Among professional mountain bikers, Ross Schnell is easily one of the friendliest, most laid back and approachable riders you’ll find. Lately he’s been doing more of the Super-D and fun stuff like the Breck Epic than the pure XC races, but he’s still fast as all get out and technically skilled like you wouldn’t believe. Here’s his response to our request for his favorite workout:
I’m glad to share some not-so-pro training advice. I usually try and stick with the mountain bike for training because I’m training for mountain biking. Novel idea isn’t it? I haven’t ridden a road bike in years. I think there is a big disconnect between a lot of elite mountain bikers and how they train. At some point the fitness aspect doesn’t necessarily correlate to real world conditions. I think its important to do long rides and a bit of volume from time to time. I do a lot of long, exploration type rides in the mountains where I fill my hydration pack full of food and water and plan on getting lost all day. During the season when I need a bit more “specificity” I stick to rides that I know. A typical interval or punchy day has me doing hard sustained climbs (15-20 minutes) up pseudo-technical terrain that rewards me with a nice descent back down. That way I kill two birds with one stone, fitness and skills training all in one. The problem with going out and doing intervals on a road bike is that the technical side of things is totally ignored. Its one thing to be able to push 400 watts going up a smooth climb, but when you factor in rocks, roots and varied terrain the situation changes dramatically. When your brain goes hypoxic it has trouble keeping up with and processing constantly changing obstacles that take place on the trail. I’m a firm believer in training your body to handle those real world circumstances while out on the trails.
Some of the most valuable workouts I do are shorter days where I focus on hard climbs and fast descents. There are a lot of opportunities like this where I live. I know exactly how long the climbs are and I can tailor my workouts around them. A typical interval day consists of approximately 1-1.5hrs of hard climbing with the reward (and benefit) of good descents back down. This approach seems to work well, and more than anything keeps my mind fresh so it doesn’t seem like such a chore to do a hard workout.
Of course now that its ski season I do the same routine but on skis. I like to ski tour a bunch. I do a nice long skin up, then get to enjoy the fruits of my labor while skiing down. This approach to training generally keeps me motivated all year and helps me avoid mid-season burnout when the race season is going full-swing.