thur HIIT in a gym spin class on Stages stationary bikes (with power meters), plus another outside ride or two. So that was about 4-5 hours/week. Then next bump in fitness was a result of increasing time on bike plus hard group rides, and that took me to ~280W. Then bought a Kickr and after an off-season break the TR sweet spot base along with some outside riding would get me back to 240-250 ftp. And then like @dennenj the TR build plan destroyed me. Based on that, I’d recommend going with low-volume build plans and potentially only doing two of the three depending on how you feel. Given that experience, I bought some different plans (FasCat, Velocious) and discovered I needed a lot more zone2 than in the canned TR plans (broke thru 250 ftp and hit 260 in June). So IMHO it really pays to discover what does and doesn’t work for you.
I think the only way you can get an answer that is worth anything is to try it for a year. It’s very hard to judge something like this in 30 days since that’s not even enough time to go through a single block of any plan. So dive in!
The other thing I will say is that improvements are not linear. There will be plateaus and regressions no matter what platform you’re on.
As Nordic said I think at your stage you would do well to talk to a good coach. That doesn’t mean you should abandon SF or take up TR.
Only a coach can assess your needs based on more specific plans for your racing, eg, event types, duration, flat vs hilly, TT vs endurance, sprinter vs, …etc. Also what your A vs B&C priority events are and when.
Armed with that knowledge you can then look at the TR plans and how you can fit them into a training schedule.
One of the great things about TR, is the calendar, and the reminders from staff when you don’t complete a session, that motivation is an essential component of success; they are genuine block structured plans. But IMO a weakness is their default focus on Sweet Spot, also VO2Max based solely on FTP, where its needs are not about maintaining a power level. Other good things are riding drills within a session, eg, cadence, quadrants, you hate them but they need constant refreshment, the instant feedback after each session
When TR rolled out the calendar feature a few years ago I rolled my eyes. Now I love it. I love tracking the TSS week to week, watching PR’s across years and seasons and just overall power analysis and planning. I dont know what SF features there are like that, but I stay with TR year round even though Im only serious about it for about 4 or 5 months of the year.
I was with SF for about a year before I switched over to TR. Like someone else said above, I started with the podcasts first and got so much value out of them that paying for the training seemed like the freebie. I liked the SF community (previously on FB) and some of their workouts, but I struggled to find any footing in the training plans and never really progressed. I switched over from SF after they changed their scheduling function (and stopped pushing to Training Peaks) - I lost my mind not being able to keep everything in one master schedule.
I love the plan builder - I schedule and log everything even outside of cycling. I much prefer the ramp test over the 4DP - it feels like the ramp test places me on the right training levels. And, I really love the ability to toggle and push any workout outside. Hope this helps!
I switched from SF two years ago, right before they released the new version of the program, so my opinion will be from that point in time. At least at that point, there was basically no base in their plans, everything was high intensity intervals, all the time. What I found, was that I was really good at high intensity intervals, and could repeat them very well (my strength anyway), but really never made any FTP/performance late in a ride gains. Since switching to TR and now a polarized like plan, I’ve found my endurance is much better, and overall I’m a better rider. Just my experience though.
I used Sufferfest from roughly 2013 to 2018, about half of which just watching their videos on a dumb trainer, and the other half trying to follow their structured training plans, the last bit with 4DP and a smart trainer. (During this period my wife and I had 2 children and dealt with countless daycare-sourced illnesses, so take my experience with several large grains of salt.)
Random bullet points to give my thoughts:
The videos were great, and were the toughest part of deciding to cancel.
I couldn’t finish many of the workouts, especially when using their workout player where you were held to the power (erg) akin to TR. This was after a Rubber Glove or Full Frontal fitness test, so in theory, my zones were accurately set.
Following their 12 week plan(s), I did gain FTP, but it left me with little desire to ride my bike, and anecdotally, the fitness felt transient(?) … like I gained some high end power, but was left struggling whenever I needed sustained power, as in a group ride. The experience with TR sweet spot base plans has been the opposite.
The ‘Full Frontal’ 4DP test was the most mentally damaging fitness test I’ve ever done. I swore I would never do it again. I said as much in my exit survey. The graphs and fitness “type” were interesting, but I don’t think I got any real value out of it. The TR ramp test is “easy” by comparison… I almost look forward to it.
I was with Sufferfest for a bit over a year, but moved over in November. I think Sufferfest has some benefits, the body weight exercises are pretty decent(especially if your gym is closed) and the plans are effective at building new fitness or re-building, but in my opinion they lack focus for training beyond 12 weeks and for training more than 5hrs a week.
I have had gains with TR, and I feel like they came at a lower cost, and you can see the progression with intervals building in length or number throughout your plan. (I also saw improvements with SUF for that matter)
I believe 4DP is useful, but I’m on a trainer to build my aerobic fitness primarily, and I think the TR focus is on making you faster for endurance events, I don’t think I need a 4DP number, and the V02max work with TR is going to be in the right range based on FTP.
I agree SUF is very taxing, which is probably great if you train <5 hrs a week, I’m not convinced when you go above that. I think TR plans are much easier to comprehend, and to look back and forward at to see that generally the approach is to tighten the belt a bit each week. This is a place where with SUF I struggled to see alot of consistency or progressive overload.
I think planbuilder alone is worth the added cost over the standalone plans with SUF. The cost is consideration for sure, but then I think about how much my carbon wheels cost, and their performance benefit is probably equal to 6-12 weeks on TR.
with COVID restrictions I decided to switch over and here is why, I lost 6hrs a week riding to work, which was good on one hand for keeping me on the bike alot, but it also made using an actual plan really challenging because 80 minutes a day of endurance/high torque start/stops isn’t great feeling fresh. I decided it was time to double down on my efforts and pick that plan and program that would give me the best chance at improving my endurance power.
TR provides you with the science through its products, and I prefer to know how things work. With SUF, its a bit more of a black box “trust us” approach. I am fundamentally a scientist, I prefer understanding how and why things work.
Thank you all for taking the time to answer the questions. Your experience and thoughts on the two platforms are really interesting.
I see that pretty much everybody who made the switch to TR did notice new gains.
Just like @Weissjoel82 said, we don’t really know what science their programs are based on, even though the SF have world class coaches. I feel that TR uses a well known and proven method, which reassures me that I’m doing something that works for sure.
I work in ER with a completely irregular working schedule and long shifts, I sometimes have to train at 2 or 3 a.m. so it would be important for me to get the most benefits from each workout, which seems to be the case with TR.
I’d probably go with the low volume plan and try to add some endurance ride from time to time.
The plan builder seems to be very useful and on point according to your reviews, this is a big plus.
About 4DP, I actually base my workouts either on FTP or MAP. I never sprint indoors (carbon frame and direct-drive trainer, I don’t want to risk to break anything). It’s true that it’s quite cool to see what your strengths are, but I could actually test these without SF. My MAP is 129% of my FTP, so it’s kind of “standard” and I’m not sure a few watts more or less during the vo2max intervals would actually make a difference.
I’m going to finish the plan I’ve started with SF which ends on the end of the subscription and give a try at TR after that.
Thank you again for your messages everyone.
Have a nice day!