Everyone has a warm-up routine, which is sometimes simple, and sometimes very complex. But what are we actually achieving with a pre-race routine? Is it helping us or actually hurting our potential to perform? We go in-depth on the science behind warm-ups and provide tips on how to get the most out of your next race by tailoring your routine to the event and your own needs.
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Trevor Connor 00:11
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This collector thing sounds like it has you run out over a driver.
Trevor Connor 00:41
Oh hell yeah,
it’s like peak. Peak nerdy dude. I say that in the most loving possible way.
Trevor Connor 00:47
This is Trevor geekiness on the fly real time.
Welcome back listeners to another episode of fast doc. I am Kaylee fretts. SENIOR EDITOR here at velonews. sitting across the table as always from Coach Trevor Connor. How you doing, Trevor?
Trevor Connor 01:04
Good. How are you doing? Kaylee?
I am Excellent. Well, today.
going to start with a little story. It’s actually not that good a story, but it’s a good way to start this podcast. But two years ago, I think 20 2015 2014 I was at the Tour de France covering the Tour de France and I was wandering around at the team Skybus The morning of one of the one of the time trials and I’m cruising around and I see a piece of paper on the door of the team Skybus and I look a little bit closer and it turns out to be basically a list of of the teams warm up. So the entire team is doing same warm up. One piece of paper is each writer start time. So basically a back calculation of when you should start warming up. And second piece of paper is a list of things that need to be done which is five minutes easy. A couple via two efforts. I look at it it looks like a pretty hard warm up to me. I took a picture of it threw up an Instagram. People went crazy for it, which I guess isn’t too surprising because it’s it’s team skies warm up. It seems like we’re like we’re seeing the inside of the Deathstar so to speak. But upon speaking with Trevor, recently, it sounds like Team Sky and it’s warm up may? Well, they may not have been right. They may have been a little over exuberant in their warm up. The latest science is, well it doesn’t really jive with experience and sort of the traditional warmup. So that’s the first thing we’re going to talk about is this experience versus science, this tradition versus the new science, and how the way it’s always been done, is maybe not the way it should be done.
Trevor Connor 02:47
And thank you for starting this podcast by implying I know more than all of Team Sky. always enjoy starting a podcast with some dramatically ego inflating delusion.
Yes, fast dock, officially better than Team Sky at bike racing. Maybe not. Nonetheless, we’re gonna we’re gonna dive straight in this seriously, Trevor has this long list of studies that he’s going to provide for us and we are going to discuss all sorts of interesting things like something called PRP, which I don’t really understand and co2, priming, and things like that. So we’re gonna hear today from a couple different experts, we’re gonna hear from Dr. Ben Rattray, who is a researcher in this field from Australia. We’re gonna hear from Carmen small, who is a pro cyclist, and has some sort of experience based recommendations. And the first thing we want to talk about on this episode, is this question of experience versus science. So, Trevor, you tell me that, basically, what coaches have been telling us for a long time, it’s sort of the normal warm ups may not be ideal, according to some of the latest science, can you dig into that a little bit more for us?
Trevor Connor 03:56
So I think what’s really cool about this topic is we’re we really have experience and years of experience and coaches saying, here’s what you should be doing. And very recently, we’ve had a lot of new science coming out saying, Well, actually, that doesn’t work. So we’re gonna dig into some of these studies. But what’s really interesting about them is they compare compare what is considered the proper warm up for various type of cycling events to a very different approach. And it found that actually, the traditional approaches hurt performance. What’s neat about this, when you’re you’re you have science and experiencing, saying two different things is, I’m not going to tell you what is right. As a matter of fact, I’m going to tell you, you have to use a mix of both. And what we’re ultimately going to get to here is you have to do a lot of individualization. With your warm up. We caught up with Carmen small who is a director and writer for Team vello concept women and a multi time US National Champion with over a decade approach experience in her legs. Carmen knows a lot about how individual warm up can be.
It’s taken me over 10 years to kind of dial something in that I know, works for me, you know, and I do, Coach but I can’t give them my you know, my warmup. It doesn’t work for them necessarily. So, you know, I think it’s very personal thing. And I think you have to, as an athlete, listen to your body and figure out what’s going to work for you the best. And like my warmup has changed from when I first started until now, first you have to get like a protocol like, Okay, I’m going to be 10 minutes, easy spinning. I’m going to do three builds, and I’m going to do a few little 10. Second Sprint’s you start with, like a basic platform of what you want to do, and then you can tweak it, you can start Okay, how did I feel in the first 15 minutes of the crit? Well, I felt great. Okay, well, let’s do that again. Let’s try it again. Or no, I still felt a little bit sluggish. Okay, well, what did you do too much? Like, did you overdo your warm up? Or did you not do enough. So that’s your call you have to make? Does it need to be a little bit longer, or you getting into 30 minutes, and you blew all your matches already in the warm up? So if you just start with something, you know, and there’s online, there’s so much stuff online for warm ups, pick something, and then you can kind of go from there and tweak it and say, Okay, this work last time, I felt too tired. I didn’t feel warmed up enough. I had a lot of lactic acid build up, how can I fix them. And I you know, it is experimental, it’s not, you’re not going to come up with a perfect warm up for yourself. The very first try maybe takes a couple years to figure out what’s going to actually work and I again, the key is to listen to your body. It’s like, you got to start understanding how your body’s working. And you experiment in training to Okay, you have a set of intervals to do. Let’s just do my warm up what I would do for a race and then go out and do the interval. So let’s see how that feels. I think we neglect doing that like doing like a mock run of things. But what I’m hearing from you is develop a routine and have your routine. Yeah, exactly.
Okay, so we’ve now referenced sort of experience for science and a traditional warm up a couple different times. Trevor, can you provide for the listeners an idea of what a traditional warm up might be?
