For access to all of our training, gear, and race coverage, plus exclusive training plans, FinisherPix photos, event discounts, and GPS apps, sign up for Outside+.
$15/month, Free 14-day trial
SYSTM, formerly the Sufferfest, goes beyond virtual cycling and adds swim, run, strength, and mind workouts to the digital mix in an all-in-one triathlon training app.
SYSTM: The Basics
Its strength is clearly in its rich library of cycling content, but the folks behind SYSTM have also put a lot of care and science behind its other disciplines. While the other aspects of tri (swim, run, strength, and mind) still need a bit of love from SYSTM in order for their content to rival the bike section, it’s clear that the platform is on the right track to achieving something the multisport world has never had before: a single app that covers all disciplines related to triathlon.
SYSTM: The Good
SYSTM displays a bevy of options for getting in a ride; enjoy (erm, survive) classic Sufferfest workouts, take a GCN-led spin class, virtually ride with a pro, or crank up your own tunes and ride with no video. SYSTM has ride inspiration for every type of cyclist.
But SYSTM goes further than the typical virtual cycling app by presenting not just indoor rides, but swim, run, strength, and mind sessions, too. The sheer fact that the platform has endeavored to create an all-encompassing app is impressive while so many others choose to hone in on one sport or aspect of triathlon. Each segment (swim, bike, run, strength, mind) has sessions that are well-thought-out and do apply to most endurance athletes. It certainly eliminates the need to google “Strength training for triathletes” or “Good run workout for iron-distance training.”
As seems to be the trend among virtual cycling platforms these days, SYSTM helps you form a training plan. You can choose from plans like Cycling Event Prep, Triathlon Season Prep, or “A Week With” a well-known coach or cyclist. Alternatively, you can manually add in workouts using SYSTM’s calendar feature, which is very similar to TrainingPeaks’.
Lastly, SYSTM’s head of sports science coach, Neal Henderson, designed the “Full Frontal 4DP” fitness test for SYSTM users to best understand their current capacities and prepare them to leverage the app to their advantage. The test is an hour long session after which you will know your rider type and be assigned personalized power targets for your SYSTM workouts. The Full Frontal 4DP experience will assess your neuromuscular power, maximal aerobic power, a standard 20-minute FTP test, and a final all-out one-minute effort.
SYSTM: The Not-So-Good
One reason so many folks love Zwift is because at its core, Zwift is a form of social media. You can virtually ride next to Jan Frodeno or Lucy Charles, set up a planned meeting place in Watopia for you and a friend, or just enjoy the camaraderie of a digital spin around Innsbruck with a few hundred of your closest online cycling comrades. With SYSTM, you are riding solo the entire time. Of course, the app does a strong job of offering engaging content to make you forget it’s just you and the screen, but there’s no community feel when you’re logging some indoor miles with SYSTM. Considering how lonely the trainer can be in the dark of dawn, SYSTM may want to consider some type of social element to round out the platform. And we want to caveat this with the fact that SYSTM does have an online forum where you can ask questions and offer feedback, but it’s not the same as offering kudos in real-time on Zwift.
While it’s great that SYSTM is recognizing the importance of conditioning the mind as well as the body, the mental training sessions could use some work. The narrator isn’t all that soothing, talking quickly and pointedly, and the lessons within the Mental Training section seem fairly basic and high-level (i.e., “Establishing the Goal Setting Habit”). SYSTM is almost there with this topic, but not quite.
SYSTM is still new and is likely to expand its library in the coming months and years, but for now, it’s clear that cycling remains its strong suit. Mental training offers just 21 videos; strength, 51. While this is definitely still impressive, the app has room to grow before it can replace a formal coach.
SYSTM has a lot of potential. That’s the best way we can sum it up. The app is still a bit glitchy (at least on an iPhone 12); not adjusting the app to the screen orientation and the option to exit a video session not appearing every time. However, technical things can be fixed, and we’re optimistic this will happen in due time.
The app has all the elements of the classic, beloved Sufferfest but is wisely adding in swim, run, strength, and mind sessions to position it to become a powerhouse of virtual triathlon training after some refining. SYSTM is off to a strong start and has thought through all of the things triathletes care about in their programs—both from a physical and mental fitness perspective.
For now, SYSTM’s cycling library is a goldmine of varied workouts, videos, and motivation, and we hope to see its swim, run, strength, and mental training follow suit in the near future.