Warm Up for Time Trials and Criteriums
You have put in hours of training on the bike; you have the equipment and the bike dialed in to the very last detail. Arriving at your peak race time trial or criterium, you start your usual warm-up, not quite sure what to do for a proper warm up.
You have put in hours training on the bike; you have the equipment, the bike and pre race diet dialed in to the very last detail. Upon arriving at your peak race time trial or criterium, you start your usual warm-up, spin around, test out the aero-bars or positioning in your drops and do a few accelerations, not quite sure what to do for a proper warm up. Looking at your competition focused on their trainers, you start to have doubts as to your own pre race warm up and realize you really don’t know what you should be doing.
The desire to be optimally prepared, but not tired out by a long warm up, is often a source of confusion for athletes. It’s a common misconception that a long warm-up will only serve to tire you out and dig into your precious but limited glycogen stores. In truth, a well-planned and lengthy warm-up will prepare your body for peak performance both physiologically and psychologically. A good rule to follow when deciding how much time to spend on a warm-up is: the shorter the race the longer the warm up.
The pre-race warm-up serves as the transition from a resting state to maximal exercise and prepares the body for the high intensity requirements of racing. You should be 100% ready to give maximum effort from the gun in a criterium, or ride above threshold in a TT, and your leisurely spin around the block won’t adequately prepare you for these efforts. It is important to perform a proper warm up before racing either a time trial or a criterium, to not only prepare your body for an optimal performance, but also to protect against potential injuries that can occur when muscles and joints are not properly warmed up. In longer road races the pre-race warm-up need not be as lengthy, as the intensity is generally lower and the first several miles usually serve as a warm up.
Physiologically the warm-up raises the body’s core temperature, increases cardiac output (heart rate x stroke volume), increases speed of nerve transmission (increased firing potential), increases blood flow to working muscles, enhances contractility and force production of muscle fibers and prepares joints for increased activity. The warm up should also psychologically prepare you for the rigors of racing. It gives a concentrated time away from competition to focus on strategy, relaxation exercises and visualization.
The concept of lengthening your warm-up for shorter events is especially important for prologues and short time trials (12km and shorter). You don’t want to finish a 3-mile prologue only to figure out you are just warming up. Prologues and short TT’s don’t give you a margin of error to warm-up while in the race, so you need to be 100% prepared at the start. This means arriving early to the venue in order to have enough time to register, pin your numbers, get dressed and warm up. Where you warm up is another detail you should consider ahead of time. You may be at a race where there are few roads