Ever start a race and feel like your body wasn’t ready for the onslaught of intensity that’s currently tearing your legs apart? Chances are your warm-up is to blame, and fortunately for you we have a couple proven warm-up routines that will help ensure you’re firing on all cylinders when the whistle blows!

Warm-up – Time Trials

This warm-up is ideal before longer time trial efforts (>10K). The two “ramp” sections are meant to be a rough guideline and you should spend this time getting in-tune with your body. The first ramp progression starts at 70% of threshold, then gradually ramps towards 90% of threshold. The second ramp progression starts at 85% then move towards 100-105% of threshold.

It’s recommended to perform this warm-up on a trainer or rollers. Time trials are all about getting your mind/body focused and more often than not it’s impossible to find good roads for a warm-up. The Feedback Omnium Trainer is a popular choice and our experience works very well for warm-ups.

Step 1 – Easy spin for 5-10 minutes. No power or HR goals, just shaking out the legs and settling into the bike.

Step 2 – (5) x 30-second high cadence spin-ups w/30-second recovery. Start in a relatively easy gear that keeps your PWR/HR in Zone 2 for the first couple spin-ups and aim for 100-120 rpm. During the 30-second recovery simply spin at a comfortable cadence and keep power near Zone 2. You can either try to increase your average cadence to 120+ on each effort or try to maintain 100-120 while increasing the gear ratio on each effort. In general, the goal here is to start waking up your legs and getting your mind engaged, so don’t worry about hitting and high power goals here.

Step 3 – 5 minute ramp. Start at 70% of threshold and increase by 5% each minute. Get into your time trial position in order to start engaging the correct muscles and to practice holding your racing position.

Step 4 – 5 minutes easy spin. Grab a drink of water, wipe off the sweat, and make sure you have a good song lined up for the next ramp!

Step 5 – 5 minute ramp. Start at 85% of threshold and increase by 5% each minute. Again, make sure your in your time trial position and staying focused. During the final couple minutes you can increase your ramp rate if you want to really make sure your legs/lungs are opened up and ready to race. If you want to finish with a 5-10 second sprint at the end of the 5-minute ramp that can be helpful as well.

Step 6 – Spin easy for 3-5 minutes on the trainer. Once your heart rate has settled a bit get your bike off the trainer and take care of any last minute equipment preparations (these shouldn’t take more than a few minutes), then spin easy over to the start line.

Warm-up – High Intensity Start

This warm-up is ideal before races with a high intensity start. The “ramp” section is meant to be a rough guideline and you should spend this time getting in-tune with your body. The following sprints will prime your neuromuscular system and prepare you for the jump off the line.

This warm-up can be performed on the road, trail, or a trainer. Depending on your location it can be hard to get a steady 8-minute effort in. As long as you can achieve a general increase in intensity without having to stop/coast more than a few times you’ll be fine, otherwise I recommend completing this warm-up on a trainer.

Step 1 – Easy spin for 5-10 minutes. No power or HR goals, just shaking out the legs and settling into the bike.

Step 2 – (5) x 30-second high cadence spin-ups w/30-second recovery. Start in a relatively easy gear that keeps your PWR/HR in Zone 2 for the first couple spin-ups and aim for 100-120 rpm. During the 30-second recovery simply spin at a comfortable cadence and keep power near Zone 2. You can either try to increase your average cadence to 120+ on each effort or try to maintain 100-120 while increasing the gear ratio on each effort. In general, the goal here is to start waking up your legs and getting your mind engaged, so don’t worry about hitting and high power goals here.

Step 3 – 8 minute ramp. Start at 70% of threshold and increase by 5% each minute. Get into your time trial position in order to start engaging the correct muscles and to practice holding your racing position.

Step 4 – 3 minutes easy spin. At the top of each minute sprint out of the saddle for 6-10 seconds all-out.

Step 6 – Spin easy for 5-10 minutes.

When to start your warm-up?

The very first thing you should do at every race before starting your warm-up is to confirm your start time. Always confirm with somebody official, and if there is a race clock being used make sure your computer/watch is synced. It’s not uncommon for races to run behind or for the official race clock to show a different time than your cycling computer.

Now that you’re clear on your start time, the next step is going through all of your equipment and getting it laid out and ready to roll. This means having your number pinned, tires aired up, bottles filled, etc. Being organized will allow you to focus on your warm-up without worrying about the half dozen items that still need to be taken care of.

Next up, jump on the bike!

We recommend a 15-30 minutes gap between the end of your warm-up and start of your race. 30 minutes is probably a bit too long for most riders, but certain races require racers to line-up early in order to get a good starting position. Staying closer to the 15-20 minute range is ideal and should allow for more than enough time to make any last minute equipment preparations, use the restroom if needed, and get to staging with time to spare.

Summary

Sometimes spinning around for a bit to loosen up the legs is all that’s needed before a race, especially when we’re talking about long distance road/gravel races. For short, high intensity events such as criteriums, time trials, cyclocross, etc.. a focused warm-up that prepares your body and mind for the demands of the race is a must.

In reality, the two warm-up examples provided are interchangeable and which version works best will come down to personal preference. We recommend following the warm-ups as they’re currently laid out to start, then when you have a good feel for what you like and dislike adjust to make them your own.

Good luck at your next race!