How to Choose a Pre-race Warmup

By Zach Nehr

Everything you need to know about the pre-race efforts that prepare you for top performance

There are few worse feelings in cycling than getting dropped on the first hill. Whether you had a bad night’s sleep, a rough week of training, or just didn’t have it, it’s difficult to watch the peloton ride off into the distance.

Cold legs can ruin a race—sometimes, it’s the difference between getting dropped on the first hill or making the front pack. Your race-day performance isn’t just about what you had for breakfast, how many espressos you polished off, or how many hours you spent this week in training. Most people underestimate the importance of a pre-race warmup. In fact, I’d go so far as to say your pre-race warmup can be the difference between winning and losing.

In this article, we’ll tell you everything you need to know about the short, pre-race ride that can make a massive difference in your performance.

What is a Pre-race Warmup?

A pre-race warmup is a short ride (15-30 minutes) done immediately before a race. Ideally, it should end 10 minutes before the start. This gives you time to lower your heart rate, wipe off some sweat, and relax for a few minutes before the race kicks off.

Pre-race warmups are actually quite a controversial topic, especially since studies have shown mixed results over the years. If there’s one piece of wisdom that I can pass on from this article, it is this:

A pre-race warmup is not one-size-fits-all. Some riders prefer shorter warmups, while others before longer ones. It’s important to experiment with different pre-race warm-ups over time so that you can decide which one is best for you.

Before the Sunday Race Club, for example, a pre-race warmup could be done in the pens about 30 minutes before the start.

[Image – Warmup in the pens]

Why Warmups are Crucial to Achieve Peak Performance

Pre-race warmups physically and mentally prime your body to achieve peak performance. The short, structured efforts in the warmup increase blood flow to the working muscles, as well as increasing oxygen delivery, heart rate, and body temperature.

Increased blood flow and oxygen delivery equals better performance.

Without a proper warmup, your body relies on your anaerobic system and stagnant muscles for energy. So you might feel good for the first 30 seconds of the race (because your body can sprint using your anaerobic system), but then you’ll hit a wall of fatigue.

In addition to the physiological benefits of warming up, there are also plenty of psychological benefits. Warming up helps narrow your focus from the distractions of daily life to the nuances of your pedal stroke. During your warmup, you can start focusing on the race, prepare for an upcoming attack, or think about your position before the first climb.

I love warming up because it helps me relax and focus on the upcoming race. All I have to do is follow my warmup protocol, and I will be confident that I am ready to perform at my best. So…how do you do it?

How to Choose a Pre-race Warmup on MyWhoosh

One of MyWhoosh’s best features is its massive workout library. There are hundreds of workouts to choose from, but we’re going to focus on the pre-race warmups. There are a few warmups to try, and here’s how you choose.

The RACE READY workout can be found in the TAPER folder in the WORKOUTS section of the MyWhoosh app. This is your go-to pre-race warmup on MyWhoosh.

[Image – Race Ready]

The RACE READY PRONTO workout can also be found in the TAPER folder. This is for riders who prefer a shorter pre-race warmup – the RACE READY PRONTO warmup is 15 minutes long, while the RACE READY workout is 25 minutes long. Try each warmup a few times and note how you feel in the races. After a couple of tries, you’ll know which warmup your legs prefer.

[Image – Race Ready Pronto]

Pro tip: Click the star on a workout to save it as one of your favorites. That way, it will be much easier to find the next time you warm up.

Golden Rules For Pre-Race Warmups

Your pre-race warmup can be slightly modified for different situations, say, for a shorter race or one in hot weather. There are a few golden rules of warmups that I’ve learned over the years, and they go like this.

  1. The longer the race, the shorter your warmup should be. If you’re racing a 200km Gran Fondo, you don’t need to warm up unless there’s a crucial climb in the first 10km. You’re in for a long day, and a warmup is only adding fatigue that will affect you later in the race.
  2. The shorter the race, the longer your warmup should be (up to about 30 minutes). For a 20km time trial, your warmup should be incredibly thorough because you’ll need to go full gas from the start. The warmups that track sprinters do before a 200m sprint are much longer than their actual race.
  3. Warmups are even more important in cold weather. Cold weather tightens your muscles and shuts down your high-performance energy systems. Racing on cold legs is one of the worst feelings in cycling, so make sure you get warmed up before a cold-weather event, like a cyclocross race in the winter.
  4. Avoid warming up in hot weather. Overheating is one of the #1 causes of performance degradation. As soon as you overheat, your power will start to drop, and it’s almost impossible to cool off once you’ve overheated. If you have to warm up in the heat, shorten your warmup, lower the intensity, and drink cold fluids to keep your core temperature down.

 About the Author

Zach is a freelance writer, professional cyclist, and the owner of ZNehr Coaching. He writes about everything related to bikes and endurance sports, from product reviews and advertorials to feature articles and pro data analytics. You can find Zach racing the Sunday Race Club on MyWhoosh every weekend.

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