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Carpet Sweat and Brainwaves

Sep 19, 2013
by Nathan Hughes  
bigquotesThere is limitless strength and power from being positive, clear minded, organized, thoughtful, honest, and truly happy. Almost all experts agree, and clinical research supports it - Todd Schumlick - Perform X Racing

Suns out...

Officially Todd Schumlick is a trainer of athletes. In practice he is more of a full-on life coach. To listen to him for a short time is to realize the error of your ways in areas far deeper and more widespread than riding bikes. His philosophy is simple: How can a rider be the best they can be during the minuscule race window available each season, when the rest of their life isn’t in order? Preparation to truly excel must go further mere physical fitness and riding skills, and enter the complex psychological realms of discipline, honesty and the rejection of self-doubt.

His client list includes a collection of top Red Bull riders including Stevie Smith, Aaron Gwin, Brook MacDonald as well as Sam Blenkinsop, to name a few. He has also worked with a huge array of top flight motocross riders over the years and still does. Who knows how he fits it all in. Anyway all this makes Todd the ultimate go-to guy for insight into athlete preparation, in unprecedented position to inform us on what it takes to be the fastest rider on Earth.

Follow the discussion, sip on a tastey beverage and revel in the comfort of your armchair, as you spectate on an intensive hotel foyer work out.

Track walk shoes off on the fancy carpet.
  Track-walk shoes off on the fancy carpet.

What are the most important qualities for racing success?

The 4 'D's - determination, dedication, discipline and desire... combined with commitment and attention to detail.

How would you describe the type of fitness demanded by the modern downhill world cup circuit?

First, I do not believe pedaling is the greatest demand placed on the downhill rider. From my experience, it is the entire body that is involved. Through my past study in Kinesiology (human movement), athlete feedback, personal experience, and research, the body works as a whole. This includes the bi-lateral (left and right) and reciprocating (opposing muscles) balance, conditioning of energy system, mobility of joints, posture/biomechanics, and respiratory/cardiovascular system. In short, POWER is the single most important component physically. Power = Force X Time / Distance. With DH athletes, I focus on developing the proper workload of force, time, and distance in their training. This is then applied through various exercise disciplines, including strength and cardiovascular training, on-bike training, and possibly motocross.

The PerformX race team are joined by George Brannigan and Neko Mulally. Let the games begin.
  George Brannigan and Neko Mulally join Todd's race team for the hotel session. Let the games begin.

How would you summarize the power of the mind in racing.

From my experience, the mind is the most important component in racing success. It is also the most difficult and complex to condition. I have been assisting professional athletes for about 15 years now. Besides my past study in sports psychology, reading, and research, I have observed certain patterns in behavior, attitude, personalities, etc. Behavior and attitude have a huge impact on the path we follow, including how an athlete performs. One cannot extract day-to-day behavioral habits when race day comes around. There is limitless strength and power from being positive, clear minded, organized, thoughtful, honest, and truly happy. Almost all experts agree, and clinical research supports it.

This is a sport where you are required to perform for approx. 60 minutes (including seeding) per year. I believe it is during those 350,000 minutes (awake) that determines how you perform in those 60 minutes….or 0.00017% of your life.

The PerformX team includes Remi Gauvin Kyle Sangers Micayla Gatto Miranda Miller and for the final round Rob Venables of Dunbar Cycles in Vancouver.
  The PerformX team includes North American heroes, Remi Gauvin, Kyle Sangers, Micayla Gatto and Miranda Miller.

Do you enforce a strict regime with your athletes or rather suggest self-initiation?

I am softie! I leave it up to my athletes to decide at what level they invest. I provide the recipe, they bake the cake….sort of speak. In my belief, they must take on the responsibility of the program. This is an individual sport, where I or anyone else, will not be able to push them during that critical moment during competition. Due to that, they must develop the 4 D’s (determination, dedication, discipline, and desire) and commitment within themselves. In a sense, this is the horse that pulls the cart. Do not get me wrong, my training regiment is fairly in depth, but it is theirs to take responsibility of. I am not a good babysitter.

