A warm up is something most cyclists know they should do before a race or even a hard workout, but many are at a loss as to how to actually warm up properly and what actually goes into a purposeful routine.

So, in this post, I’ll explain how to warm up and then try to offer some practical pointers at the end that you can put into practice for yourself.


What makes a good warm-up for you will be defined by a number of factors:

  • The first of these is the nature of the event or the ride you’re warming up for. For instance, if the event is short and highly intense like a time trial, it’ll require a very different warm-up protocol to a 100-mile sportive or MTB marathon race.
  • Secondly, the routine will be affected by your current state of fitness. For example, if you’re training 20 hours per week, you should generally be using a longer warm-up than someone else who might only train 10 hours per week or that hasn’t been riding for as long. In this case, for one cyclist, a longer warm-up would be helpful for performance, and for another it might take away precious energy that they could use in their race.


Despite these variables though, there are some general guidelines that apply to good warm-ups.


The first is that a warm-up should increase specific muscle and whole-body temperature, which has been shown to promote increased athletic performance.

Therefore, the first strategy to use is that of heat maintenance. This is where you perform your warm-up exercises and then retain the heat generated by maintaining movement like riding around easily and/or by wearing warm, insulating clothing which minimises heat loss.

Down-filled jackets and thermal tights are perfect for this, but any warm clothing works too, especially when it’s a cold day.


The next strategy you can use is moving your warm-up closer to the start of your ride or race.

For example, if you normally warm up 50 minutes before your event and spend maybe 15 minutes doing so, you’re likely to see an improvement in heat retention and subsequent performance by shifting your warm-up forward by 20 minutes.

Although this exact example might not always be applicable, the principle of moving the warm-up as close to the start of the event as you can is something to keep in mind.


A third strategy is manipulating variables like duration, intensity and recovery in the right way.

From personal experience and qualified by academic studies, it appears that a general best practice strategy is to design a warm-up with the following characteristics:

  1. Include portions of high intensity into the warm up after a sufficient level of low intensity, for example 10 mins at Zone 1 (below 55% of FTP) and Zone 2 (56-75% of FTP), followed by some intervals at Zone 5 (106-120% of FTP).
  2. Split the warm up into 2 parts, where the first part might be performed 1 hour before your ride and the second half as close to the start of your ride as possible.
  3. Use the heat maintenance techniques we learnt about earlier in the period between the 1st and 2nd part of this split warm up.


So those are just some factors that affect how good of a warm up you can perform.

By applying these tips to your warm-ups, you might just find that you can make improvements in your performance, and subsequently ride a better race or workout.

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