How do you warm up?

Warm ups are very individual. One thing us older riders have probably noticed is that it takes longer to warm up now than it did when we were 20. I used to be able to hop on the bike or go into a sprint without as much as a sniff to a warm up. Now it's 15 minutes minimum and more like 30 to become properly ready to rock and roll! One thing is for sure - doing no warm up is a BAD IDEA...... So here's the scene. You only have 45 minutes for a 60 minute session with hard intervals. You need to find 15 minutes from nowhere so you do what looks like the easiest thing to do and try and cram a 10 minute warm up into 2 minutes. You then hit the first effort hard and everything unravels - lactate legs, heart rate through the roof, confidence takes a knock. I can't have been as fit as I thought I was...... Repeat this at the start of a race and you might as well chuck all that hard earned fitness in the bin because you won't perform to anywhere near your capability. So why do we warm up? The benefits of the warm up are as follows:
  • Increased muscle core-temperature which decreases the effort required for muscle contraction.
  • Allows for a gradual increase in metabolic processes.
  • Improved coronary blood flow in the early stages of exercise.
  • Enhanced cardiorespiratory performance, which allows higher maximum cardiac output and oxygen consumption.
  • Prevents the premature onset of lactate accumulation in the blood and fatigue during intense exercise.
  • Increased muscle temperature which decreases the likelihood of injury
  • Allows for a psychological warm-up, increasing motivation.
A proper warm-up optimises performance by allowing the body to PREPARE FOR HIGHER WORKLOADS. It involves a gradual increase in effort to, or very near to, the intensity at which we intend to workout at. This is a crucial point. The HARDER THE WORKOUT THE HARDER THE WARMUP SHOULD BE. People worry that by working hard in the warm up it will decrease performance in the workout. However a well planned and executed warm up will IMPROVE performance. Here are a few warm up routines for various types of workouts or rides. 25 Minute pre race warm up 5 mins Easy Spin 90-95rpm 5 mins Z1 ramp up to Z3 tempo 90-95rpm 2 mins Easy Spin 90-95rpm 5 mins Z1 - Z5 ramp up each minute 90-95rpm 3 mins Easy Spin 1 mins Z5 Vo2max (110% FTP) 3 mins Easy Spin 2x 10 second spin ups 120rpm+ 1 mins Easy Spin 17 Minute pre VO2 (Z5) workout warm up 5 mins Easy Spin 90rpm 3x1 min cadence drills 120rpm+ dropping back to 100rpm 2 mins Z3 100rpm 2 mins Z4 FTP 100rpm 2 mins easy 15 Minute pre FTP (Z4) workout 5 mins Z1 build to Z2 95rpm 3x1 min cadence drills 120rpm+ dropping back to 100rpm 2 mins Z3 100rpm 2 mins Z3/4 105rpm 1 mins easy 10 Minute pre Tempo (Z3) workout 5 mins Z1 build to Z2 95rpm 2x1 min cadence drills 115rpm dropping back to 100rpm 1 mins Z3 100rpm 1 mins easy 5 Minute pre Endurance (Z2) workout 2 mins Z1 build to Z2 95rpm 2x30 sec cadence drills 120+rpm dropping back to 100rpm 1 mins Z1 100rpm In general, begin your warm-up with low-intensity riding and increase the intensity as the warm-up progresses. Warm-up should not significantly affect energy stores or cause fatigue but you should feel like you are doing some work! I receive many questions about the warm up durations that we set in all of our training programmes. In general we set a minimum of 5 minutes for lower intensity workouts and 10 minutes for higher intensity workouts. However, these are very general minimum guidelines. Your warm up should not only be specific in terms of the workout or ride that is proceeding it, it should also be specific to you as an athlete. As with all sports, performance is the sum of many moving parts. Training, recovery, nutrition, mental attitude, equipment.......the warm up is a key component to performance that is often overlooked by many athletes. Do yourself a favour and make the most of what you have got and warm the engine up before you go out and crank up the revs. Be nice to yourself. Have a great weekend riding! Rob Wakefield