Don’t get caught cold – the best warm up

Hello t clubbers. Now that races are back on your radar I thought I’d share with you the importance of a good warm up both in your training and racing, and some tips on how to create one.

In some aspects of sport and performance there are debates and varying theories on certain things, nutrition, stretching etc, but one thing is accepted by all experts, you must perform an adequate warm up if you want to perform to your top level in a high intensity activity.

But why?

You need to look at what you’re expecting your body to do, in our case as triathletes that’s to sustain the highest effort level possible for our required time period.

…you must perform an adequate warm up if you want to perform to your top level in a high intensity activity.

An athlete I used to work with left a comment on a warm up they carried out prior to an FTP test (20min max effort on the bike). It read something along the lines of “just tried to take it easy on the warm up”…..as if they were saving something for the test. This is possibly the worst tactic if you want to achieve a good test or race performance.

In order for your body to perform at a high level in races you’ll have to have been at that effort level or above multiple times per week in training, so your body recognises the effort and doesn’t panic and cause you to drop that level. It’s the same with the warm up, you need to get the body up to race pace or above before the start in order for it to be able to ramp up to the required level and stay there.

A simple test to show how this works is to pop your trainers on, walk to the door and then run a mile as fast as you can. You’d find the heart rate responds almost instantly to supply the required muscles with blood, couple this with the adrenaline surge you’ll get means your ticker will be working hard, but then it drops, as will your pace, because it wasn’t ready for the demand, so it makes you slow down. If you did that then took a 5min easy jog, plus 3 or 4x 100m faster pace efforts with walking between, then do the mile again, you’d be faster because you’re warmed up.

But what is an adequate warm up?

Personally I feel for any effort up to 30min you need to be doing a 30min warm up, sounds a lot right? But it is not all moving and it is average to short compared to the top guys. Put simply, if you’re a top performer and you want your body to perform at a high level you’ll be doing a long warm up. If you’re running an hour for 5k then it won’t really matter how much you warm up, as your pace for training and racing will likely be pretty similar and you need to start doing some regular speed work and increasing mileage in training to gain the speed.

Here is an example of a warm up before a 5k running race:

The key points to look at are the heart rate and pace goals reached, it doesn’t matter about the actual number as everyone is different but all that matters is that the efforts reached were greater than those required for the 5k effort itself, only for a short time, but now the body is ready to reach similar levels again, like you’re going to ask it to.

The warm up was broken down to:

  • 10-12min @4/10 effort – super easy pace
  • 4min build pace to 8/10 effort for the final 1min
  • 2min walking
  • 2x 20sec fast strides (more like sprinting) with 1min walking between
  • 3min @ on or greater than target race pace
  • 3-4min walking with occasional 20sec jogging to really get the heart rate down.

Now you’re ready.

Very few age group triathletes will warm up to this extent and it’s a game changer. 

For triathlon it doesn’t change much, you still need to get your cardiovascular system up to speed. We have all set off on a swim too fast and there’s nothing worse than being out of breath in the water while trying to push hard. So, do the same warm up, you’ll warm up your arms through the movement of running and then add some arm swings and a few short fast strokes when you enter the water before the gun goes. Very few age group triathletes will warm up to this extent and it’s a game changer.  I had my best tri swim the time I forgot my timing chip. It left me with about five minutes before my race start to sprint to transition and back before the swim, it was a great warm up!

You need to practice this, or whatever warm up works for you in training, before your hard sessions too, so it’s totally normal when the time comes to race.

Give it a try in training a few times and see if the performance is increased.

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