Trevor Connor 07:36
There is no one exact traditional warm up, a lot of it depends on the type of event you’re doing, you’re going to see a warm up that a particular athlete does and you’re going to go Okay, that’s my warm up, I’m going to do this, this is what Chris Froome does. And what you don’t realize is well, that’s just as warm up for prologues. And it might not be the best thing to do before a four hour road race. Traditional warm up for short events is usually something that’s 20 to 45 minutes in length, you’re going to do some ramp ups you’re going to so you start low intensity, you slowly build up to anywhere from 70 to 95% of your max, then a lot of athletes will do some two to five minute efforts at race pace, and finish it up with a few short 10 to 15 seconds sprint efforts. That’s somewhere in there as your traditional warm up.
But why warm up at all? I mean, I’ll say that, you know, I definitely I definitely roll up to crits late and just jumped on the start line with zero warm up. And those first 510 15 minutes are pretty awful. So purely anecdotally I can tell you that not warming up is not generally a good idea. But why physiologically do I want to be warming up before? Well, I
Trevor Connor 08:50
guess most events, so you did just touch on a really good point. And that’s one place where definitely both experience and science agree. Some sort of warm up is better than no warmup. If you’re doing a short intensive answer, you’re going to be in a race, it’s going to start with some sort of intensity, do a warm up, you need it in terms of what we’re trying to do with the warm up. And Kaylee, this is where I need you to stop me because I can really geek out here. So I will try to cover this somewhat peripherally. But if I start talking about calcium channels and other things just smack me around. I’m gonna
be the Trevor translator for the next maybe five minutes or so please do I will try to be the Trevor translator.
Trevor Connor 09:33
The first part and this is almost exclusively what the the old research focused on. And they took the concept of a warm up very literally saying what we’re trying to do is warm up your core temperature, what we’re trying to do is warm up your muscles. Again, I’m not going to get too geeky here but there’s an effect in your muscles or in our bodies called the Q 10 effect that talks about how temperature affects the various processes in our body. The effectiveness of your enzymes. And if your muscles get too cold, basically everything slows down your ability to use energy slows down. And and this is this is not controversial at all. This kind of goes back to our leg warmer episode. Oh yeah, no, we’re gonna touch on that and that’s a big part of the warmup big
shout out to Peter flax for the lead. one rep said right now he hates that one. Anyway, he does he tweets at me all the time.
Trevor Connor 10:30
I actually, oh, no, I actually just had dinner with the team that I coach and we had a new rider on the team, we talked about keeping your legs covered. And he admitted to me, it’s like, I don’t have leg warmers. I don’t have knee warmers, like my legs are never cold. And I just like, Look, just go listen to our podcast. First time I’ve ever said.
Anyway, back to heat. Now moving on. Yeah,
Trevor Connor 10:53
we’ll talk a bit more about this in the recommendations. But the warming up your muscles has two benefits. One is that even a one degree increase in your muscle temperature can enhance exercise performance by two to 5%. That’s big. The other thing it goes back to our conversation about clothing is if your muscles are cold, you are doing damage to your muscles. If you’re about to jump into a four hour road race, and it’s cold out and it’s raining and your muscles aren’t warm, you’re going to do a ton of damage to those muscles. And then instead of be able to get through that four hour race, you’re going to start cramping and start getting muscle soreness two hours into the race and not be able to perform in terms of warming up muscles, you do see that rise in temperature, it’s quite rapid. So you really see you’re going to get most of the benefits from a warm up in terms of warming up your core warming up your muscles in about 10 to 20 minutes.
So let’s assume that it’s 95 degrees out. And that’s not so important. Why else should I be warming up? Because obviously, if it’s 95 degrees out, that doesn’t mean you don’t need to warm up.
Trevor Connor 12:03
Right? There are some people say if it’s 95 degrees out, go put on a nice fest and sit in the shade. And there is something to that. But there are two other effects that this is where a lot of the newer research is really focusing. One is called vo two priming the other one. And I love this term is post activation potentiation or PHP. And I’ll just call it PHP from this point forward. Let’s start with the vo to priming to keep this one simple. Basically, we can off the gate use our anaerobic energy sources very effectively, it takes time to get our robotic energy systems up to speed because they there’s a variety of reasons but one of them is they rely primarily on on fat for fuel. And you have to ramp up the mechanisms that are going to allow you to use that fat to get the Krebs cycle going, that allow your mitochondria to get up to speed and start using it or producing energy aerobically. So if you have no warm up, and you start a race and you start a race hard, you’re all anaerobic, and you’re gonna burn through all of your anaerobic energy. So one of the benefits of a warm up is to get those aerobic mechanisms working. So when you go off the gun, you can rely more on your aerobic metabolism, which is essentially limitless when we’re talking about races. And you can spare some of that anaerobic energy. So a good example of this there, there was one study that looked at at how much vo to priming can help in even shorter, more intense track style events or prolonged time trials. And they found that using vo two priming increased athletes time to exhaustion by about 15 to 30%. php or the post activation potentiation. This one’s actually quite complex mechanism. And this is where I’m going to avoid getting too deep because I’d have to start talking about regulatory light chains of myosin and calcium sensitivity and a whole bunch of other factors.
Yeah, I read I regularly have to stop myself talking about those things forever.
Trevor Connor 14:18
Well, it is exciting. So I don’t have many second dates, but it is exciting. Here’s the way I like to think of PHP. Our bodies have defense mechanisms. And if our muscles are not warm if they are not ready to work, we basically shut down or ability to fully use that muscle because the body feels if I now allow you to use this muscle 95 to 100% you can potentially damage it. So your muscle won’t be as strong when it’s cool. If you start doing some activity, your body starts saying Okay, now this muscle is primed. And I’m going to allow you to use more of the muscle. So the classic example This is if you wanted to see how much you can benchpress, you can’t just sit down on the bench cold, do a single rep, and hit your max benchpress, you have to do a few at lower weights before you can do your max press. And so we have the same thing. In cycling, if you can do some hard efforts before a race, especially a very intense race, your muscles are going to open up. So that’s called the PRP effect. Dr. Ben Rattray is a professor at the University of Canberra in Australia, he’s worked frequently with the Australian Institute of Sport and recently published a very comprehensive review of the science on warming up, he shares some of his thoughts on the physiology behind the warm up.
