What is the main goal of warm-up or activation? We can simplify this complex topic into four main goals:
- Prime the Neuromuscular coordination.
- Vascularization to allow blood flow to the main use muscles.
- Keep a low core temperature.
- Prime the machine without depleting stores potential affecting performance (ie. don’t overdo it – a very common mistake).
Given these goals, what do we need to learn to warm-up properly? Important components are:
- A warm-up plan to follow. Remember everyone is different so tailor your plan for you. As your fitness levels change your warm-up process needs to adapt also. Often fitter athletes take longer to warm-up.
- Practice your warm-up regularly. Practicing your warm-up will teach your body to adapt and be prime more efficiently and quicker.
Practical tips for a warm-up session
On a practical level, some general guidelines apply to every athlete.
- Start slow and easy, very easy – this is the most critical part –, very easy. This will start the vascularization for better blood flow to the used muscles. Depending on the person, it will take around 9 to 20 minutes. As an example, we could say that for an FTP of 300 watts the right warm-up level is at ~150 watts (very easy, low heart rate). A higher cadence can assist with neuro coordination.
- Keep it aerobic, especially during ‘efforts’. Ramp efforts slowly so heart rate can keep ‘up’ by climbing at a rate proportional to your increase of effort. Generally speaking, for a 3-minute effort spend the first 45 to 60 seconds slowing ramping into your effort. Going anaerobic does not help you.
- Between intervals either stop and recover or go very low power and cadence – again an example could be 50 watts for someone with a 300 watt FTP
- After your last effort – just recover as you would between intervals.
- Waiting for the race to start, some people are better sitting and relaxing. Others need to keep moving, though. You will need to find what fits you better.
Is core body temperature monitoring important for a correct warm-up?
Of course, it is! During this process, it is important to keep your core temperature low. Heating up your CORE will divert blood flow to your skin and away from the use muscles. Again, start slow, keeping efforts aerobic and possibly using active cooling devices during your warm-ups such as fans, cooling vests, or an ice ‘sock’ on the back on your neck. Hydration is also very important. Remember, you want blood flowing the muscles and not for cooling. It’s a fine balance.
Finally, we would like to recommend a few tools to help see optimize your warm-up:
- Moxy monitor – in real-time you can see the oxygen levels in the muscles increase. This is an invaluable tool for creating and following a warm-up program https://www.moxymonitor.com/
- CORE – Core Body Temperature monitor to monitor your body temperature.
- Power and cadence meter to measure and quantify your efforts.
Please, keep in mind than the previous lines only are general advice. For a personalized warm-up plan, please ask your coach! Professional help is always needed to get the best results. Enjoy the training!