A good warm depends on the type of event, your current fitness level, your level of experience, and how your body responds to the activity. What follows are some guidelines. Practice different warm ups during training to see which one prepares you best for any given event. What works for a road race will likely be different than what works for a time trial. Generally, shorter more intense events will require a much longer and deeper warm up than a longer event.
Regardless of the type of race, arrive at the venue in order to have enough time to register, pin your numbers, get dressed, have bathroom breaks, socialize, warm-up and get to the start line without too much rush. For me, 1:30 hrs typically gives me enough time.
Where you warm-up is a detail you should consider ahead of time. You may be at a race where there are few roads and/or heavily trafficked areas, lots of stop signs, poor riding surfaces such as gravel roads and/or undesirable weather conditions. Your best solution is to pack a stationary trainer. This allows you to focus on a continuous and consistent warm up at any race venue in any conditions.
Place the trainer as close to the start line as possible so you can hear any changes in start times and be available at a moment’s notice.
Have an energy/electrolyte drink readily available during your warm up routine. It is important to stay hydrated. Most people like to have music to pedal along to. Have your playlist ready.
You need a complete warm up that activates all the energy systems used during your race. Start off pedaling at an easy pace. Slowly increase the intensity until you reach race pace. You want to expose your muscles to race intensity for a short time (up to 3 minutes). Most riders benefit from progressive intervals, with easy recovery spins in between. After you have finished the block of higher intensity riding you will want to keep spinning in an easy gear to make sure any lactate produced during the warm up is removed.
Make sure you practice your warm-up routine beforehand in training so you can make any necessary modifications. It is important to experiment with different warm up routines so you can figure out what works best for you and the type of event you are doing. The length and intensity of the warm up should be dictated by your current fitness level. Don’t overdo it. You don’t want to work too hard during the warm up so that you are tired for the actual race.
If you find you are standing around due to a delayed start; keep calm. Practice some visualization and mental imagery. See yourself riding very smooth, fluid and relaxed. Use positive affirmation by repeating power or trigger words. If there is space keep spinning around. Alternatively, perform some very light static stretches. Don’t stretch too deep. Your muscles will need to recovery from deep stretching and can result in a decrease in initial power at the start of the race.
The start of a cyclo-cross race is one of the most crucial aspects of the race. You should be 100% ready to give maximum effort from the gun. Getting a good warm up is absolutely necessary to get off the start line fast and achieve a good position going into the first technical part of the course.
Ideally practice a couple laps on the race course. Ride the course relatively easy focusing on the technical areas. Look for good lines around corners. Re-ride any technical areas. After riding the course, plan to spend up to 45 minutes warming-up on a stationary trainer. Time the warm-up so you are finished about 5 minutes before the start of your race. Keep in mind that you want to finish the warm up with enough time to get a decent starting position on the line. Keep hydrated and warm. Make sure you are in the gear you want to be at the start line.
You need to be ready to ride at your threshold from the start in a time trial. Be sure to check the race clock (it can differ from the actual time). Check the start times and make sure you are within range to hear any schedule changes or announcements to ensure that you make your start. Remember, the clock starts at your start time, whether you’re there or not. Make sure you are in the gear you want to be at the start line.
You should be 100% ready to give maximum effort from the gun in a criterium . Often before the start of your race the course will be open for 5-10 minutes to pre-ride. Take this opportunity to scout out the course. Even if it is just a simple four corner course. It is good to know where there may be any loose gravel, potholes, man hole covers, etc. It will give you a chance to figure out the best line to take around the corners.
A 45 minute race will probably need a good 45 minute warm up. Keep in mind that you want to finish the warm up with enough time to get a decent starting position on the line. Your body will maintain the benefits of a structured warm up for at least 10-15 minutes after your warm-up is complete, so don’t stress too much if there is a wait on the line. Make sure you are in the correct gear at the start line. Know where the wheel pit is and when the end of the free lap rule is. These things are usually explained by the chief referee at the start line. Pay attention.
An effective cool down will help accelerate your recovery by removing waste products (such as lactic acid) and reducing post exercise soreness. Just like you need to practice and experiment with warm up routines, you will need to with cool down routines too. Here are some basic guidelines:
Refuel: After a race most athletes will find themselves in a bit of a hydration and fuel deficit. Consuming the right nutrients shortly after exercise will help repair tissue damage and re-fuel muscles. There are many post-exercise recovery drinks on the market that help to hydrate, replenish muscle glycogen stores and repair muscle and tissue damage.