If we look at moderate intensity exercise, then typically most people warm up if you like to a certain temperature in the first 1015 minutes beyond that, then then in terms of a core temperature or muscle temperature, people tend to plateau so they’re not from a muscle temperature or body temperature perspective. People aren’t warming up anymore after about 15 minutes. So then I guess the question is, well, what’s the purpose of the warmup? If you’re going beyond that 15 minutes. And from our perspective, once you’ve got that temperature there, particularly for the for those short events, then physiologically, it doesn’t seem to us that there’s there’s much more rationale for doing for doing anything longer.
Trevor Connor 16:38
That actually brings me to what was going to be my first question is, what are you trying to accomplish with the warm up? Is it just get the the core temperature in the muscle temperature up? Are there other things you’re trying to accomplish as well?
So yeah, I mean, it’s it’s hard to know, there’s probably lots of things but but what we can measure is, is temperature, we can measure muscle temperature, we can measure core temperature, and the associations between temperature and subsequent performance are really strong. So there’s absolutely we want temperature to increase what that is actually doing in terms of everything else in the body. Perhaps perhaps we can’t say too much. But obviously, there’s there’s links between enzyme reaction, right, so how quick all those reactions are happening in the body and, and temperature. So we know that ATP will get broken down quicker in a warmer muscle. So when you want ATP, when you want the energy really quickly, clearly, you need a warm muscle. So certainly, muscle temperature and core temperature, if nothing else seemed to be a really nice measure where we can actually say, Well, we’ve achieved what we what we were after, from a warm up perspective, perhaps one of the biggest things that they achieve and maybe not so much in a in a 62nd effort, but but definitely for efforts that are longer than 60 seconds. Particularly the high intensity efforts, or maybe a four minute effort or something like that. oxygen uptake is obviously really key, if you can get an athlete with a high beer to max that typically going to perform higher, but if you can get them to access more of that vo to more quickly in the competition right from the gun, then you’re also going to save that anaerobic stores or that sprint effort for the later effort. So So warming up seems to be influencing how well people can use oxygen, their oxygen and increase their oxygen uptake as well. So well via to kinetics, as the literature tends to talk about. So there are lots of things we probably want to achieve. And I haven’t even touched on the psychology aspect, which is which I think is really important, but but really under researched. But from a from a physiological perspective, temperature is is a pseudo if you like that seems to be linked to many other processes that are happening in the body. Okay, so we don’t really know what pap is actually doing. But it does also make sense that temperature plays a key role in everything that we think are most of the things that we think pap is actually achieving in the first place. So Pap, absolutely crucial. But if you like I think temperature is probably giving us a good idea of what’s happening there. Anywhere.
Okay, so let’s talk a little bit about timeframes. So how early Do I need to start doing this? How late Do I need to stop doing this? how close I guess how close should the end of my warmup be to to my actual race and why?
Trevor Connor 19:48
That’s a really good question. And that’s a really important question. And it’s probably one of the ones where the science says we’re still figuring this out. We’re really still figuring this out. There. is a balance here, because the problem is a warm up is going to fatigue you. So if you go and do a hard warm up and then jump into your race, even though you’re primed, even though you have that gap effect, the fatigue is going to undo all of it. So you need this balance between how much time do I need to recover after my warm up to clear out the fatigue, to let my lactate levels come back down to rebuild some of these anaerobic energy systems or substrates, while not losing the warm up effect, and we don’t really have an answer on that, it seems to be somewhere around you need at least eight minutes. But if you start getting up over 1620 minutes, you start losing the effect of the warm up, a couple of things they have found is the vo to priming lasts about 10 minutes. And then it’s you start seeing a sharp decline. So if that’s really important to you, you need to make sure you only have about 10 minutes between finishing your warm up and starting the race maximum of 10 minutes maximum 10 minutes. Likewise, the warming up of your muscles and your core starts seeing a pretty precipitous decline at about 10 minutes. One of the things you can do about that that’s getting very popular with cyclists is warming vests that you put on after your warm up to keep the core temperature up the PA p effect they don’t know. So I was always told it last at most about 20 minutes. But now some of the research is saying longer some of the researchers saying shorter. So we really don’t know what that one.
So it sounds to me like you really want to end your warmup. But somewhere between eight and 10 minutes before you start, which is obviously easier to do if you’re doing something like a time trial, you have an exact moment where you’re going to set off but no road race or a cross race or something where you have a bunch of people lining up together, that can be a little bit trickier.
Trevor Connor 22:03
I would say at this point, I have read so many different opinions in the research. And also just advice from from experts that the most I can say about the transition period is less than six minutes is too short. More than 20 minutes is too long. And what’s right in between there as highly individual. So you should really experiment with
that. Can you do stuff like Okay, so I’m thinking, I’m thinking at the start of my old mountain bike races, they would line us up 1520 minutes before we would actually go anywhere. And so we would just sort of get off our bikes and like jump around and like do some jumping jacks and you know run a bit is that that kind of stuff kind of keep your body in, it’s okay, I need to use these muscles soon, does it it does it by some time.
Trevor Connor 22:53
In terms of physiologically, it might lengthen the PA p effect a little bit, it will certainly keep core temperature a little warmer. My gut responses, it’s going to be more mental than physical. And that is one of the issues we have in racing. And certainly one of the things I hated in crits, because people started lining up sooner and sooner and sooner for credit. So you go and do this warm up and then you would sit on the start line for 30 minutes. And you might as well not have warmed up, right. So what’s worse, lining up early,
I should say what’s better lining up early, or lining up with the back with a real warm up? What would you prefer?
