If it were up to me, SPINERVALS “Hardcore 100,” would be called “Hardass 100.” Coach Troy tells you to have plenty of bottles of fluid and snacks nearby, but he doesn’t warn you to apply Chamois Butt’r, Assos cream or Bag Balm – in generous amounts -- before climbing on your bike for this 5 hour and 40ish minute workout, which is designed to approximate a 100-mile ride. Or the sensation of straddling a sanding belt while wearing tight lycra shorts.
Hard*** 100 is filmed in what appears to be a hotel ballroom with plain walls and a bright, wild geometrically patterned carpet. Surprisingly, the crazy mix of colors works well. There are 25 participants, all obviously fit and representing a range of ages and athletic backgrounds. Coach Troy paces among them providing “encouragement.”
The ride is divided into three parts, spread across three disks, each with chaptering and the option for music on or music off. Production quality is very good and the music is instrumental. Disk 1 is the shortest, clocking in at about 1 hour 45 minutes. Disks 2 and 3 are each 2 hours. I covered my ears and hummed during the introduction so that I couldn’t hear Coach Troy say something along the lines of, “There is only one rule for this workout. Once you start it, you cannot stop.”
I broke the one rule: I did the first two disks as separate workouts and plan to do the final disk the same way. Some day I will do it all in one workout, but my current fitness level, training goals and most of all, my ass, are not hardcore enough at present.
The disks build in intensity, so the first disk is the shortest – but hardly short -- and also the easiest. The second disk is tougher and the third disk is supposed to be the hardest. That probably explains why I haven’t done it yet.
The warm-up is a little longer than the usual SPINERVAL warm-up, culminating in Coach Troy’s traditional 3 times 30 seconds on with 30 seconds rest. If you’re new to SPINERVALS, imagine pedaling into the wind pulling a wagon of cinderblocks for 30 seconds then cruising for 30 seconds, repeated 3 times. I am characteristically slow to warm up, so the 3 times 30 leaves me wheezing and convinced I’m dying. (But afraid to quit in case Coach Troy finds out, which apparently scares me more than dying.)
After the warm-up and a happy reprieve from my imminent “3 times 30 on” death, it’s on to the first real work set, which is 65 minutes in duration, consisting of 10 minute intervals with 1 minute easy spin, repeated 6 times. During each of the 10-minute reps, you change gears every two minutes, alternating between small ring/15 and big ring/21. (About a 1.5 - 2 resistance for those using spin bikes.) This set is done at an intensity level that is aerobic and very sustainable, with a cadence mostly between 80 and 90 rpm. It goes by surprisingly fast.
After about a two minute recovery spin, Coach Troy then launches the next set: 6 minute work reps with 1 minute rests, repeated (I think) four times. During each 6-minute rep you continue to change gears at regular intervals, alternating between small ring/15 and big ring/15. (Resistance level 2-3 on a spin bike.)
Despite an impressive puddle of sweat under my bike trainer and my lack of proper application of Chamois Butt’r , I was surprised when Coach Troy announced the time had come to get off the bike, re-fuel and go to the bathroom. He allotted a total of three minutes to complete these activities.
The camera then followed as the athletes moved purposefully – but stiffly -- to a buffet table and re-filled water bottles while frantically shoveling food products into their mouths. There was no coverage of the bathroom activities. As a nice bonus, the shuffling/refilling/eating activities were presented in an artsy style and interspersed with brief one-on-ones with some of the athletes on the benefits of indoor training. Then the screen cued me to insert the next disk. As if.
So 24 hours later, I moved onward to Disk 2. No death by 3 times 30: it starts with Coach Troy looking cheery at the prospect of continued improvement to the mental and physical conditioning of the hapless souls he has caged in that ballroom. (He can’t wait to inflict a world of hurt.) He immediately launches the cyclists on a series of eight 6-minute repeats. Because the repeats are shorter in duration than those on disk 1, Coach Troy gradually increases the gearing and the resistance gets steadily tougher.
Every cyclist is soaked in sweat, but Coach/Judge Troy is unable to hide his disappointment that the room is carpeted, making it impossible to accurately compare the size of the sweat puddles. Oh darn. Even though I’m breaking Troy’s rule and only doing a portion of the workout, I suspect that I’ve got a bigger puddle than all of them. I am profusely sweaty and proud.
The second work set on Disk 2 is a level harder: a series of twelve 4-minute repeats. At this point, it’s clear the athletes have lost the ability to do any kind of mental computation of where they are in the workout and now are using their meager remaining intellectual skills to focus on the patterns in the carpet. I prefer my SPINERVALS filled with drama and emotion, so my enjoyment of the workout continued to increase even as my legs began to fatigue. Wondering: Will they topple over? Will they barf? Will they throw an F-bomb at Coach Troy? And feeling smug that I was going to be done long before they were, I found myself liking the workout even more as the athletes’ heads sank lower and lower to the ground. Of course, there were a few perky faces remaining, with several Video Fitness alums among them. (Hi Brenda, Melly and Nancy.)
I’d tell you what’s on Disk 3, but I haven’t gotten there yet. And it might be a while.
There are many funny lines from Coach Troy’s mouth and lots of interplay among the 25 athletes, so the H100 entertainment value is quite high. There are a few athletes in particular who stand out: the guy with a prosthetic arm, several attractive women and a dozen guys who pedaled like machines and probably never substituted their small ring/17 for a big ring/15 in their whole lives. (Me either, cough cough.) Either Coach Troy has sized up his viewing audience and realized it’s predominantly male or the cameraman had an extreme boob fixation, because there are loads of cleavage shots. I’m in my 40s and the mother of two, so I know what I’m talking about when I say that the women held up to these close-ups very well.
Overall, I’m extremely pleased with this workout. And with nearly six hours of footage, there are a million different ways to use the set:
** Using each disk as a separate workout provides several good options for longish aerobic workouts -- a guaranteed two-ish hours of steady calorie-burning and time in the saddle
** Disk 1 would easily adapt to a run/bike workout -- just alternate the bike and the treadmill for each 10- or 6- minute repeat.
** Disk 1 is also easily adaptable to a circuit training workout. Keep a couple different sets of dumbbells or a loaded barbell by the bike and alternate upper and lower body exercises during every other repeat.
** Finally, I suppose, you could do all 3 disks together. Let me know how that works out for you.
Coach Troy is a great motivator with great cycling training and knowledge, an engaging personality and a twisted grin that gets bigger as he inflicts more and more misery. The man is sick -- and I love it.