Timing is critical: After intense or long workouts, the body is very receptive to absorbing depleted nutrients to help repair any muscle damage. This is referred to as the Glycogen Window. It is thought that this window of opportunity is within the first 30 minutes post-exercise. During this window the body readily absorbs nutrients at a much quicker rate (carbohydrates eaten will be converted into muscle glycogen at 3 times the normal rate). This rate drops off dramatically after 30 minutes. So make sure you make the most of this glycogen window by drinking/eating 20-30 minutes post exercise during your cool down routine.
Spin: The more intense the race; the longer you should spend spinning. Typically 5-15 minutes of easy spinning is adequate. This allows for your heart rate and body temperature to slowly decrease and help flush out waste products from the working muscles.
Stretch: Light static stretching
There are numerous good recovery habits to consider once you have completed your cool down routine and these include compression garments, ice baths, self massage / foam rolling, and elevating your legs.
Here are a couple of warm ups defined by Heart Rate Zones (rather than power) to experiment with.
Warm Up 1
1) Ride for 15-20 minutes easy spinning with high cadence (90+). Find a gear that offers little resistance. Stay seated. Heart Rate Zone 1-2.
2) Stretch for 5-10 minutes.
3) Ride for 5-10 minutes easy spinning with high cadence (90+). Heart Rate Zone 1-2.
4) Ride for 1 minute in one gear harder but keep cadence high. Heart Rate Zone 2
5) Ride for 1 minute in one gear harder; try to maintain your leg turnover (cadence). Heart Rate Zone 2.
6) Repeat this for up to 5 more minutes. Every minute shifing to a harder gear. Heart Rate Zone 3.
8) Change to an easier gear and spin for 1 minute.
9) 2 minutes in a gear that simulates your TT pace. Aim to slowly increase your heart rate up to Zone 3-4.
10) 1 minute recovery spin
11) 2 minutes in a gear that simulates your TT pace (HR Zone 3-4).
12) 30 second jump; all out in a medium gear.
13) 2 minutes recovery spin
14) 30 second jump; all out in a medium gear.
15) 5-10 minutes cool down.
Check to see if your bike is in the correct gear as you line up on the start line.
Warm Up 2
1) Ride for 15-20 minutes easy spinning with high cadence (85-95). Find a gear that offers little resistance. Stay seated. Heart Rate Zone 1-2.
2) Ride tempo for 10 minutes Tempo with a slightly lower cadence of 75-85. Heart Rate Zone 2
3) 2 minutes recovery spin
4) 6 minutes slowly building to Heart Rate Zone 3 by the last minute.
5) 2 minutes recovery spin
6) 2 minutes high cadence interval (105). Heart Rate Zone 4.
7) 2 minutes recovery spin
8) 2 minutes high cadence interval (105). Heart Rate Zone 4.
9) 5-10 minutes Recovery spin (timed so it is as close to the start as possible).
Warm Up 3
1) Ride for 5 minutes easy spinning with high cadence (90+). Find a gear that offers little resistance. Stay seated. Heart Rate Zone 1-2.
2) 1 min spin in an easy starting gear. 15 sec Jump (90%). 1 gear harder. Heart Rate Zone 1-2.
3) 1 min followed by a 20 sec Jump (90%). 1 gear harder. Heart Rate Zone 1-2.
4) 1 min followed by a 25 sec Jump (90%). 1 gear harder. Heart Rate Zone 2-3.
5) 1 min followed by a 30 sec Jump (90%). 1 gear harder. Heart Rate Zone 2-3
6) 30 sec max cadence in an easy gear. 1 min recovery spin. Heart Rate Zone 2-3
7) 60 sec max cadence in a harder gear than the pervious effort. 1 min recovery spin. Heart Rate Zone 2-3
8) 90 sec max cadence in a harder gear than the pervious effort. 1 min recovery spin. Heart Rate Zone 3-4
9) 2 min max cadence in a harder gear than the pervious effort. 1 min recovery spin. Heart Rate Zone 3-4
10) 30 sec standing climb/ 30 sec seated climb. Repeat for 5 minutes. Heart Rate Zone 3-4
11) 5-10 min easy spinning.