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Tri-Newbies Online Free Triathlon Training Plans

Getting to Know Your Spinervals DVD
Hazen Kent - Tri-Newbies Online

In the coming months and once each month Tri-Newbies Online will review a different Spinerval’s DVD, covering the specifics of the workout featured on that particular DVD as well as any tips and techniques that may help you get the most out of your Spinervals workout!

The purpose of this article is to provide an overall review and preview of a typical Spinerval’s DVD. While the workouts within each are unique and serve a specific purpose (ie. hillwork, time trialing, spinning/power, aerobic base building, etc)  the framework of each DVD is basically the same. So in this review, we will cover the information that remains consistent throughout all of the Spinervals DVD’s. We will also discuss some of the items you will need so that you will get the most out of your Spinervals workout. And finally we will discuss some specific skills necessary to provide a safe and efficient workout.

The Production:

The production of each of the DVD’s that I have personally viewed (which at this time is twelve total) is absolutely first rate. The sound quality is clear, the picture is very crisp and sharp and the graphics provided on the screen during the workout are easy to read and understand. The camera work is also terrific, as the workouts are shot from a variety of directions focusing on the different participating athletes as well as Coach Troy himself.  Furthermore, each workout includes riders (triathletes as well as cyclists) of various skill levels and occupations and is shot in a different and unique location throughout the country.

The Graphics:

If you are looking at your monitor (television or computer) during your workout, you will have several graphics positioned along the bottom of the screen as well as the top left corner (see picture below). Along the bottom of the screen and moving from left to right you have three different graphics: the overall time counting down, the recommended tension level (for stationary cycles only) and the gear ratio in which you should be riding. And in the upper left hand corner of your viewing screen you have an effort meter.

When you first put in your DVD and choose the “menu” options, you will have several choices:

  1. Workout with music – the workout with  music playing in the background.

  2. Workout without music – for all you MP3’ers out there! You can play your own tunes while workout out, just remember to keep the volume low enough so you can hear Troy give his instructions.

  3. Set Selection – provides the entire set and allows you the option to choose a specific set if for example you are limited for time.

  4. Coaches Notes – a sit down type of interview with Coach Troy as he describes the essentials of the particular DVD.

  5. Training With Coach Troy: More information provided for the viewer

Items 1-4 will remain the same with each DVD, but certain DVD’s may have additional features as well. For example, in Timetrialapalooza 22.0 (which will be reviewed in the future) there is an excellent segment on bicycle fit and the differences between a triathlon/time bicycle and a traditional road bike.

The Presentation:
As in all of his Spinerval DVD’s, Troy Jacobson actively participates as your coach, moving about the room, keeping you (as well as the athletes in the production) engaged throughout the entire workout. Whether he is instructing you to hop up out of the saddle and “run on the pedals,” or passing along helpful training advice and motivation, Coach Troy eliminates any possibilities of you being bored. It is amazing just how fast the time goes by! 

Items required for optimal results:

Before you begin your particular workout, there are a few items you will need in order to gain the most out of each workout.

  1. Cycle Computer w/ Cadence – you will want a bicycle computer with cadence. Cadence shows your pedal revolutions while riding. Speed is not really a concern in these DVD’s but your cadence is.

  2. Heart rate monitor – A heart monitor is necessary for these DVD’s (and for your triathlon/cycling/run training as well). There are several on the market, and really, there is not a bad one out there. Some will have more bells and whistles than others and the price will reflect the added features. But the main feature you should be concerned with is a stopwatch function with your heart rate monitor (so you can use it for you running as well). If you presently do not own a heart rate monitor, do some homework and get one. Cycling and running retailers such as TriSports, All3Sports, Nashbar, Performance and Road Runner Sports will have plenty from which to choose.

The Obvious items you’ll need!

Stationary Trainer - Most of you will be using your bicycle for your indoor training. So, you will need a rear wheel stationary trainer. There are several excellent trainers on the market in the $150 - $400 range. My recommendation is to find one that offers resistance settings. As you progress through your Spinervals DVD, you can challenge yourself by increasing the resistance for your ride! Most of your larger retailers will have several brands for sale.

  Some of you may have an older  “beater” bike sitting around your garage that you can use as your trainer bicycle. And if so, terrific. However, most do not. Therefore, if you are using your main bicycle for your indoor cycling, make sure to take extra care of her after an indoor ride. Typically, we tend to sweat a bit more indoors for there is no wind to help keep us cool and to keep our perspiration from dripping all over the bike. **NOTE: Always have a fan blowing on you when riding indoors. And while a fan will help keep you cool, it won’t help blow the perspiration off the body and thus keep it off the bike. So, after you complete your workout, take a dry cloth and wipe down your bike. Wipe off the headset, your top tube, your crank arms, your seat and your rear brake calipers. All of these tend to be in the direct path of dripping perspiration during an indoor ride. And these components can become rust magnets.

