The Spinervals series of indoor
cycling workouts offers a variety of different types of workouts, each one
self-contained and providing a slightly different workout, and each led by
experienced triathlete coach Troy Jacobson. Spinervals Competition 3.0:
Suffer-O-Rama is a high-intensity intervals workout designed to increase
strength, explosive speed, and anaerobic fitness. Take it from me: the title is
no exaggeration... but if you want to get stronger and faster on your bike, you
know that this is a "good" kind of suffering!
The workout runs approximately
53 minutes, or a bit longer if you start warming up while the opening sequence
plays. The program is as follows:
3x30 seconds effort
1 minute spin
5x1 killer minutes
2 minute spin
5 minute tempo effort (10 seconds seated/10 seconds standing)
2 minute spin
5x45 seconds effort
2 minute spin
4 minute tempo effort (15 seconds seated/15 seconds seated)
2 minute spin
5x30 seconds sprint
1 minute spin
3x20 seconds sprint
As you look at the workout
program, you'll notice that Coach Troy allots two minutes of soft-pedaling
recovery between each set, instead of the more usual 1-minute rest... but don't
be fooled into thinking that this is a sign of an easier program! To "earn"
those longer breaks, Coach Troy expects you to push it to 100% effort in the
I found Suffer-O-Rama to
be an excellent workout: it was challenging and really got me motivated to push
it in the intervals sets. Coach Troy really does a nice job of pacing the
workout, providing structure so that I always knew how much longer I had in
each effort and how many repetitions were left in each set, and providing lots
of encouragement without overdoing it. The overall program is sufficiently
varied that the 53 minutes passes by relatively quickly: we get short, intense
sets alternating with longer tempo sets, seated effort alternating with
standing effort, and some sprints at the end for good measure.
Suffer-O-Rama is similar
to the first program in the Competition series, No Slackers Allowed, as
both offer a mix of steady tempo effort and intense interval sets for pure
speed. However, I'd consider Suffer-O-Rama to be the better workout. The
sets felt more naturally put together, and Coach Troy's explanations of all the
exercises are crystal-clear. Suffer-O-Rama does have a higher intensity
rating (9.3 rather than 9.0 on a 10-point scale) but it's easy to adjust your
own choices of gears, and how hard you push it, to make the program right for
your level of fitness.
All in all, Suffer-O-Rama
is a very nicely done program. As with the other Spinervals programs, useful
graphics appear on-screen throughout the program: a countdown of time left in
the workout, a "perceived effort" bar that's quite useful in gauging
how hard you should be pushing it, and an indicator of what gear you should be
in for each set. The music in the soundtrack is very well done: it's not mere
background music, but instead provides the right tempo and overall tone for
each set, from the low-key rest periods to the high-intensity sprints.
The other participants in the
session are regular people, not professional athletes or models; they're all
evidently quite fit, but they also suffer and sweat right along with you.
What's more important, both the Spinervals riders and Coach Troy are evidently
enjoying themselves: there's a cheerful air about the whole program.
The image is clean and bright,
and looks perfectly satisfactory for an exercise program; if you're paying
attention to the fact that the image is a bit soft, then let's face it, you're
not working hard enough... push it harder! The program appears in its original
1.33:1 aspect ratio. It's pleasant to look at, and the lettering for the
graphical aids is nicely clear and readable.
The sound quality is more
important than the image quality, because you need to hear Coach Troy telling
you what to do even if your eyes are glazed over or blinded by sweat (don't
forget your towel!). Fortunately, the soundtrack here is solid and gets the job
done quite well. Coach Troy's voice is always clear and understandable, and the
music is correctly balanced with his instructions throughout the program.
There aren't any special
features, but the menu design is well done. Each exercise set is its own
chapter, so it's easy to skip around or repeat parts of the program as desired.
The menu screen, with its chapter headings, is effectively an outline of the
whole program; once you get started, a more detailed outline is also shown for
a moment, which is quite useful.
Spinervals Competition 3.0:
Suffer-O-Rama offers an intense, well-structured indoor intervals program
for cyclists and triathletes, whether they're competitive riders or serious
recreational riders. I found it to be a very satisfying and challenging
intervals workout that complements the focus on steady tempo work in Time Trial Special
and the low-intensity aerobic workouts in the Fitness 1.0 and 2.0 programs.
It's very similar to the workout in No Slackers Allowed;
if you are planning on doing a lot of indoor training and are going to get the
whole Spinervals series, then there's certainly room for both No Slackers
Allowed and Suffer-O-Rama in your collection, as the No Slackers
Allowed program does have some nice sets that aren't included here. But if
you have room for only one intervals program, then it should be Suffer-O-Rama.