The master of proceedings ignoring an apparent plea for mercy.
  The master of proceedings ignoring another apparent plea for mercy.

Tell us about the interaction between training and mindset.

In many ways, I guess it’s about building confidence. Actually, I would prefer to say it’s about removing self-doubt. When an athlete sets their goals, they must know (consciously and sub-consciously) that they have done everything in their control to assisting in achieving that goal. If not, there is doubt. This is why I believe one’s goals must be set honestly and realistically, otherwise they set themselves up for failure. To give 80%, 90%, or possibly even 95% effort, in the pursuit of one’s goals, is pretty darn phenomenal. When I hear athletes say they are going to give 110%....I realize that there are those who do not understand the depth of what they are committing to. For the most part, a 100% effort is unsustainable or unrealistic. I help the athlete understand the level of effort it will require to meet the goal. This can be a real eye opener for young and enthusiastic athletes.

Remi Gauvin and George Brannigan in position.
  Remi Gauvin and George Brannigan ready to destroy the opposition next time the Twister comes out at a party.

No pain no gain…never a truer word said?

In short, yes. But I think my top athletes do not see the work as painful. I would say they find it challenging. And for the most part, enjoy the challenge. As it is often said, one must enjoy the journey as much or more than the destination. I have yet to witness many successful athletes (or individuals) who have not. The sacrifice’s one must make to reach their highest potential is probably the most difficult. But in the start gate, it is the sacrifice’s that fuel your fire.

I will add, I do not believe competition is for everyone. I also do not believe success is gauged by competition results alone either. There are many aspects that determine success, and each athlete must determine what that is.

Rob Venables of Vancouver s Dunbar Cycles on his luxury holiday to Austria read getting thoroughly worked .
  Rob Venables of Vancouver's Dunbar Cycles on his luxury holiday to Austria (read: getting thoroughly worked).

You have been assisting Steve Smith for 5 years now. You even mentioned being right on target with his 5 year plan, and we have the series standings as evidence... So how does a rider reach the top?

Yes, that’s right. When Red Bull asked me if I was interested in assisting Steve 5 years ago, I was already working with some of their athletes in motocross. I had decent success with the mx athletes, so they figured I might be able to do the same for Steve. At that point, Steve and I got together discussed our expectations, and in the end, mutually agreed we were probably on the same path. After that, we started planning things out. Together we discussed the time it would take for him to mature as an athlete to reach the top of the sport. With my experience and some logic, we both agree that in 5 years (2013), Steve could be reaching the top of the podium. I still have Steve’s personal goal setting from that year. It’s fairly rewarding that he has arrived on target.

So how does a rider reach the top? That could be fairly long answer! I definitely do not think anyone knows the exacts on how it can be done. I have outlined most of what I believe in the questions above. There are definitely many variables. I can add one thing that’s for sure, Steve and I have taught each a lot along the way, and I am fortunate to be apart of his personal achievements.

Miranda Miller is no stranger to a brutal work out and reliably holds perfect form.
  Miranda Miller is no stranger to a brutal work out and is the star pupil of good form.

I understand you started assisting Aaron Gwin mid season (approx. 10 weeks ago) as well. You mentioned, in many ways, this has been Aaron’s best ever season?

Yeah I know many people would not understand that mindset or thought process, but Aaron does feel in many ways this has been or could be one of his best seasons. Results wise, of course it has been dismal, especially when you compare it to his previous couple seasons. But I think this is what has attracted us to each other, as we both agree that success isn’t simply winning, being popular, and everything else that surrounds you when you are at the top. Success is also very personal. This year Aaron has faced many challenges, and from it learned and grown immensely. This is honestly one of the most focused, determined, and humble athletes I have ever assisted. He is the epitome of someone who enjoys the journey more than the destination. In life, sometimes you ride the wave, sometimes you struggle and paddle back out. This is what makes it all rewarding.

