The Art & Science of a Warm-up

Let’s get in a good warm-up…what is that?

Research has been done evaluating what the best way is to warm-up for a race or hard event.   Typically, warm-ups consist of 10-15 min an aerobic effort with a couple short accelerations and then a cooldown.  Wait a few minutes and then you’re off!   The problem with a-lot of these protocols is that they are based off participants who are usually half our age!  Age and training history matter.  Are you a long-term endurance athlete or a former hockey player?   The idea is to have your body ready to handle intensity efficiently without blowing up and feeling like you have ingested acid!  Digesting a few TUMS pre-race does not help and it has been studied!

I have been to many “group rides” and I swear that when we leave the parking like we are racing at the Tour de France.  Actually, faster than the TDF as they don’t even start as fast as local club rides!  

So, the typical “good warm-up” has a lot of factors to consider.  Here’s list for you to go through and then start to customize:

1) Age.  The older, the longer.  Add 5 min per decade is a safe bet. 

< 20: 5 min

20-30: 10 min

30-40: 15 min

40-50: 20 min

50-60: 25 min

60-70: 30 min

70-80: 35 min

2) Your muscle morphology (fast twitch or slow twitch)

Fast Twitch:

If you are the type of person that enjoyed and excelled at sports that require sprinting and explosive actions, you are most likely fast-twitch dominant. These athletes can handle large loads of lactate in their legs without blowing up on repeated intervals. For example, hockey players, sprinters, speed skaters, volleyball, alpine skiers. I would recommend 1-2 harder efforts for 60 seconds during your warm-up to get your lactate-buffering system ready to go. You don’t need a lot of pre-ride accelerations as your legs can handle the lactate loads. Keep your warm-up close to the age group chart as you need to save your gas for those events greater than 2 hours.

Slow Twitch:
If power sports were not your thing in High School and you preferred the Cross-country running team, chances are you are more of a natural endurance athlete or more slow twitch dominant. These athletes can go forever and easily knock off their first marathon prior to 30 years of age. Events that require high intensity efforts out of the gate are difficult for slow-twitch athletes. They may not be at the front of the pack at the start but look out as they are near the front by the end of the race. I would recommend a longer warm-up than age recommended chart above. Add another 10-15 min. Performing some accelerations during your warm-up is not always required as you are not going to win off the start so why waste your energy?! As you always do, pace yourself during the first part of the race and slowly reel-in those fast-twitch folks who went out too fast!

Figure 1. Sport: Cycling. Slow-twitch dominant. Warm-up 20 min with one acceleration. As you can see, the lactate-buffering system kicked at 120W which allowed the lactate to decrease prior to the larger efforts.

Figure 2. Sport: Cycling. Fast twitch dominant. Warm-up 20 min with one acceleration. Even after the warm-up, the athlete’s was already tolerating high lactate which decreased briefly and they increased without causing fatigue.

If you are not sure what type of warm-up you need to do for your sport, feel free to drop us a note and we’ll figure out the best method so that you excel at your next work-out or race.