Trevor Connor 23:32
Oh, I have been struggling with that one for a long time I used to be I will line up at the back and get my warm up and really try to finish my warm up within 10 minutes of the race. As I’ve personally gotten older, and I have a hard time getting up, it takes me longer to get up to speed I have found doesn’t matter. It’s gonna hurt like hell on those first couple laps. But if I’m on the back, I’m out the back before I get up a ramp up to speed. So I’m now opting personally for the lineup near the front. So it really depends on the type of rider you are. And it’s important thing to know about yourself. If you are somebody like me that those first few laps of a crit are really going to hurt it takes you a while to get up to speed. A warm up is critical for you. But I think it’s even more important that you line up at the front. For somebody who can really be full speed off the gun, it probably doesn’t matter. Since you don’t need that much of a warm up. You can line up at the front. But if you lined up at the back, you can work your way up anyway.
Probably somewhat depending on the course as well. I mean, if it’s going to be a super technical course that’s hard to move up on then it’s more important to line up in the front for sure.
Trevor Connor 24:44
Certainly one of the things I’ve always seen in the pro credits is the best credit writers just kind of casually line up at the back and and while I’m sitting in the middle of the field, my tongue hanging out dying in those first few laps. They’re just casually passing me and working their way up to the front because they can do that. Right. So some of it depends on how good
you are. Yes. Anyway, moving on, I think the the next topic for us to cover is a is a little bit of a deeper dive and something that we mentioned right at the beginning of the episode, which is this, this notion of the science, really challenging experience. We’ve all had coaches for a long time, we’ve all had personal experience with with warming up. You know, I think that sort of traditional warmup is pretty well known at this point. How is the science beginning to change the way that we look at warm ups.
Trevor Connor 25:34
So we’ll actually talk about several studies, and some of them are really going to challenge notions that all of us have held about warmups. And I’ll admit, when I started doing this research, I had a very traditional belief. And after reading this research, it was really hard for me to read some of it. And I’ve certainly adjusted some of the things that I recommended to my athletes. One of the studies we’re going to talk about that use the 3000 meter time trial, they really focused on vo two priming and found it didn’t correlate at all with performance. Even though they saw the effects. It didn’t correlate with performance. Pa P. One study that was led by Dr. McIntosh, and who actually spoke with and found that, yes, they did CPAP. But the problem was, in order to get that post activation potentiation, you had to generate so much fatigue, that it ended up really just being a bust, the fatigue out did any of the benefits of the post activation potentiation. So it just ended up being kind of equal. And he compared the traditional track warm up what you saw world class track riders generally doing to a much lower intensity, much shorter warm up. And in his study, the shorter, easier warm up, produce better performance gains. So these were national caliber or higher track writers. You even look at the the title of a study, it was less is more standard warm up causes fatigue and less warm up permits greater cycling power output.
Pretty good headline,
Trevor Connor 27:17
it is a pretty good little long, little long, but
you know, he’s a scientist, we’ll give it to him.
Trevor Connor 27:24
That was one of the places where they they really challenged. Here’s what the pros are doing. Let’s see if that is better for pros. And the results I found is no, actually even the pros are doing too much.
Cover you keep mentioning these studies, and you’re sort of you’re giving us the skin deep dive, give me the deep dive given the deep dive on these things because I have to say, you know, as a traditional warm up just a little bit skeptical.
Trevor Connor 27:52
Alright, so there were three studies that I really delved into that I found to be really interesting. And bear in mind, I’m going to tell you about three studies, but there were a lot more studies showing very similar things. So the first one that I mentioned was was Dr. McIntosh study, and they used national class track riders. So they compare two warmups one was a more traditional track rider warm up, which was formed in 45 minutes in length. And it would start with the riders ramping from about 60% of their their max heart rate up to about 95%. Over time, and then they would finish with for six seconds sprints. He created a protocol that was much shorter, I believe was about 20 minutes in length, they would only ramp up to 75% of their their max heart rate, and then finish with a single sprint, which for those of us who used traditional warm ups, that almost sounds lazy. Surprisingly, what they found was that when they did the traditional warm up, didn’t perform as well on a 32nd Wingate test. So this was this was truly a a test for track sprinters. However, the one thing that he did point out and this is going to be important when you get to our recommendations was it was very highly individual. There still were some athletes that actually did see true pjp effect. There were some athletes who didn’t. And you saw a wide variance in the benefits from from each type of warm up. Another study published in 2015, in the Journal of sports science, had athletes perform four different types of warmups to see the effect on a three kilometer time trial. So we’re talking for them was about a five to six minute race. Three of the warm ups were designed by the researcher so it’s about 10 minutes of a fairly easy constant load. And then five by 10 second bouts of either 100% of their peak aerobic power. So we thought referred to as kind of your vo to max power 150% of that peak power and then just all out 10 second efforts. The fourth warm up was basically said to the athletes do your standard warmup, whatever you’re used to. So it’s just do yourself selected what you like to do. The results of the study the high intensity doing those five Sprint’s all out, when the riders did that warm up, they performed the worst. The best performance was with the riders who did either was the monitor warm up, so just those 10 second bouts at at peak aerobic power. And the absolute best was the self selected warmup,
which would well I guess what it depends with the self selected warm up was but I would suggest sort of opposite findings to previous study you’re talking about?
