So, if you aren't doing your warm-up properly, is it worth expending the energy? A proper warm-up can take a solid hour to complete. This includes 20 minutes of work in zone 1 and 2, a half dozen leg openers and a 10-minute cool down. If you're doing less than this, your time may be better spent not doing a traditional warm-up.
In fact, there are alternative ways of warming up all together that might be a better option for those cyclists who aren't doing a complete warm-up routine. Use these eight alternatives to get your muscles warm and your body ready to go in the moments before a race without jumping on the bike.
The Hot Shower1 of 9
A hot shower before a ride or a race has many benefits. For one, ridding your skin of bacteria before you work out can help to prevent razor bumps and saddle sores. It will also open your airways and get your blood circulating, two criteria that any good warm-up should accomplish.
The heat generated can also be a good way to relax tense muscles. Try it before a long weekend ride to see if it works for you.
Knee or Leg Warmers2 of 9
After your hot shower, throw on a pair of knee warmers. This will help to keep your legs warm by trapping heat and moisture in your muscles. If you plan to eat breakfast or do other tasks before your ride, throw on a pair of sweats as well.
You won't need to wear them on your ride—the layers of clothing are simply to trap heat and keep your body temperature high.
The Self-Massage3 of 9
On race days, self-massage is a must before getting on the bike. Before a training ride, this can be done after the hot shower as well.
A warm-up lotion can be used in conjunction with the self-massage too for added benefit. There are plenty of options on the market, but simple almond oil works just as well. It's inexpensive and doesn't' leave you feeling sticky or oily. Remember to use long strokes, moving away from the heart. Don't overdo it.
Stay away from oils that contain menthol or other warming agents. They only irritate the superficial layers of skin to give you the feeling of warmth instead of actually warming up the tissue of the muscle. It's the motion of the massage that has all the benefits.
Post-Isometric Stretching4 of 9
Pre-ride stretching is not the time to improve flexibility. The only objective is to loosen up the muscles.
The post-isometric stretching routine is simple. Stretch the muscles for 10 seconds. Follow this by flexing the muscle for 10 seconds and repeat three times for each muscle group.
Make sure to include your glutes, quads, hamstrings and calves. You'll find that after each flexing cycle you'll be able to go deeper into the stretch. Just be careful not to overdo the stretching, as it can lead to injury.
The Heater5 of 9
Anyone from the North knows all too well about the vehicle warm-up.
Sit in your car with the heat blasting for about five minutes before your start time. By itself, this technique is limited because it doesn't raise your core temperature effectively, and as a result you lose the benefits the moment the cold air hits your body.
However, you can use this technique in conjunction with the other alternative methods mentioned to stay warm before the start.
Don't Cool Down6 of 9
This is probably the most effective alternative to a traditional warm-up, but it's probably only for serious racers.
You can negate the need for a warm-up by simply never cooling down. What does it mean to not cool down? By riding on consecutive days, like seven or eight in a row, you teach the body to be ready at a moment's notice. Your muscles become so familiar with the activity that a long warm-up probably isn't even necessary. Your body and mind will be ready to roll whenever it's called upon.
The Night of Warm-Up7 of 9
If your race has a 7 a.m. start time, this might be an option. Roll for 30 minutes on the trainer before you go to sleep. Leave yourself a 9-hour gap between the night warm-up and the start of your race. You'll need less of a warm up in the morning and you'll get right into your rhythm if it's a short race.
Improvement or Justification8 of 9
If done the right way, these techniques will help your cycling. Are these methods better than a traditional warm-up? Ideally, you'd probably be better off using a combination of the two, but a case can be made for the benefits of shortening the warm-up.
Warming up saps energy. It's a mathematical equation. You have a certain amount of energy on race day, and you should use it wisely. Warming up for an hour burns calories, dehydrates and takes away from time you could spend sleeping, eating or relaxing.
So if you can take the start line with the same level of readiness but with 300 extra calories and 10 percent of added hydration, why not give these alternative methods a try? It just might work.