Spinning with The Man

By Barry Siff .

 January 6, 2006 — With winter upon us, many triathletes find it difficult to get outdoors for their key cycling workouts. Endless hours on CompuTrainers, rollers, etc. are wonderful alternatives. But many triathletes still ask, “Are spin classes worthwhile workouts?” Well, if you’re ever in Boulder, Colorado, on a Tuesday morning between 7:00 and 8:30, stop in at the Flatiron Athletic Club and witness first-hand how a spin class can, indeed, become a winter staple of an off-season training program. The instructor? None other than “The Man” — Dave Scott.

“Dave’s class is great — it’s methodical, specific training, high intensity and very entertaining. Everyone is fair game during his warm-up monologue,” says Sandy Cranny, a four-year veteran of Scott’s class and a 2005 IM Arizona and Kona competitor. Dave Scott — funny? How about irreverent? “Who flossed this morning? Waxed or unwaxed? Bad hair day, huh Jodee? Verne [Dave’s 77-year-old Dad, who is a class regular], think you can bring your cadence above 30? Rich [who jogged a Turkey Trot with his young daughter] — I saw your 5K time at the race over the weekend … you know you can get arrested in Boulder for going that slow?” Etc.

But people don’t line up for the class 45 minutes early to ensure a bike for simply the humor, though. The class rocks! This is not your typical spin class: no music (unless Dave chooses to swoon one of his favorite 70s lounge songs), the instructor is not on a bike, nor is he a “certified spin instructor” (something he regularly jokes about). All 23 cyclists must wear heart-rate monitors and know their lactate threshold (Dave knows virtually everyone’s by heart), as the class’s core 50 or 60 minutes has participants constantly hitting different training zones. Cadence is also key, as a count of pedal strokes is made at least six to eight times per class. And don’t try to sandbag — Scott will eat you up as he did his competition on the Queen K.

Dave started spin classes about 10 years ago, and his program is built upon a progressive workload with specific plans for each month. Roughly 70 percent of each class involves variable-gearing combinations of low gear and big gear, seated and standing, while 30 percent is in a time-trial gear. “Muscle recruitment at varying workloads is important for the development of muscle specificity and the type 2 muscle fiber,” says Scott “Too many triathletes always ride in their choice gear — big mistake.” Besides emphasizing different workloads with variable gears, Scott tries to increase the total standing time in the workouts, shooting for 30 minutes of continuous standing at one shot by the month of May.

What about standard spin classes, Dave? “For health benefits, for most people, they serve a purpose; however, most of them do not follow any sound physiological model and, if you are a semi-serious athlete and want to improve, the classes should be progressive.”

As for general training tips for those indoor cycling workouts on your own, Scott suggests the following example: Include a 30- to 45-minute set that has blocks of three to five minutes in one gear at a set heart rate. Measure perceived exertion, speed, watts and/or heart rate, and track a standard set that you can repeat easily or notch up each week. For example, 12 x 3 minutes on a 30-second rest interval. Secondly, increase the big-gear time 5 to 8 percent per week. Stay in a lower gear, but practice and record the amount of time you are seated and standing in a low gear and big gear. Lastly, increase your strength over the winter by bringing up the heart rate (or the variables mentioned above) in all six gear choices (low, time trial, big gear – both sitting and standing).

Yes, Dave Scott continues to be “The Man” to a great many people in Boulder and beyond. His knowledge of what it takes to be a successful triathlete is unquestionable, and, at a very youthful 52 years of age, he has matured into quite the spin maven. Now, about Simon Lessing’s aerobics class ….

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