Trevor Connor 30:48
Well, so this study still showed too much intensity, fatigues you right, and you don’t perform as well. So it’s certainly back that. But the surprising thing about the study was when riders did the warm up that they were used to what they found worked for them, it really did work for them. So this is one of those arguments for experience plays an important role here, you have to find the warm that’s right for you. And they compare those warmups and they were wildly different from just riding very easy to very complex with fair amount of intensity in it. That was a really important discovery of that study. So a third study that I thought was was really fascinating. This one was also published in 2015, in the International Journal of sports, physiology and performance. And this is by a research team over in Sweden and Norway, they took, again, high level cyclists, and had them the test, the performance was a four minute time trial. And they had these athletes do three different warmups. One protocol that they did two variations on was based on what elite Norwegian athletes do. So it kind of the highest level at the National and even the Olympic level. So it was what we just what we talked about earlier of doing some some steady, longer efforts, followed by several short high intensity efforts. So I said there were two variations on that warm up. One variation was they did that full protocol. And then six minutes later, they did the time trial. The other variation was they did that full protocol, then they waited 1020 minutes, and did the time trial. The third warm up was just 20 minutes at 50% of peak power output. So just basically writing easy, very, very moderate tempo. And then waiting six minutes and doing the time trial. The group that did that full, fairly complex warm up, waited six minutes and then did the time trial performed far and away the worst. The group that waited 20 minutes and then did the time trial performed equally to the group that just did the moderate 20 minutes spin. But what they saw on the group that did the moderate 20 minutes spin, they actually had some better blood markers. So lower blood lactate, a higher pH which you want, and higher levels of bicarbonate, which is what we use to buffer acid. So looking at the blood markers, just doing that moderate 20 minutes spins seemed to put the riders in the best place. Those are three studies that are really challenging this notion of you’ve got to go do this very complex, hard warm up with several efforts. And each of these studies is really saying, hey, when you when you slow down, you go easier, you do less, you seem to perform better, but you have to do it for a little while. But you have to do it for a little while, and maybe some efforts in there, right. But there is a balance between those benefits and the fatigue generate. And when we’re talking about for tea, we’re looking at things like elevating your blood lactate lowering your bicarbonate lowering your your anaerobic energy stores. And really what they’re showing is a lot of people, they’re doing warm ups that are producing a lot of fatigue, and that fatigue is outweighing the gains, and that you need to back down and do less in order to shift that balance. That was kind of the gist of these studies. There is one other thing that we want to point out with the science and one other study that I want to quickly mention. And that’s the fact that most of the benefits that you see from these warmups really only occur in the first couple minutes of exercise. And they’re really more for efforts that are high intensity that that really rely on our anaerobic energy systems, less so for our Robic energy systems. So again, there was another study similar studies It looked at the effect of low versus high intensity warmups, they were looking at the effect on a three kilometer Time Trial again, and they had the low intensity group just do a 15 minute moderate warm up high intensity group then did the same 15 minute, low intensity warm up and then added some hard efforts right at the end of that warm up. Just like the other studies, they really didn’t see any gains from doing the high intensity.
Trevor Connor 35:30
More what they saw on their study was, they compared those warm ups to no warm up at all. And really what you saw was the benefits of doing a warm up was really only in the first two minutes of the time trial. After that, the people who did no warm up their 500 meter splits were the same as the people actually did a warm up. So the gains are really short. And the gains are more in things like anaerobic glycolysis, what’s called muscle fiber conduction velocity, ATP turnover, which are all really fancy ways of saying, unless you’re going really hard, the warm ups not going to do that much to help you
the definitely more of a sort of prologue type effort than a time trial type effort. retrologue or track.
Trevor Connor 36:17
Hence the reason all these studies really just looked at track riders or track type events versus I couldn’t find a single study it looked at what’s the effects of a warm up on a five hour stage at the tour. Right? Yeah, I
mean, it makes sense. Anecdotally, there’s definitely a you know, race like that. It gives you more time to sort of cruise into it. Right to sort of apply a warm up. One, you’re already racing. I do wonder though, so I mean, the other thing that that sort of the triggers in my head when you when you talk about, you know, it only improves early efforts. Does it improve? Okay, so let’s get let’s take a prologue, for example, you know, this first two minutes are going to be super, super intense, but maybe you have another you have another 510 minutes after that does not warming up. You’re not as efficient for those first two minutes, does that then spill over into being essentially more tired for the remaining period? Or does it not seem to matter?
Trevor Connor 37:14
At least what this study was showing is that you’re going to lose time if you do no warm up, but you’re gonna lose all that time and the first couple minutes and then the rest of the time trial your your results are going to be comparable to if you had done a warm up.
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Trevor Connor 37:56
I should mention here that this podcast is actually coming out at about the same time is an article that I wrote on warming up so you’ll see some similar information between this podcast and the article, I would just take advantage of this podcast to expand on it a bit. One of the things I shared in that article that whenever athletes asked me about warming up, I always love to tell the story of a couple teammates from of mine back in 2011. So I had Scott teats old and Chad Hagen, who’s now over in Europe doing the grand tours. At the time, they were very comparable Time Trial as into the top time trials in the country. And I love to watch their warmup, because Scott’s warm up, I kid you not took about an hour and a half. And he had his bike set up, he had a mat set up on the ground by his bike, and he would do some work on the bike with various efforts. And he will get down and do some stretching and some core work, get back on the bike, and go back and forth and do this. I couldn’t even figure out how we remembered everything that he had to do in this warm up. But it worked for him. Chad’s warm up for a time trial was basically 10 minutes spinning around in the parking lot. So that was whenever Chad was right.
