(This is an interview/post I did for my friends at CycleOps and was originally published here.)
1. What type of athlete should focus on warming-up before a race?
All athletes of all ability levels should ensure they get a good warm-up in before competition! While the type of event will dictate the length and type of warm-up needed, you always want to have your system ‘primed’ and ready to go! In general, the shorter and more intense the event the longer and more focused the warm-up will need to be. So light spinning for 10 minutes might be acceptable before a long road race, while a more intense and structured warm-up routine is needed for a time trial or criterium. The exception would be if that long road race starts out right away with a long and steep climb!
2. What do you recommend people do for warming-up/cooling down on their cycle trainer?
Warm-Up: The current trend seems to be towards shorter but more focused warm-up routines. Here is my current favorite, although each individual will want to tailor it to their own needs and experience:
15 minutes light (Zone 1* – slowly build cadence) 3 minute build from Zone 1 to anticipated power output for event (typically around Zone 4). Build cadence during build-up. 2 minutes recovery (Zone 1) Repeat progressive build ups for a total of three times 3 minutes light (Zone 1)
I like to go ride around on the road for a couple minutes after putting race wheels on just for a quick mechanical check. Then it’s time to head to the start-house!
Total Time: 35 minutes
Cool Down: I think 15-25 minutes of very light pressure on the pedals (Zone 1) with a slightly elevated cadence (~100rpm but will vary with individual) is perfect.
* All Zones above are power training zones, however heart rate zones shouldn’t be all that different.
3. What is the importance of warming-up or cooling down on a bike trainer?
A gradual increase in effort helps prime the body’s metabolic processes so you will be at optimized efficiency at the start of the event. In addition, by warming up the muscle and connective tissue it is less susceptible to injury. There is also a strong physiological benefit to going through the warm-up routine and building athlete focus before the event starts. (Especially important in short events!)
Cooling down directly after the event, helps keep blood flowing through the tired muscles flushing out accumulated toxins and ‘leftovers’ from the harder efforts of competition. This aids in recovery between events.
4. How soon before the race should the warm-up start and end?
It depends somewhat on the type of event, but for a time trial I like to end the warm-up 10 minutes before the athlete’s start time. This should give the rider time to get to the start without any unnecessary drama or added stress. Some people like to cut it as close as possible before the start-time, but I think this just makes a rider stressed for no good reason. In terms of when to start the warm-up you simple work backwards from your start time. So if you have a 45 minute routine you would get on the trainer at 55 minutes before your start time.
5. At a race, where is the best place to warm-up when using a turbo trainer?
There are couple things to consider when selecting where to warm-up. First, I like to be as close to the start line as possible. This makes it easier to hear any last minute changes to the schedule, and allows you to end your warm-up closer to the actual start time. I always like to sync my watch with the official time clock when I get to the event as well since I have never met an official who was sympathetic to someone’s watch running 5 minutes slow! I go as far as writing down the start times for all my riders on a large white board in front of the trainers so there is no chance of ‘forgetting’ ones start time.
I also like to set up the trainers in a shady spot out of direct sun. The best way to warm-up is to get the muscles and connective tissue warm and at ‘operating temperature’, but while keeping core temperature from rising as little as possible. This is why you see professionals wearing ice vests during really hot days when warming up. Lastly, make sure you have everything you need in arm’s reach before you start your routine. This includes, water, any pre-race food, music device, towel, etc.
6. For those new to racing, where could they look for more information on racing and warm-up routines?
While there is plenty of basic information and routines people can find by searching on the Internet, there is no substitute for a proper coach. They can help you pick a proper warm-up and approach to each specific event, while taking into account your individual attributes! USA Cycling has a great online database for looking for licensed coaches, as well as events, in your area.