A Good Warmup Prepares Mind and Body for Success

What you do prior to a race or any key workout is just as important as what you do during. Having a proper, reliable warm up routine should be an integral part of your training plan. This routine often sets the stage of a successful day on the bike. This time helps prepare your mind and your body for the work that you’re about to perform. 

What the pros say:

“Getting a good warm up is crucial for a successful race. I like to make sure I get plenty of pedaling and a few hard efforts in before the start of the race. Lots of people think that warming up will make you tired for the race, but if done properly it shouldn't. I always find that my first hard effort hurts the worst, so I try to get that one out of the way in the warm up. Then, my legs and lungs are more prepared for a hard, fast start. Warming up on a trainer is a great way to ensure a distraction-free, thorough, repeatable warm up for any kind of race." 
— Georgia Gould, Luna Pro Team

“It’s always chaotic at the race venue, so I use my warm up routine as a way to minimize that chaos. This is my time to mentally and physically prepare for the race and it allows me to go the line knowing that I’m ready to race.” 
—Ryan Trebon, Cannondale p/b Cyclocross World


Here’s a breakdown of the physiological and psychological benefits of a warmup, as well as a sample warmup schedule you can use prior to a workout or race.

Physiological

When you start your car on a cold wintery morning, it’s often a little sluggish and takes a while to get moving properly. The engine needs to warm up as well as the engine fluids. The same is true with your body. You need a gradual progression to help warm up your engine. The process helps:

  • Increase heart rate: deliver blood/oxygen to working muscles
  • Increase muscle temperatures and elasticity
  • Increase body temperature, helps nerve impulses travel quicker

Psychological

As you approach a race or demanding workout, you want to make sure you’re completely focused on the task at hand, minimizing outside distractions. A warm up routine gives you the time to do that. During that time you can run through the goals of the day and the details of the workout. If it’s a race day, then you have a chance to key in on your process goals for the race, what are the key elements you need to execute in order to have a successful race. The warm up also provides a routine and consistency, which helps eliminate variable in training and on race day. When you have a warm up protocol to follow, then you don’t waste time or energy trying to figure what to do before the race and it gives you confidence as you go to the start line, you know you’re ready to put out your best effort that day.

Warm Up Schedule

As with other aspects of training, you’ll want to fine tune your warm up routine. This will give you the chance to dial in the details, to make sure it’s the right amount of ride time and intensity for your event or workout. The general rule of the thumb is, the shorter the event, the longer and more intense the warm up should be. Below is a starting point for you. Use it and your personal knowledge of what works well for you and tweak it to come up with your personal protocol. It’ll take a little experimenting, but with some patience you’ll be able to dial it in just right.

  • 20-25 minute easy spin on the road
  • 4 minute (RPE of 5/10 or zone 2) on trainer, 90 rpm
  • 3 minute (RPE of 7-8/10 or zone 4) on trainer, 100 rpm
  • 3 minute (RPE of 5/10 or zone 2) on trainer, 90 rpm
  • 1 minute (RPE 10/10, max effort) on trainer, 105-115 rpm
  • 3 minute (RPE of 5/10 or zone 2) on trainer, 90 rpm
  • 1 minute (RPE 10/10, max effort) on trainer, 105-115 rpm
  • 3 minute (RPE of 5/10 or zone 2) on the trainer, 90 rpm
  • 5 minute easy on the road, easy spin over to start line