Trevor Connor 39:12
Or that or somebody finally told Chad, stop doing that do a warm up and you’ll do better than the who knows. And that’s actually the big question is which one was doing the better warm up? Or were they I always tell that story as warm up to really individual and you got to find what works best for you. Yeah, I
mean, I you know, just from personal experience, what always worked best for me was actually not a very long warmup, maybe maybe 10 minutes, but with a couple little little Sprint’s, thrown in and I don’t know if that was because of the type of router that I was, that was sort of, you know, a lot of anaerobic power and sort of fast twitch power that I felt like I needed to sort of open that system up a little bit and then I would feel better in the in the first bit of the race. It’s not necessarily what I would do before Long Road Race but before a time trial before a crit in particular, you know just almost a mental warm up as much as a physical warm up for me anyway part of a warm up, it’s just getting into the zone where you where you’re gonna have to put yourself in the race, right, like mentally putting yourself there. And for me, so for a crit that would be a couple Sprint’s because you’re sprinting out of every corner for an hour, right? For a time trial, it would be getting up into that sweet spot, your time trial pace that you know you can hold, it’s tough to hold, but you know, you can hold, you know that as fast as you’re going to be going in the time trial. For me, it was getting up to that a couple times before a time trial. And I think that was that was mental as much as anything else. You know, that
Trevor Connor 40:41
was actually something I was covered in a lot of studies, many of them mentioned, the importance of the psychological side of a warm up, doing a warm up, even if it’s not doing much for you physiologically, if it gets you on the line and makes you feel ready, then then there’s a real benefit to that. And what they have shown is that a lot of your elite athletes and all sports, a big part of their warmup is going to be self talk, it’s going to be visualization of the race. No, I used to and this is kind of embarrassing to admit that my first couple pro racers I got so intimidated, I was out the back not because of strength, but because I was afraid to be in the field with those guys. Right. So one of the things I did as part of my warmup was I would ride around and look at all these pro riders and then just mutter under my breath. You shouldn’t have even effin showing up. Just start going, you have a chance against me and just talk myself up. So when I got to that race, I’d look around and go, I belong here. You guys can’t touch me. And it’s kind of dumb as that sounds, and overinflating certainly overinflating. Myself, the effect that had was I could right at the front of the field. And I was comfortable up there. And I wasn’t intimidated. It has a big impact.
Totally. I mean, it’s just like, you know, when people when one race, they tend to keep winning races, right? Yeah, it takes so long to get that first one, then you realize, Oh, I can do this. And you keep winning? Yeah.
Trevor Connor 42:01
So you can do that in the warm up? It has, it has its benefit. Dr. Rattray agrees that the mental component of a warm up is critical and sometimes overlooked. It was really interested you said do you think the psychology aspect of the warm up is is really key? How do you think psychology plays a role?
I think psychology has a role in lots of ways that during the warm up, you can use that time to really focus you can draw your attention into a race strategy, or into getting in some kind of mental state where you psych yourself up for it for a maximum type effort. So the the warm up, doesn’t necessarily have to be but it’s clearly an ideal time where you can think about those psychological strategies, you can think about the feel, you can really draw the attention into the task that you’re about to do. So I think from those reasons, the warm up is quite crucial there.
Trevor Connor 42:58
What would you recommend based on all the research you’ve done for a warm up and I’m thinking two scenarios, one, where you have a cyclist who’s getting ready for a road race that might be three, four hours long, and it’s probably going to start out a little slower. And then the other scenario being somebody who’s getting ready for a 20 minute time trial, we’re gonna have to be going right at threshold pretty much out off the gate.
I’ll tackle the Tantra one first, because I think that’s easier in a way. I mean, time trials really about getting up to your, to your maximum power as quickly as you can and then holding it right. So I think from that perspective, now, there’s probably a half an hour ride or maybe less if it’s if it’s a quite a short time trial of just feeling more intensity. And then I would definitely be making some race efforts and maybe, maybe for race efforts of, of two minutes each or something like that. I think that’s typically what I would say from a time trial perspective, and that would be easily sufficient to warm up, etc, provided it’s not a 39 degree day, like it’s going to be here in Canberra on fried. For the longer races. It’s hard to say I was at the Tour Down Under the UCI World Tour event a couple weeks ago in Australia. And I know the pro cyclists there they, they spend a couple of hours, some of them will only out for a ride, which then starts with a neutral zone and then they and then they ride for like five or six hours afterwards. Right? So what are they doing that will link the warm up for? To be honest that I couldn’t tell you I mean, obviously some of them are going to try and go from the gun and they want some TV time or whatever it is that you know they want to make a movie early because that’s part of the team tactics or whatever it might be. So I get that completely makes sense from that. perspective. But for the others, I’m not sure it’s a pure warm up, but I’m not sure it’s more a, just making sure there’s this case in the legs. So what do I think would be the ideal scenario, just from a warm up perspective for a two to three hour race? Look, I think it’s probably 20 to 30 minutes pretty crazy out there. If you want to make a few race type efforts before the race, then by all means, do it. I’m not sure how much that’s going to contribute to the actual performance. But a lot of people report that they feel better. And maybe it’s just that getting that blood flow happening a bit quicker.
Before a tour de france stage for a big long Tour de France stage for example, you know, you cruise around the the start village in whatever town they’re in. And guys are just sort of hanging out. They’re having coffee, they’re they’re reading the keep, which is the newspaper, they’re they’re really not all that concerned about a warm up in general, Chris Froome, and a flat stage of the Tour de France. He’s just drinking coffee up until the up until the start going goes.
Trevor Connor 46:05
Yep. Look, I will tell you a couple of my secrets for the warm up especially for for a road race or a road race in a stage race. I think anybody who’s sitting on a trainer, putting out all these efforts, they’re they’re missing out on some of the most important things. My strategy I just wrote easy, but I would ride around I go see what United Healthcare is doing. I go see a Toyota united to do and I go see what all the big teams were doing. And same thing if they’re all sitting in a lounge chair, joking, okay, it’s gonna be easy. Nothing’s gonna happen. If all the domestiques for this squad, or these squads are sitting on trainers with that, look at death, you know that we’re going to be going hard off the gun, and you better be ready.
Yeah, I definitely seen that in Grand tours before where if a stage is starting with an uphill, you see all the guys who want to make that breakaway on the trainer’s beforehand, looking a little bit frightened. You also it’s a good way to figure out who wants to be in the breakaway that day, because those guys will definitely be warming up.
Trevor Connor 47:01
Yes. The other secret is you warm up in the parking lot. You go talk to guys, you wouldn’t believe how many guys if you just start chatting with them start telling you their whole team strategy. And that’s more valuable than any warm up in my book.
