PezCycling News - What's Cool In Pro Cycling : The Warm-up: Priming the Engine

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The Warm-up: Priming the Engine
Never underestimate the importance of a proper warm-up. Often times overlooked, sometimes overdone, a warm-up gets you ready for the effort of your particular race right from the get-go. Following the guidelines below will better prepare you for success at the finish line…

By Brian Walton

Before we get into the meat of specific warm-up exercises and their associated heart rate/power zones, first ask yourself these important questions:

• In what type of event are you competing?
• What is the length of the event?
• Will you have a stationary trainer or open road for warm-up?
• What are the weather conditions for race day?

Golden Rule
The key to warming up is adapting the warm-up to the unique physiological demands of a particular race. Road races, time trials, criteriums and stage races demand very different types of race efforts, so adjusting the warm-up routine is crucial to success in each discipline. In any case, a good rule of thumb is: THE SHORTER THE EVENT, THE LONGER THE WARM-UP.

A long road race may not need a significant warm-up due to the length of the race and the opportunity to gradually warm-up during the opening kilometers of the race. During stage races, on the other hand, you may need to “loosen up the legs” from the previous days’ efforts and a short 10 minute easy recovery spin may actually make the day seem shorter if you are feeling really tight or tired.

Road or Trainer?
A question I’m often asked is, “Is it better to warm up on a trainer or on the road?” The truth is it really comes down to personal preference and, in some instances, logistics. What do you prefer and what prepares you better for your event? With experience, you’ll be able to answer these questions effectively.

Also, because every race course and location varies greatly, you may have to alter your regular warm-up routine to suit the event. Does the event allow you to ride on the open road easily, or is it being held in a busy urban setting? Will you risk disqualification by warming up on “closed” roads? Sometimes, having an indoor trainer will help even if you’re accustomed to warming up on open roads.

If you do warm up on open roads, consider the following pitfalls: Imagine getting a flat just before the start of your race, while you are two miles out on a quiet country road. Or how about battling stoplight after stoplight in a downtown area while trying to get some “openers” in the legs without getting lost? Whether you opt to warm up on the road or on a stationary trainer, I always recommend starting your warm-up on your spare wheels and then switching to race wheels mid-way through your warm-up routine. It’s always a greater risk warming up on lightweight race equipment.

Weather also plays a significant factor in your warm-up efforts. If it’s raining, then it’s a no-brainer: bring your trainer and warm up under a building, the hatchback of your car, a tent, or some other form of shelter. If it’s cold, think ahead and add a little time to the beginning phase to really warm up the muscles, tendons and ligaments. In the heat, keep hydrating and maybe cut back on the overall volume of your warm-up exercises.

Warm-up Routines
To help clarify the intensities of these intervals I’ll use perceived exertion (PE) instead of Power/HR zones. PE is a qualitative scale ranging from 1 (least effort) to 10 (maximum effort) determined subjectively by how much intensity an athlete feels during the exercise.

Short Circuit Road Race or Hill Climb
10 min warm-up at Endurance Zone (PE: 5 out of 10)
5 min at LT (Lactate Threshold) (PE: 7-7.5 out of 10)
5 min recovery (easy spin) (PE: <3 out of 10)
2 min SuperLT (preferably uphill if it’s a climbing race. Note that this is your lower end of projected “race pace”) (PE: 8 out of 10)
5 min recovery (easy spin)
2 min SuperLT/MaxVo2 (uphill if climbing race-this is the lower end and into your upper end of projected “race pace”) (PE: 8 into 9 out of 10 for last minute)
5 min recovery and roll to the line with 5 minutes to spare
TOTAL: 34 minutes

