Back to Basics

Back to Basics: Warming Up

Warming up, whether it's for a short workout or a big ride, is often overlooked. If you often find yourself jumping straight into your training without completing a proper warm-up routine, you're not alone.

Pav Bryan
Mar 01, 2021
7 min read
Training

Cycling warm-ups

Warming up, whether it's for a short workout or a big ride, is often overlooked. If you often find yourself jumping straight into your training without completing a proper warm-up routine, you're not alone. It would appear that only about 50% of us really complete a full warm-up before our sessions.

Why warming-up is so important

The obvious answer to the question of 'why is warming up important?', for many, will be to reduce the risk of injury. While that is a very important factor, we are also looking at one other crucial factor: how you prepare your mind for what’s coming.

The three main reasons to warm-up:

  1. Prepare your mind for training or event
  2. Reduce injury risk
  3. Ensure your body is ready to perform at its highest level

On your journey, as well as taking you through the importance of mental fitness that works in tandem with physical performance, Pillar will help guide you to developing your own warm-up routine, show you why you might warm-up differently at varying intensities, and support you as you transition your warm-up from indoors to outside.

Pav’s 10-minute cycling warm-up routine

This is the standard warm-up that we have built into every session at an intensity of zone 4 and lower. For those who want to familiarise themselves with it, I discuss it below.

You are going to start with a simple easy paced effort of three minutes. This will be 50% of your Functional Threshold Power (FTP), in context, this will feel very easy, and you should be able to keep a conversation going (if you want to!).

After those three minutes are done, you are going to start increasing the intensity in thirty second ‘ramps’ (increases). Each one will start to feel a little harder, but as we are progressing through them slowly, you should find you are more than capable of completing them. After you finish this little ramp, you will get another minute of easy pedalling.

We are then going to really ensure your body is ready for the upcoming session with three all out sprints. Don’t worry about your power during these, just go all out! They are only five seconds long and you will get thirty seconds of easy pedalling between each. After which you will get one minute and fifteen seconds more of easy pedalling.

The session finishes with a mid-intensity minute to just get you ready for the first interval. It is important to go from this final minute into the first interval so, if you need to, ensure you take any breaks before this minute.

Throughout this, try to keep your cadence at a comfortable rate of around 90 or higher. Note, that if this doesn’t feel comfortable, please drop it down, but aim to steadily increase during the first seven minutes until you reach 90. If this still feels too unfamiliar to you, stick with something slightly lower that feels better, but use these warm-ups as practise to increase your cadence; here’s why we recommend slightly higher cadence.

Pav's 10 minute warm-up routine.

Need something a little longer to try? We have a 20-minute warm-up version too.

Pav’s 20-minute cycling warm-up routine

This is the standard warm-up that we have built into every session at an intensity of zone 5 and higher. For those who want to familiarise themselves with it, I discuss it below.

You are going to start with a simple easy paced effort of seven minutes. This will be 50% of your Functional Threshold Power (FTP), in context, this will feel very easy, and you should be able to keep a conversation going (if you want to!).

After those seven minutes are done, you are going to start increasing the intensity in one minute ‘ramps’ (increases). Each one will start to feel a little harder, but as we are progressing through them slowly, you should find you are more than capable of completing them. After you finish this little ramp, you will get another two minutes of easy pedalling.

We are then going to really ensure your body is ready for the upcoming session with three all out sprints. Don’t worry about your power during these, just go all out! They are only five seconds long and you will get a minute of easy pedalling between each. After which you will get two minutes and forty-five seconds more of easy pedalling.

The session finishes with a mid-intensity minute to just get you ready for the first interval. It is important to go from this final minute into the first interval so, if you need to, ensure you take any breaks before this minute.

Throughout this, try to keep your cadence at a comfortable rate of around 90 or higher. Note, that if this doesn’t feel comfortable, please drop it down, but aim to steadily increase during the first seven minutes until you reach 90. If this still feels too unfamiliar to you, stick with something slightly lower that feels better, but use these warm-ups as practise to increase your cadence; here’s why we recommend slightly higher cadence.

Pav's 20 minute warm-up routine

Need something a little shorter to try? We have a 10-minute warm-up version too (above).

Why you should develop a warm-up specific to you

As you start to become more familiar with my training methodology, you will notice that there is one underlying rule: it’s all personal to you. In almost every context, it is going to be important for you to apply this to your circumstances. It is unwise to follow the advice of someone who is not a professional coach, nor should you simply copy what your riding buddies do.

Having something personalised will ensure you get the most of your warm-up. A few reasons why your warm-up might be different to your friends includes: your age, your time training in a structured manner, and your level of fitness or fatigue. These factors might mean you need a slightly longer warm-up, or that you're warmed up a little quicker. You might also need to include some time at a higher intensity, for example some sprints, to ensure that your body is ready to put its best performance in.

To get started developing a personalised warm-up routine, start with the warm-up I recommend, then see how you feel when you start the session; making notes will help you develop this over a period of time. Did you feel sluggish? This might indicate you needed slightly longer. Did the first interval really shock you (perhaps you felt it was ‘out-of-nowhere’)? This could mean you need some more time at this intensity in your warm-up. Did you feel amazing? This could indicate your warm-up is, in fact, perfect! It might also mean you could experiment with shorter warm-ups.

Try to enjoy this little experiment! It will be something that you own, something that you have developed that is yours, something that will ultimately give you the best chance of success, not just in your training, but in your events too.

Why warm-up for outside rides and events

Warm-ups serve two very important purposes. The first is to ensure that your body is ready for the training, or in this case your event. It’s very easy, in the heat and excitement of the event and being surrounded by many other enthusiastic bike riders, to go too hard at the start of your event. This increases the likelihood of two issues: risk of injury and risk of going too hard and fatiguing before the finish.

The second reason to warm-up at the start of your event is to prepare your mind. Over the past few months you have, hopefully, been developing a solid warm-up routine which will get you ‘in the zone’. You may have not noticed it, but this mental conditioning is reinforcing some crucial characteristics that you already possess: resilience, determination and courage. Make no mistake that the event you are about to partake in will be challenging, that’s why you signed up in the first place. But, being in the right frame of mind, and being able to access ‘the zone’ will help you push through challenging moments and carry you to the finish line.

How to transition your indoor warm-up to outside

Training structure (aka interval training) is always easier to complete inside where you can control the terrain, not need any stops or starts, and have the ‘road’ to yourself. However, unless you are training for an indoor event, you will at some point need to get outside.

Warming-up for outside rides and events is just as important as inside as we want to ensure that your mind and body are ready for what comes next. To transition your warm-up to outside, just consider the format. Whether you’ve been following our suggested warm-up or created your own, you should be familiar with each step in the structure. You might find it easier to follow your power or heart rate readings, but you might be able to simply follow your rate of perceived exertion too. Try to ensure you practise this on some training rides before your main event, this will help you understand if you’re pushing too hard or not enough.

Why warming-up for cycling is crucial

When you go from ‘cold’ straight into a hard interval your body might not be ready to exert that effort. Aside from an increased injury risk, you will most likely be underperforming compared to a ‘warmed-up’ state, and we want to ensure you get the best from all of your training!

In the next article of the Back to Basics series, we'll be covering all-things recovery. From warming-down, to bubble baths and long term rehabilitation.


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