For sure, well, let’s let’s get to some sort of concrete recommendations here. I mean, I think we’ve we’ve established that it’s a it’s extremely likely that what you’re doing for a warm up right now is not necessarily what you should be doing. We’ve also established that a warm up may not actually be important at all, if you’re looking at longer events. Let’s talk about what exactly you should be doing. Say before road race before a short time trial before a crit. Let’s go. Let’s go through these. Yeah, so
Trevor Connor 47:47
what it says also be interesting is let’s first just talk about what the science is saying we should be doing. And then really focus on what experience says that we should be doing. And we can see where where they say the same thing and where they say something different. So we’ve already covered one, which is science, basically saying most of the benefits in warm ups are for short events or high intensity events and high intensity right off the gun. Another thing that we’re really seeing is how highly individual the warm up is. And that kept coming across in the studies, even though they would say that too hard to warm up was generally worse, they would still say often that individualization had a huge impact. Other things that the science was showing is that you need a transition or a recovery period. don’t finish your warmup two minutes before the race, you need time for your body to clear out some of that fatigue. While maintaining some of the warm up the I’m actually going to go to what Dr. Rattray wrote in his review as the ideal warmup knowing that he was focusing more on short intense events. Basically you want an active warm up consisting of a brief aerobic proportion of less than 15 minutes so that’s just that rising easy at 65 70% and then completion of four to five activation Sprint’s or race pace effort. You know, some people prefer the two to three minutes more threshold here below type effort your track riders are the high people looking at doing a high intensity amount are going to prefer more of a sprint type effort. They’ve shown that a 32nd sprint has no benefits over just doing a six to 10 second sprint, and the six to 10 second sprint is going to produce less fatigue. The other thing that they showed helped a bit is some what they called Small sided games, basically doing things that are very specific to the event that you’re in. So for example track riders, because they are going to have to hit real high cadences in their race. We’ll do some cadence work as part of their warm up and that can have a lot of value. The transition period is one of the trickiest parts of the warmup, Dr. Rat Race shares some of his thoughts and how to address it.
I think I think the trick for a lot of people with warm up, and this is definitely the angle that we were looking at in our research and, and where we noticed that there was a bit of a gap was the time period that happens between the availability of warmup. And then if you have to go through marshaling periods or you’ve sitting on a start line for a long time, then we were quite conscious that that wasn’t an issue. And if, if that was longer than, say, 1015 minutes, then we know that we know muscle temperature is dropping quite dramatically that stage. So whilst that warmup is really important, it’s important, particularly for those high intensity efforts, so more like a time trial, that you that you’re still warm at the start line. And so from that perspective, it’s it’s difficult sometimes to find ways to keep one. So that’s when maybe some warmer clothing is important. We were using heated jackets, for instance,
how does it change if it’s really cold or really hot? I mean, you one of the first things we were talking about was a warm up is intended to generate heat. So I’m imagining that outside air temperature is relevant to what you want to be doing before, before an event.
Trevor Connor 51:25
Yeah, the outside temperature has a huge impact on what you want to do with your warm up, and it’s going to change what you’re doing dramatically. Let’s start with that hot day. For remember, really, one of the the biggest benefits of a warm up is is raising your core temperature. If it’s 90 or 100 degrees out, your core temperature is already hot, your muscles are already hot, so you don’t need that game. More importantly, in a lot of the research, looking at fatigue, what causes fatigue in a race, what what are the factors that lead to that point in the race where we just can’t go anymore, and we pop out the back. One of the biggest ones that’s been identified is once our core temperature goes above a certain point, we shut down. So on a hot day, the most important thing you should be doing is trying to keep your core cool. If you go out and do a 30 minute warm up with a whole bunch of efforts, all you are doing is ensuring that you are going to blow up in the race, or at least blow up earlier. So there’s actually good argument on those really hot days to just sit under a tree somewhere, even put a cooling vest on. And at the most just do a couple minutes spin before the race. On a cold day, you see some of the opposite effects. We already talked about the fact that if your muscles are cold, you get tearing you get damaged, that will also fatigue you in a race and pop you out the back. So this is where you need to make sure your muscles are warm. And this is where you need to both do a good warm up. But you also need to keep your muscles covered, especially during that transition period. So once you finish your warm up and you have that 10 minutes before you start racing, put the leg and arm warmers on put the jacket on, a lot of cyclists are now actually putting warming vest on that will keep you warm until you start the race. If you’re going to strip anything off, have somebody to meet you at the start line. And don’t strip it off until the race is about to start and then toss it to whoever’s taking your gear. The right warm up really depends on the situation, before we sum up our advice small has a wealth of knowledge to share and how to deal with each scenario.