Stationary Bicycle. If you have a stationary bicycle in your home, make sure you are fitted properly. I suggest transferring the measurements from your road bike to your stationary bike

Getting to Know You DVD’s:

The beauty of any Spinervals DVD is the fact that you can challenge yourself in a variety of ways with just one DVD/workout thus never really getting bored with that particular volume. Don’t get me wrong…changing things up and adding new DVD’s to your collection will only prove beneficial, for as I mentioned, I have several that I use throughout my training week as well as for particular phases in my training. But, I highly recommend that you buy one and really get to know it before you move on to a new one. ** Keeping in mind, moving on to a new one does not mean discarding the one you may have, at least in your mind, “played out.” Keep them all, use them all, for they will all have a place in your training regimen.

So, what do I mean by “getting to know” your DVD? Well, by this I mean, get a feel for the particular workout and all that it includes.  Learn how Coach Troy speaks and presents the workout; learn to anticipate certain changes within the workout, when to be ready to hop out of the saddle, shift gears etc. These will all help you progress through the workout more efficiently, allowing you to focus on the critical areas. 

Another advantage of using one particular DVD/workout over a given time, is that you can assess your progress.  But to do so accurately,  keep all variables the same. In other words, try to do that particular DVD/workout on the same day of each week, at the same time of day, etc. (i.e. in the morning before work or evening after work).  And journal your progress.

Upon receiving the DVD in the mail, some folks will pop it in their DVD player and preview it from the comfort of their favorite armchair before putting it to use. I prefer the practical approach of getting on the bike and participating in the workout first hand.

With one exception…

…start out without any expectations. The temptation will be to jump right into Troy’s instruction and go at it.


Folks…relax…and start out at an easy resistance level on your trainer. Especially those new to the sport of triathlon and specifically, cycling. For certain terminology may seem confusing at first while you are trying to follow along with the specific workout. For those familiar with Spinervals, the acclimation to a new DVD/workout may not take as along as someone new. But either way, don’t worry about your performance for the first couple of sessions.

Things to do in preparation for a new DVD Workout.

1.)   It is important for you to understand heart rate training and to learn your various training zones and/or levels such as your Lactate Threshold and your aerobic training zone. For during some of the DVD/workouts, you will be asked to train at a heart rate relative to your lactate threshold. Now, there are tests you can perform in order to find your Lactate Threshold. And some can actually be fairly tough and even injurious (running all out over a given distance, or pedaling your bike up a hill at difficult pace) so it will be up to you to do some research, find a safe approach and get an idea of where you fit.

There are several methods for determining your heart rate, and several excellent books on the market that show you how. I personally use the 180 method of heart rate training that calculates my aerobic training zone and from there, I can determine where I need to be for a variety of training efforts. For example, via the 180 method, I know my aerobic heart rate zone is 125 – 135 beats per minute. If for example I am working out with one of the “Aero Base Building” DVD’s, I know I need to keep my heart rate within these heart rate limits throughout the workout for maximum aerobic training. For more on heart rate training as well as the 180 method of training, click here!

2.)   As previously mentioned, for your first couple of workouts, be conservative and choose an easy resistance level on which to train. For those using their bicycle with a rear stationary trainer (a trainer on which your rear wheel sits), start out with a resistance level of 1 maybe 2.  Get a feel for spinning at a higher cadence and the relationship between your heart rate and your cadence.

3.)   Before beginning the DVD, be familiar with your gears on your bike and the terminology associated with your bike gears. And specifically, make sure you understand the terminology used during a Spinervals workout. For example, most of you will have two chainrings located at the center of the bike on which the crank arms and pedals are attached (some of you may have a triple ring set up). Typically, these are referred to as your Big Chainring and your Small Chain Ring. Throughout most of the Spinerval workouts you will here Troy refer to these as the “Big Ring in Front” or  the “Small Ring in Front.”

You also have a “cluster” of rings or cogs attached to the rear wheel. This cluster is known as your rear cassette ( or for older bikes, a rear freewheel). Most of you will have a 9 speed cassette on you back wheel which means the cassette is made up of 9 cogs (some of you may still have a 7 speed freewheel or an 8 speed freewheel/cassette, which means you will have either 7 or 8 cogs on the back cluster). On each of the cogs, there are teeth that act as guides for the bike chain with the number of teeth marked on each cog. Troy will refer to these during the workout by the number of teeth on each cog. For example, he may say, “ok, shift up to your big chainring in the front and your 15 on the back  And what he means is, you are in your big chain ring up front and your 15 tooth cog on the back. It will be up to you know your set up in the back. Your back cluster may be a 12 – 25 meaning you have nine rings ranging from the smallest - a 12 toothed cog, to the largest - a 25 toothed cog. And typically the cogs would be 12, 13, 14, 15, 17, 19, 21, 23 and 25.  Again, each number represents the number teeth on each cog. See picture…

Depending on where you live may depend upon your set up in the back. For example, I live in the coastal southeast where it is extremely flat. The only hills we have are the bridge spans that cross the various waterways. We do, however, have incredible winds because we are oceanside. But my set up is a 12-21 with cogs being, 12,13,14,15,16,17,18,19,21. and I rarely if ever ride in #21. Furthermore, I have an older bike as my trainer bike and my set up is an older 7 speed freewheel with a straight 12-18 (12,13,14,15,16,17,18) For those who live in hillier or mountainous regions, you may have a 12 – 25 on the back. So take a look at your rear wheel and determine your set up. Throughout most of the Spinerval workouts, a 12-25 seems to be the cassette of choice. However, if you do not have that particular set up, do not worry, use what you have. There are always specific points that you can check your pace to see how it relates to the DVD.

