I’ve never been big on warm-ups. One simple reason is that I always arrive late to races and run short on time, but I haven’t found much benefit from long warmups when I do get the opportunity. Below are some examples and reasoning supporting a shorter warmup than I see many riders use.
Road vs Trainer vs Rollers
For the most important races of the year, nothing can be left to chance. Warming up on the road leaves too many variables. Imagine trying to warm up on unknown streets in a new town for a race you’ve traveled to. It would be easy to find yourself on a route poorly suited for cycling and risk crashing, missing your start time, or flatting your race tubulars.
This leaves a stationary warmup a better choice. Personally I prefer rollers because the bike is very quick to take on and off, leaving no fuss when the time is right to head to the start line.
When the weather is very hot, a long stationary warmup will quickly lead to overheating. If you’re familiar with the area and have a safe route to warm up on the road, this may be a better choice on a hot day. Otherwise, make sure to be careful to err on the side of a shorter warmup on hot days.
In very cold or rainy weather, a stationary warmup will again be preferable. If you can find a sheltered spot, you’ll be able to warm up and stay warm and dry. If I don’t have a stationary setup on a miserable day, I will use a very short warmup so I don’t arrive at the start line already soaked and cold.
I may not warm up at all for a long road race. If there are a few minutes of neutral rollout and I don’t expect too much action at the beginning, I may not warm up at all. If I expect a hectic start to the race or want to go in the early break, a good warmup is on the menu.
For some races, arriving at the start line early (technical criteriums or cyclocross) is more important than an ideal warmup. In these cases, positioning your stationary setup close to the staging area and using rollers can help you warmup until the last possible moment, and then hop into line quickly.
Shorter is better. 20 minutes is a good length. I see a lot of guys sweating it out on the trainer in the parking lot with the sun beating down on them when I pull up to criteriums to pick up my race number. For last year’s State TT (I finished 4th), I warmed up for only 19 minutes. I know many of you are thinking “Well, that doesn’t work for me…” But, I’m not the only on using short warmups.
Pez Cycling News submitted this report of the 2012 Paris-Nice prologue. You may have heard the rumors that “Elite Pros don’t warm up until the 4th hour of the race”, but this isn’t reflected in their warmup protocol (about halfway down the report). For the 9.4km TT (about a 10 minute race; very intense), their riders used a 20 minute warm up starting 30 minutes before their start time.
Another more recent example is Marco Pinotti’s race file from his win of the final stage of the 2012 Giro d’Italia. He first previews the 27k course at a leisurely 20 mph and 164 average watts. Almost 4 hours later he begins his 25 minute warmup, finishing his warmup 12 minutes before his start. It’s worth noting his 30 minute average was a whopping 384 watts! He only weighs 150 pounds, putting his power to weight ratio at 5.73 w/kg.
Unfortunately the examples above are incomplete. Team Sky’s “Zone 5″ is a little unclear, although I’m guessing it means building to an Anaerobic power zone (125% FTP). And Pinotti’s file doesn’t include heart rate. However, we can see that Pinotti uses a similar protocol to Team Sky, spending 5 minutes easy, 5 minutes at 250w steady (probably Zone 2, endurance power), 5 more minutes easy, 5 minutes building to nearly race power, and a final 5 minutes easy with one shorter build to race pace.
Here is a 20 minute example protocol using Andy Coggan’s Power Zones. Power zones are much more useful than heart rate because the durations are short and heart rate will be lower when you’re not warmed up yet. I’ll add approximate Friel HR Zones, but take these with a grain of salt.
|5′||Z2||Build to Z2(endurance)|
|4′||Build to Z4 (1 min per zone)||Z3(tempo)|
|1′||2x 6s Sprints Z7||Z3-4(Tempo – Low threshold)|
If you’re used to doing a longer and harder warmup routine, give this a shot a your next lower priority race. You might be surprised with the results.