Also, it’s like okay, are you warming up for prologue? Are you doing the 40 k time trial? Is it in the middle of the stage race or something one day race? You know, so it’s like all of those factors do play a big role into it. And so it’s hard just to like, have a set protocol, you know, I think it’s easier for like, let’s say track racers, maybe because they tend to have the same schedule, you know, right, they know the race is going to be the same or whatever that might be. But in general, you know, a typical warm up, it’s like spin easy for 1015 minutes, and then you know, you do a few pyramids, you know, little some builds so into just below threshold or at threshold and then debatable whether you need to go over a threshold or not. Some people like to go, you know, to two minutes of over threshold or less. I personally like to do less. I like to do shorter, kind of higher into the zone five, if you will, but a shorter amount of time. I don’t like to spend a lot of time in that zone in my warm up. And so you raised another really interesting point that it’s going to vary depending on how you feel that day whether you show up to race day and you’re feeling awful or ready to kill it so right what what things do you look for when you arrive at the race? Okay, I got to change my warm up routine because of x. So you know, it’s like, you show up to stage racing, you have good prep, and you’re like, Oh my god, I’m, I’m just so heavy I’m tired from the couple days before whatever, most of the times the crits are an afternoon for our for like, elite writers. So it might because we always have the morning to kind of, Okay, let’s do a spin and you really know how your body feels if you go out for 30 minutes easy. You can have that reaction pretty quickly, then that’s easy to adjust. But you know, it’s like hard if your age group are in your races for thing am I’m in how are you to know. So you’re feeling a little sluggish. Do maybe a shorter warm up, do some higher intensity in your warm up like 32nd ORS 10 seconds sprint level Sprint’s you don’t need to clock out and do like, you know, a bunch of LP, tempo, warming up, I think it’s more like trying to get that prop back getting your legs going. And then again, if it’s like, if it’s super hot out, you don’t want to sit there and on the trainer, you know, for 30 minutes before your race, you know, you got to pay attention to the weather. And maybe instead of sitting on a trainer, you go out for 10 minutes spin to higher Lake Phil, instead of if it’s really hot out. I mean, that’s like the worst thing you can do is just like flog out on the trainer and get more hot and dehydrated. So what if you show up and you just feel on fire and ready to go? Do
Trevor Connor 56:31
you back down on? Do
you trust that and back down on your warm up? Or do you say no? Yeah, no, I do. Yeah, I actually usually do if I’m feeling good. I don’t need to do any more favorite for the race. But again, it comes down to individuals, like when I was racing a lot of crits I barely warmed up for crit, like I could go pretty quickly and get get into it. Like it’s been, it’s like lonely. Most of the reason why was because I know how to fit in the pack. So it wasn’t like I was having to quit out. So so much energy in the first 15 minutes of the race, I could fit in and feel comfortable, you know. So I think that helps a lot too. And like I didn’t have to like I use that part as my warm up. But usually, if I’m feeling good before a race, I don’t do much, maybe I go you know, I think it’s important to go through your gears get on the bike, make sure your bike is working well and that use that as your little spin around warm up. Whenever I’m doing a time trial, I always get jump on my bike. First thing I get to the venue, get kitted up and jumping on my TT bike, I go through all the gears making sure everything works good, how exactly how I want to race it. And then I put it away and warm up on the trainer on my road bike or secondary TT bike, whatever is there, I think that’s really important to make sure your equipments working well and correctly. Of course, before a trade or road race, definitely go through your equipment, making sure the gears work, everything. tire pressure, all of that is important. You’re warming up by the trainer for sure, you got to make sure that you’re keeping hydrated, because you’re sweating so much more than if you’re just out on the road and warming up to be in a cool place. Something that’s covered, ideally, not just like baking in the sun.
Let’s try to distill this as much as we can. Let’s make this as simple as possible. What does a warm up for? Let’s start with a short time trial prologue style, you know, three to 10 minutes, what does that warm up look like?
Trevor Connor 58:35
So I’ll qualify all of these by saying you have to individualize. So what we’re giving you as a starting point. And then you have to experiment to find what works for you. So that short event that prologue, or if you’re a track rider, that’s where you need to make sure you’re ready because those couple minutes at the start of an event are most of the race for you. So remember what the science said, a lot of athletes do too much enter fatigue. So really what we’re looking at is start with something 15 to 20 minutes in length, do some easy riding for a while maybe a bit of a ramp up getting up close to that threshold sort of sort of intensity, and then just a few even just one or two short sprint efforts, then you want to have at least six minutes of recovery. I’m shooting in the wind here, but would say somewhere around 10 to 15 minutes from your warm up to the start of your event.
So really a lot less than you probably assumed coming into this. Yeah, it’s still some efforts. But generally sort of a less intense warm up then that I think is is traditional. What about for something slightly longer? You know, let’s look at a road race, for example. I mean, I think that from personal experience, my warm up for a road race would be very, very little. Let’s make the assumption that the Beginning of the road race is going to be particularly difficult. Is this the kind of situation where you really just want to cruise around for 1015 minutes really, really slow? I mean, you talked about a study earlier that showed that that that was a pretty good warm up in and of itself.
Trevor Connor 1:00:14
So I think when you’re talking about crits, and road races, the most important question to ask is houses race going to start, if you know that, it’s just gonna roll off the line, and everybody’s gonna be talking for 45 minutes. No, save your energy, don’t start burning all your fuels, just, you know, if it’s cold outside, get that bit of a warm up to make sure your muscles are ready. But otherwise, it’s just riding around in the parking lot for 510 minutes, or nothing at all right? And nothing or nothing at all, if you’re okay with that. crits often start out hard. So you want you want some intensity, you want to you want to be a little bit ready for that crit. If the road race is starting with a big climb, or you’re seeing all the big teams warming up, and you know that it’s going to be a attacks off the line, then yeah, you got to do some sort of warm up. Probably not as big a warm up is what you need to do if you’re a track rider or a specialist, but we’re even telling them what you think you need to do for those events is, is probably bigger than what you actually need. So again, I would opt towards that 15 to 20 minute warm up with a few efforts. And that’s where you experiment with what efforts work for you. Whether you like that, let’s do a three minute effort at at threshold or close to threshold or whether you prefer that. Let’s do a couple Sprint’s
Well, there you have it turns out I think many of us have been doing warm ups. Well, wrong is a tough way to say but maybe just over exuberantly, we’ve been doing a little bit too much warm up. Turns out you can do a little bit less and end up better off in the long run. That was another episode of Fast Talk. As always, we would love your feedback. Email us at webinars at competitor group comm subscribe to Fast Talk on iTunes, Stitcher, SoundCloud and Google Play. And be sure to leave us a rating and a comment. Do you on iTunes. We really like that. While you’re there, check out our sister podcast developers podcast which covers news about the week and cycling. You can hear me share my thoughts on that one as well. Along with Spencer palsson and Fred dryer, become a fan of fast stock on firstname.lastname@example.org slash velonews and on email@example.com slash felonies. That stock is produced by the owners which is owned by a competitor group. The thoughts and opinions expressed on fair stock are those of the individual for Trevor Connor. I’m Kaylee fretts. Thanks for listening