The room spinning for Neko Mulally
  The room spinning for Neko Mulally.

What have you observed about Gee Atherton’s approach to training and racing?

I do not know much about Gee’s training, but I have observed him around the pits and in his preparation to ride or race. He seems like a very dedicated and focused young man! I think he has placed himself exactly where he currently stands….as the current series leader. I would say he lives by many of the same rules or qualities I have mentioned above.

What kind of shape is Stevie in physically going up for the series title in the final round?

When it comes to downhill, I am not much of a believer in the ‘peaking’ of ones fitness during the season. The series is fairly long and demanding when it comes to all the travel and logistics. Most of my athletes training is completed in the off-season, and then we do our best to continue or maintain it during the season. For the most part, some of my athletes fitness can continue developing throughout the season. Steve is definitely one of those athletes. He rarely misses a beat. I would say he’s going in the final round as strong or stronger than anytime this season. He’s healthy, focused, and determined to give his best performance. We are actually about to complete a workout here in Leogang shortly.

Steve Smith longlivechainsaw

And mentally? What psychological approach do you prescribe under this kind of pressure, and is it one Stevie is likely to follow?

There is nothing special I would prescribe in this situation, as it is business as usual for this weekend. This includes Steve, or any other of my athletes. We just keep things rolling, no need to change anything now. I do not believe Steve is competing against Gee this weekend, Steve is competing against himself and that course. That is how we approach every race. In reality, that is how we approach all aspects of his development and training. This includes all the other athletes I assist as well. I believe this is why I can work with so many competitors in sport, and there is no conflict of interest.

I will add something I once heard Jeremy McGrath say only days from competition, "There is nothing much you can do to add to your performance come race day. But, there are a lot things you can do to take away from your performance." This is why proper preparation over the long term is crucial.

Dodge duck dip dive and...dodge. Globogym doesn t stand a chance.
  Dodge, duck, dip, dive and...dodge. Globogym doesn't stand a chance.

Thanks for the amazing info, Todd, and best of luck to the team and all the riders you assist.


Posted In:
Industry News

Author Info:
nathanhughes avatar

Member since Jul 19, 2007
313 articles

  • 145 4
 This is the type of article that keeps me coming back to PinkBike. Great insight! Way better than the Interbike Day - 3 "middle finger fest".
  • 19 5
 What was up with that?
  • 15 3
 idk either.. but i think its dumb AF, that they dont feature helmet-less riders in the POD, because they are trying to 'set an example for the youngins'.. yet they post dumb, immature shit like that... that young kids are more-than-likely going to pick up and repeat. i most certainly dont agree with the no helmet no pod rule, but i mean if youre going to give us a BS 'rule' to as why you dont do it.. atleast abide by that rule and 'set a good example' for us.
  • 7 1
 Yeah, not the brightest moment in Pb history. It made a lot of viewers angry and some familiar faces look like douches. This however is very inspiring. Judging from various clips with riders just derping around the track you might get the impression that there isn't anything serious to it , but such insights tell a different story, at least for me.
  • 3 1
 pb guys seem like they like inside jokes.. im sure its some kind of inside joke that was created there or something. but still, do something better/more original than that..
  • 14 6
 Just gonna point out that middle fingers don't hurt anyone, but riding without a helmet can kill you or ruin your life. Are you seriously incapable of seeing the difference?
  • 6 8
 If I don't want to wear a helmet, you can't make me!
  • 5 1
 jasper, wearing a helmet is mandatory at most (if not, all) bike parts and/or any supervised trails in general.. if you ride un-supervised single track, street, park, or whatever else i missed without a helmet, that is the end users choice.. if you havent herd of the term yet, i encourage you to look up the term 'Darwinism', maybe then you'll understand Wink
  • 2 1
 @burnbern exactly. This is far far more interesting then random people showing me to fu..k off Razz
  • 3 2
 Holy crap really guys
  • 24 1
 Actually, Power = Force x Distance / Time...
  • 2 1
 I just scrolled down here to see if anybody else caught that... I guess I'll go back to reading the rest of the article now Wink
  • 2 1
 @srjacobs...I just did the same thing.