EX: As I mentioned earlier, I have an older “beater” bike set up as my training bike with a 7 speed freewheel on the back wheel. The gears are a straight 12-18 or (12,13.14,15,16,17,18). Troy will often start out most sets with you cycling in the Big Ring up front and your 15 - toothed cog in the back. And he may have you pedaling at a cadence of between 90 and 100 rpms. At some point he may ask you to shift up to your 23 tooth cog or “the next cog down from your largest cog in the back” while maintaining a cadence over 105 rpms or higher. Well, for me, that would be my 17 toothed cog. And pedaling over 105 rpms while maintaining my optimal heart rate is not as easy. I am usually at a cadence of around 95 rpms. So work with what you have. But keep in mind, my goal is to get my cadence up to 100 or 105 at my optimal heart rate while in the 17 toothed cog.

Standing and Pedaling or rather “Running on Your Pedals”

For those of you who live in the mountainous regions around our country (or world), no doubt you are used to standing and pedaling your bicycle during uphill ascents.  And typically, your cadence is very slow as you power through each pedal stroke. However, during some of the Spinerval DVD’s standing and pedaling may be a little different from what some of you are used to.


Because at some point during your Spinervals workout you will be instructed to stand and pedal while pedaling at a high cadence – say around 90-100 rpms. Now, if any of you have ever taken a “spinning” class at your local gym, you most likely will have performed this task. However, not all of us have. So it is important you understand the safest way to do so.

Below are some tips that may help you better prepare you for those times Coach Troy instructs you to “stand out of the saddle and run on those pedals!” Refer to the picture below when reading the steps…


1). The faster the cadence, the more you have to pay attention to your form when standing and pedaling. You will be performing more of a running form on the pedals vs. the typical long, slow, rocking motion you may be used to when pedaling uphill.

a.  Keep your upper body still and facing forward. (see pic above)

b.  Keep your hips straight and facing forward. (see pic above)

c.  Pedal as if you are sitting but you are actually standing. Almost like running on the pedals.

d.  Your weight distribution between the amount of weight you place on your handle bars with your upper body vs the amount of weight you place on your pedals via your lower body when standing will make a big difference as to how smooth your pedal stroke will be. Most of us tend to place too much weight on the pedals trying to emulate our typical climbing form (slower cadence, hips moving side to side, and bike swaying side to side opposite the hips) And you will find, that if you do this at a faster cadence, your pedal stroke will actually be very choppy and erratic. If you place too much weight on your handlebars via your upper body, you will certainly find it easier to pedal faster and smoother, but you will basically be cheating yourself because very little weight will be on the pedals and thus you will not really gain any benefit. So you want to develop a nice balance between the two. (see picture)

e.   When standing and pedaling, do not stand straight up (back erect). Bend at your waist and maintain a lower center of gravity. (see pic above)

f.   ***IMPORTANT*** Do not ever straighten your legs or lock your legs while pedaling at a high cadence. You will run the risk of either hyperextending your knee or causing some frontal knee injury. Keep your knees slightly bent as you pedal throughout the entire stroke.

g.  Take a look at the DVD and see how the athletes perform on screen and it will give an excellent picture of what to do.


If you are not used to standing and pedaling at a fast cadence, do not simply hop up and go at it. You could encounter a knee related injury. And if you are experiencing any knee pain going into the workout, take extra precautions before standing and pedaling at any cadence. Initially, when instructed to stand and pedal, slow your cadence down a bit to a comfortable pace and then stand and pedal. As you develop a feel for this method of standing and pedaling, you will begin to adapt to a faster cadence. 

In Conclusion

I realize that most reviews give both goods and bads, yeys and neys, etc. of the particular product in an effort to be unbiased. Well, unfortunately for all you skeptics out there, I have nothing negative to say at all about any of the Spinerval DVDs that I have used or viewed.! I absolutely love them all!  And further more, I highly recommend them for all.  And not just for your winter indoor training. They will prove beneficial during all phases of your training. 

And for those who wonder if I am using them…absolutely! Currently I am cycling five days a week. Four of those days I am on the trainer using the Aero Base Building DVD’s (16,17,18,25) and the Time Trialapalooza (as of the writing of this article)

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