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Time Pedals

Race-specific warm up

-originally published in RaceCenterNW Magazine

Last January, I wrote about the importance of a proper warm-up and I mentioned that I would continue the theme with some information about race and climate-specific warm-ups. As spring heads into summer, and the racing season is well underway, now is a good time to do just that.

How you warm up depends primarily on three things:

1) The type of rider you are

2) The type of race you're warming up for

3) The weather (no joke!)

The best warm-up for you is the one that suits your characteristics as a rider. For example, If you're sprint-averse and go well over steady, long efforts, then your warm-up should consist of work like that and not a series of sprints. If you're a rider suited to shorter hard efforts, like sprinting or cyclocross, then you are likely to benefit from a warm-up that plays to those strengths. The type of rider you are will be what you base your warm-up protocol on.

Next, consider the type of event you're warming-up for. A good rule of thumb is that, the longer the event, the shorter your warm-up needs to be. If you're about to do a 5km prologue or a Kilometer event on the track, your warm-up may be up to an hour long, whereas if you're going to do a randonnée or Ironman event you may not need to warm-up at all.

Finally, it's a good idea to consider the weather. Cold weather means cold muscles, so a long, deep warm-up is beneficial. Always keep your muscles covered and warm, even if you're on a trainer. You're trying to optimize your performance, and energy expended keeping you warm is energy you won't have for your race. Hot weather changes the picture completely. As an endurance athlete, heat is the biggest obstacle to top performance, so it's often best in very hot weather to not warm-up at all. Better yet, warm up as usual and wear a cooling vest to keep your core cool prior to your event.

Here are a couple of basic warm-up protocols, one for riders with strong endurance characteristics, and one for riders with good sprint characteristics:

Endurance: Start out with an easy 10 minutes, then gradually ramp up to an LT (Lactate Threshold) effort over 10 minutes – the last 3 or 4 mins should be at LT. Following 5 minutes of easy pedaling, do another 5 minute progressive build to LT effort before a final 5 minutes of easy pedaling.

Sprint: 10 mins easy pedaling, then 3 x 1 minutes hard (L5), with at least 5 minutes of easy riding between each. Then do 3 x 30 seconds hard sprints, with 5 minutes between.

Use the above protocols as your basis and adjust them for your event and the weather. As a cycling coach, I find that every athlete is different, so you may need to change things a bit to suit you.

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