Monday, December 12, 2011

Spinervals Review

Winter is here.  No question.

We've got big plans for next season, everything is in the big goals/big dreams phase now, but we intend to do more than ride back and forth to the Safeway.  We have Intentions.  So here we are, mid-winter, huddled in our huts and sharpening our knives. 

I know from my days in Illinois and Iowa that indoor training can be is a tedious business.  This winter I am lucky to have companions to share the burden of discipline with, but because I am who I am, the purchase of some gear was in order, too.  I lucked into a Black Friday sale at a bike shop here in Canada, and took some time to look over their collection of workout DVDs.  They passed my new litmus test of allowing me to do something I couldn't do before--stand a stationary workout--so I dropped some coin.  (And they are small, so they also don't noticeably add to my inventory).  I went with Spinervals, the stalwart of the indoor-cycling DVD industry.

 I used to sell Spinervals back when I worked in a shop--back when Spinervals was a new thing and came on VHS cassettes.  I admit to being shocked that Coach Troy, the guy behind Spinervals, has 70-some titles out  now, many with less-than-descriptive titles like "Dropping the Hammer" or "Have Mercy!"  No matter.  The long dark parts of winter are for low-intensity, long duration base-building efforts.  Settling on Spinervals' Aero Base Builder value pack and a few others was simple enough.

I've read a lot of books on athletic conditioning generally and on training for cycling, specifically.  I also try to keep up to date on research in sports medicine and exercise physiology.  I know what I should be doing to get ready for the season, and I've put together plenty of successful training plans in the past.  But I'm also finishing a dissertation, dealing with a newborn, and so on and so forth.  I kinda don't want to spend a lot of time worrying about mapping out each day's drills and intervals.  I'm happy to give Coach Troy thirty bucks to handle the particulars.  I'm also happy to let him worry about marking time and calling out the drills as the session progresses.  Plus, working on my own, we'd have to ride without a cheeseball rock-n-roll porn soundtrack.

Coach Troy doesn't bring anything revolutionary to the table; he's not a celebrity face with his own revolutionary system.  Anyone familiar with Friel or Carmichael will find all of Troy's terms and theories familiar and comfortable.  What Troy provides is a solid hour of applied theory--you know what you're getting with these workouts, and there's no new system to make sense of and evaluate.  This is classic training, cleanly applied.  For those with experience with structured training, Troy does tend toward broad heart-rate zones, and, at least early in the discs I've watched, he gives only superficial attention to training with power.

I should add that it does help to have experience with structured training.  The Spinervals discs are all numbered, currently 1.0 to 41.0 in the Competition Series, and 1.0 to 6.0 in the Fitness Series, but there's no rhyme or reason to those numbers: they're simply numbered in the order of release.  There's no guide as to when, exactly, what role HILLacious with Great Harvest Bread Co. should play in one's training plan.  When and how often one should get hillacious, and whether other brands of bread are an acceptable part of your diet, are left up to the individual rider.Coach Troy provides some broad guidelines on his own, non-Spinervals site here, but getting the most out of a winter training will require a fair amount of homework on the rider's part. 

None the less, if you know why you've put in the disc you're watching, Coach Troy delivers.  The workouts are well-structured and move briskly and effectively through their tasks.  Troy frequently has you changing hand positions, transitioning in and out of the saddle, and varying resistance and cadence to keep your attention from wandering and your body from the undue wear imparted by a static position.  In addition to Troy's stable of riders toiling away in some seemingly random Maryland location, the screen displays a graph indicating your intended  %HR/RPE, a clock counting down the total workout time, and Troy's suggested gear combo and fitness-cycle resistance setting.  It's important to remember those gear combos are suggested--Troy generally assumes a 12-25 cassette, for example, and your bike might be quite different.  Let RPE or HR guide everything you do.  (Troy reminds you of this periodically, but will then accuse one of his riders of "cheating" when he hears their bike shift.  Don't be put confused by the mixed signal--your HR trumps his suggestions.)  You can do the workouts with or without the porn soundtrack. 

 It's a long winter, but Spinervals looks like a worthwhile addition to the season.  Ask me again in March. 

In the meantime, we huddle indoors.  We sharpen our knives.


  1. Hey Val, good post.

    Coach Troy is even talking to me in my sleep.

  2. I sometimes wish Coach Troy would yell at me, or anyone, perhaps one of those svelte triathletes he hangs with. Have fit, knock over one of the spinners, stomp off camera. Show me you're human, Troy!


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