I see this week in week out throughout the racing season; riders turning up and pootling up the road a few times before heading to the start and knocking out a time that has them frustrated at the end. In fact I’m being harsh because we have probably all done it. But failing to warm-up properly isn’t just damaging your times but also putting yourself at risk of injury. This isn’t scaremongering this is fact. Going from nothing to full instantly might damage your body. Think back to the days before all this cleaver synthetic oil you put in your engine, you wouldn’t go from turning on your car to thrashing it down the street would you?
What about mentally, have you considered that a warm-up routine might switch on that killer instinct? I’ve seen it happen, a rider get into that zone during his warm-up and destroy the field. Worth a though…
There is the opposite end of the spectrum to think about too and this is probably why most people actually do less than they should during a warm-up. You don’t want to overdo it… But how much is enough?
When you warm-up for a 10 mile time trial you might actually spend more time preparing your body for it than you do in the race itself. You might try to do about 30 minutes, including the below protocol and you might also do this for a 25 mile TT or a Crit race. You might do do about 20 minutes for anything up to about 50 mile TT and road race with a neutralised zone. For a Sportive (which could be completed at the start of the event itself – if you’re careful enough!), a 50 and 100 mile TT you might do 10-20 minutes and you might just get the legs going for a 12 hour or longer. What you need to think about isn’t the distance or time it’s the effort or power output you’ll be doing. You put more power you are expecting to be producing the harder the warm-up. You just need to prepare your body for what is about to happen, your body doesn’t like surprises, so if you’re going hard in the race you might go hard in the warm-up.
My preferred portal, the British Cycling warm-up:
5 minutes at cadence 90. 2 minutes at cadence 95. 2 minutes at cadence 100. 2 minutes at cadence 105. 1 minute 30 seconds at cadence 110. 30 seconds at cadence 120 or more (rev out). 2 minutes at cadence 90. 6 second sprint at maximum. 1 minute at cadence 90. 6 second sprint at maximum. 1 minute at cadence 90. 6 second sprint at maximum. 2 minutes 42 seconds at cadence 90.
Tailor this to you own needs. For example, I always get clients to do this warm-up when they come for a session. However, clients who are not regular cyclists might start at 70 cadence and work up, clients who are very strong will start at 90 but with more resistance. Analyse your data or look at your cycle computer to work out if the warm-up isn’t hard enough – you should be able to tell if it’s too hard! You might need to practise this on the road and on a trainer, just in case you can only do one or the other at an event. Over a course of months you should be able to make finite changes to this until you have a protocol that you can say works 100% of the time.