I have written about warming up and cooling down after races and training rides in the past and even had some interesting comments about cool downs but this season I have had more conversations with athletes I coach about pre race warm ups.
What do I mean by a pre race warm up?
This is a training ride done the day before a race and I give them to everyone I coach! This includes runners, cyclists and multisport athletes. If an athlete is going to race, participate in an organized event or perform a test they will get a Pre Race Warm Up the day or evening before.
These rides are not as organized as the interval workouts that I give during the regular training week and are very easy to understand and execute. For cyclists I have them ride from 45 minutes to 1.5 hours depending on the race/event/test distance and experience of the athlete. So if a cyclist is racing a short crit the next day they will get a 30-40 minute race warm up the day before. If the cyclist is going to do a long road race or ride a century they will have a longer 1-1.5 hour race warm up. The same holds true for runners but multi-sport athletes are different. If the multisport athlete in question is stronger on the run then they will get a running race warm up but if they are stronger on the bike they will get a bike race warm up. Why do I focus on a stronger aspect of a multisport athlete? During the race and event season, I focus my athlete’s attentions on refining strengths and less about working on weaknesses. The offseason is the time for working on weaknesses.
What does the race warm up do for endurance athletes?
Many new athletes I coach assume that they would get the day off before a race, event or test. This is not the case and if you are doing this you are losing an opportunity for a better performance come race day! By applying some training stress to the body the day before a race you are telling the body that it still has work to do. Hormones and other physical process remain on the alert rather than having to play catch up the day of a race or event. Most serious athletes work with a structured training plan and rest is planned along with work in an effort to build to peak fitness before a priority event or race.
What goes into a pre race warm up?
I try to have my athletes perform their pre race warm up either on the same course or on similar terrain. They also need to use the same bike or running shoes they plan on using the day of the race. The ride or run will start off very easy, usually 70% of FTP or LT. Then after they feel their legs open up they will need to get into Zone 3-4 Power or HR for the balance of the ride. Many of us refer to this as cruising speed. Then the athlete will throw in 3-4 hard efforts that usually last one-minute or less in length. These efforts should mimic what is done in their event or race. The take away is that we are not trying to break any records but just keep the body working the day before race or event.
Can I ride or run with a friend or teammate?
Absolutely! This will help heighten the excitement prior to race day and is a wonderful opportunity to talk tactics and even preview a course. The only caveat I give to athletes this is not the race before the race. The Pre Race Warm Up is technically a moderate work out with a few hard efforts with big rests between each hard effort. We want you ready for race day not spent. So if you do not feel that you have the discipline to take it easy while riding on the road or with a buddy then don’t! Ride alone or ride indoors on a trainer or rollers. I would say that I would much rather the work be done outdoors unless the race will be held on a track.
Try it I think you will like it!
If you have never practiced this before and are used to taking the day off before I would like you to try it and let me know if you feel that you had a better race or event ride the next time!
What about cooling down?
I still feel that cooling down is critical to recovery. There have been studies that counter this but I am still a believer. I always feel better if I get in a cool down ride and sometimes walk after a run. My legs and joints always feel less tight the next day and I usually don’t feel as much fatigue if I had just packed it up and drove home. I can also tell you that for me it’s absolutely impossible for me to just stop and get off a bike after a Time Trial! I have to go ride a couple of miles. I tried once and was barely able to get unclipped from my bike and almost fell over. I also woke up in the middle of the night with horrible cramping.
Until next time
Train Smarter Not Harder