Warm-ups Can Make or Break Your Racing

If you are going to do any stretching at all, perform some dynamic flexibility exercises, taking the limbs throughout an active range of motion to warm the muscles but not slow them down. Static stretching should be done after easy rides to increase flexibility and does not serve as a part of a thorough sports specific warm-up routine when preparing for a race effort. Use dynamic stretching if you are going to stretch at all before your race. (For more information on scientific flexibility training visit the National Academy of Sports Medicine at www.nasm.org)

Just as there are many types of events, there are many warm-up routines to match the demands found in them. Some races go off 100 precent?from the gun--like a criterium or a time trial--just as others ,such as a century ride, will require different contributions from energy systems such as the aerobic, lactic acid, Vo2 and anaerobic systems.

If you are already using a warm-up that works, then stick with it. If you have a coach, then you have probably already been given suggestions regarding your warm-ups for your races. Regardless of your situation, here are warm-up routines for several popular events. Feel free to use, rearrange and share these with those who need them, and we guarantee your performance will improve as a result.


Crits go out from the gun, and getting in the proper warm-up can be the difference between coming in first and being off the back in the first lap. Here is our suggestion for a criterium warm-up:

  • 20 min. easy, endurance-paced warm-up spin in the small ring
  • 10 min. at tempo pace in the big ring building to?lactate?threshold (LT)?in the final minute
  • 2-3 min. easy spin
  • 2-5 min. at LT pace
  • 3-5 min. easy
  • 1-2 min. V02-AC pace
  • 3-5 min. easy
  • 30 sec. fast pedaling effort
  • 2-5 min. easy

Time Trials

Time trials are very specific events and require equally specific warm-ups. You have to go so hard from the start (but not too hard! If you overdo your start, you will be blown 10 minutes into the race.) and if you have not purged the system, then you are going to suffer immensely and so will your performance. This example ought to get you primed and ready to go at the next district TT.

  • 20 min .easy, endurance paced warm-up spin in the small ring
  • 10 min. at tempo pace in the big ring building to LT in the final minute
  • 3-5 min. easy spin
  • 5 min. at LT pace
  • 5 min. easy
  • 1 min. at VO2 pace with a high cadence
  • 3-5 min. easy

Road Races

Road races are longer events, and typically do not go out as hard as crits or time trials. However, do not be lulled into a false sense of complacency and end up off the back on the first surge or climb. Get in a shorter but equally as thorough warm-up, and be ready if the break goes on the first lap. Try this one on for size.

  • 20 min. easy, endurance paced warm-up spin in the small ring
  • 3-5 min. at tempo pace
  • 2 min. easy
  • 1-2 x 1 min. hard efforts at or above LT pace
  • 3-5 min. easy between efforts
  • 2-3 x 8 sec. jumps (mini sprints)
  • 5 min. easy

Be sure to give your self enough time to complete your warm-up, stop by the rest room, take a shot of gel or sports drink, and get to the line sweating, in the big ring and ready to kick major butt!

Remember, every individual is different, and although these routines apply the principles of exercise physiology common to us all, you may need to augment these routines a bit to best fit your level of fitness and the specific event you are training for.

Jeb Stewart, M.S., C.S.C.S., is a USA Cycling Elite and USA Triathlon Level 1 coach and is certified by the ACSM, NSCA and NASM. He has a master's in exercise science and health promotion and is co-owner and head coach of Endurofit, LLC. For more information, visit www.endurofit.com or contact Jeb at jstewart@endurofit.com or 813-230-2900.

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