Time Trial (< 16 km)
20 min warm-up at Endurance Zone
3 min Fast Cadence light gear at 110+rpm (42×17 or 39×16). Stay in an easy gear and focus on leg speed and warming up the muscles; this will also help “prime” the cardiovascular system (PE: 6 out of 10)
3 min recovery (easy spin)
5 min at LT (Lactate Threshold)
5 min recovery (easy spin)
4 min LT/SuperLT Progressively increase gearing while keeping cadence around 100rpm. For example, progressively use: 53×19,17,16,15 (PE: 7 into 8 out of 10 for last minute)
5 min recovery (easy spin)
5 min progressive from SuperLT to MaxVo2. Progressively increase gearing from 53/54 x17,16,15,14,13,12 (PE: 8 into 9 out of 10 for last two minutes)
Note: SuperLT and VO2 zones are a “grey” area for time trialing. Experienced time trialists will be able to maintain a heart rate very close to their maximum (85-95+% of max HR) but this percentage will decrease to (80-90%) as the length of the time trial increases.
5min recovery and roll to the line sweating
TOTAL: 55 minutes

Time Trial (40 km)
15 min warm-up at Endurance Zone
3 min Fast Cadence (light gear at 110+rpm) 42×17 or 39×16. Keep it in an easy gear and focus on leg speed and warming up the muscularly, “prime” the cardiovascular system
2 min recovery
5 min LT/SuperLT Progressively increase gearing while keeping cadence around 100rpm. For example, progressively use: 53×19,17,16,15 (PE: 7 into 8 out of 10 for last minute)
5 min recovery (easy spin)
5 min LT(1min)-SuperLT(2min)-MaxVo2(2min)
5 min recovery and roll to the line sweating.
TOTAL: 40 minutes

Criterium
15 min warm-up at Endurance Zone
5 min Fast Cadence (light gear at 110+rpm) 42×17 or 39×16. Keep it in an easy gear and focus on leg speed and warming up the legs muscularly, “prime” the cardiovascular system
3 min at LT (Lactate Threshold)
3 min recovery (easy spin)
3 min SuperLT Progressively increase gearing while keeping cadence around 100rpm. For example, progressively use: 53×19,17,16,15
3 min recovery (easy spin)
30 second “Attack Interval.” Heart rate is not a very good indicator since this is of such short duration. The perceived effort should be 9 out of 10 on the “effort.” Attack out of the saddle, sit down and continue to wind the gear up and hold a high cadence for 30 seconds. Cadence should be 120+ at the end of the effort.
1 min recovery
30 second Attack Interval
3 min recovery
2 x 15 seconds sprints (approx.200m) with 2-3minutes recovery between efforts Start the sprints from a roll of 20-30km/hr and effort should be maximal
5 min recovery and roll to the line sweating
TOTAL: 45 minutes

Tried and True
The key to race warm-ups is having a routine that prepares you physically and mentally. Set your watch to the “official” race time so you won’t be late. Time your warm-up to finish about ten minutes before your start. Give yourself a 5 minute cushion to get to the staging area, make sure you are sweating (but toweled off after the warm-up). Sit alone or roll around and focus on the effort, thinking about the desired wattage and heart rates for the effort you are about to put forth, then arrive at the line ready to go. For mass start events queue when called to the line, and for time trial events keep track of the rider 2 minutes ahead of you and line up as soon as they start.

Last but Not Least!
One of the things I remember most from my racing days is to not leave the race effort with the warm-up. Essentially, this means if you are able to get your heart rate up (or wattage, if you have a meter) to your race effort levels as you start your warm-up then go ahead and back off, bottle it up, and confidently save it for the event.

Cadence Cycling website.




About Brian:
Brian Walton has a uniquely well-rounded perspective on training and coaching. He was one of the top Canadian riders of the 80s and 90s, riding as a pro with 7-Eleven, Motorola, and Saturn, and winning the 1989 Milk Race and silver in the 1996 Olympic Points Race. He then became the DS and coach for Team Snow Valley, turning it into the top Elite Men’s team in the USA. He is currently the Director of Performance for Cadence Cycling in Philadelphia, and can be reached for comments or coaching inquiries at bwalton@cadencecycling.com.

 

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