I sure hope he was misquoted.
  • 2 1
 Eh, he's a personal trainer/ coach, not an engineer. I'll forgive him.
  • 1 1
 Not I. If he studied kinesiology, as I did as an undergrad, he should be intimately familiar with power calculations. In fact I used power much more frequently in training athletes than I have since grad school as an engineer.
  • 16 2
 That carpet really ties the place together.
  • 10 1
 "positive, clear minded, organized, thoughtful, honest, and truly happy"
"The 4 'D's - determination, dedication, discipline and desire... combined with commitment and attention to detail."
Seems to be describing Mr. Smith to a tee. 5 year plan perfection. Inspiring.
  • 2 1
 Add a smile and no attitude, makes him THE dude ! Oh yeah,the moustache also !
  • 7 1
 "First you must learn the 5 D's of dodgeball: Dodge, dip, duck, dive, and... Dodge."
  • 1 1
 Shit that should've been a pro prop el doodarino...my bad
  • 8 1
 Eddy Masters for gold
  • 3 1
 Loving the article! Also to be honest alot of these high ranked riders take soo much discipline when it comes to working out for results at a race. Defently shows when a rider feels like iron, mentally and physically their race runs will show. Who did what? Who put in the hours of training during the off season. In a sense the clock will weed out the weak ones.
  • 2 1
 Schumlick's style looks a lot more civilized than Mark Twight and co. over at Gym Jones. It'd be nice to have some pics of him training guys in the gym. Training specifically for DH is a very interesting subject which PB should keep covering. great article.
  • 4 0
 Steve will crush this course and be crowned the king of DH, mark my words.
  • 1 0
 Brilliant article! I"m new to PB but if this is the kind of stuff being published I'm in heaven! Brilliant insight and great advice.
  • 3 0
 Great article and a great guy, Todd. He's also on top of his game.
  • 2 1
 Wow. That bit about Aaron Gwin was very interesting. I would really like to know why they think this is his best season ever.
  • 2 1
 "This year Aaron has faced many challenges, and from it learned and grown immensely"

Lots of new variables were introduced in Gwin's life during the last year, so lot of new challenges to face. They're very vague in the article but it's possible that he dealt with all that and now considers being on top of all of it while being in better shape than ever (aside from the injury). Gwin looks like the kind of guy who's building a career and is focused on the long term, which makes a season ultimately irrelevant in the grand scheme of things. I highly doubt that winning all the time made him "grow soft" but there's nothing like a losing streak to make you remember that you really really want to win after all and reconsider some choices that might have led you down the wrong path. Could be a lot of things but I get the logic behind what they're saying.
  • 3 1
 I get the logic too, I didn't mean to sound like a skeptic. Im still rooting for the guy. I'm just legitimately interested to hear his story about this season. Maybe Pinkbike could put together an interview with him to go through some of those challenges and what he learned and ultimately what makes this his best season ever. I think that would be an interesting article if Aaron would give up all of those details.
  • 2 1
 Yeah, I understand it wasn't the focus of the article and that Todd most likely didn't want to get into the details about this matter but I also am extremely curious about what happened in Gwin's life since last season.
  • 2 1
 one of the best pink bike articles ive read in a while. love to read these trainer/athlete articles with a perspective from the people who coach the top riders.
  • 2 0
 Just kidding! Not really...
  • 3 0
 This guy knows his shit.
  • 2 0
 OMG!! Still laughing from the Dodgeball reference at the end.
  • 3 1
 No mention of the secret powers of the stache'.
  • 2 1
 Is it just me? Or does Stevie just look like a BOSS?
  • 1 0
 His face in the black and white pic...
  • 1 0
 Very inspiring! He knows his shit that's for sure!
  • 1 2
 this reminds me of all the tourist in the village on sundays for group yoga
  • 1 1
 Stevie for gold!

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