If you have raced cyclocross before, you know how warming up properly is important for a good performance! If you have never raced before, let me give you your first advice: “you should warm-up before the event”.
The best warm up for cyclocross depends on your personal physiology, but with a little information and experimenting you can likely land on the perfect formula.
Why you should warm-up
For cyclocross races, not only is a warm-up important to have your body ready and primed for a good effort, but for most people, a complete cyclocross warm-up also includes a few laps of the course, which is also very important if you want to feel comfortable riding the course at high speed during the race!
On the physiological side, warming up increases blood flow and, to keep it simple and not too scientific, it basically primes your body for a good effort. A good warm-up leaves you feeling ready for an effort, with all systems fired up and ready to go!
What should be included in your warm-up
I’ll share my exact warm-up protocol a little later in the post, but first I want to share with you some of the key elements that should be included in a warm-up. The best cyclocross warm up will always include these type of elements.
There are as many different warm-up protocols as there are racers out there, but no matter how long, short, intense, etc. your warm-up is, these key features should be included.
1- Easy spin for a couple of minutes to activate muscles
2- A few progressive efforts with some recovery in between
3- A few intense efforts with full recovery in between
4- A few technical activation elements so you feel comfortable on your bicycle
How to figure out which warm-up works for you
Once you know what key variables you should include in your warm-up, the best thing is to try a few different warm-up protocols to see which one makes you feel better. Figuring out what works for you can easily be done before weekdays workouts. Don’t leave it to race day to figure out what works. When you are ready to go out and train, set your bike on your trainer for a few mins before your ride and try different warm-ups to figure out which works best for you. Once you have something that you are comfortable with, then that warm-up can become a great tool to create a routine that will lead you to your best performances!
How long before the event should I warm-up?
Considering that realistically you want to be at the start line about 15mins before the start, I like to backtrack from the race start time and from there figure out when I have to start my warm-up. So once you have figured out a warm-up that works for you, then simply start with the race time, add 15-20-mins to give you time to get to the start line in time and you’ll be good to go!
Riding around the venue or warming up on a stationary trainer?
Let’s make this simple. If you warm-up on the trainer, you control 100% of the variables of your warm-up. If you ride on the road or around the venue, you take more chances of having a last minute puncture, running into traffic, not being able to do the efforts you wanted to do because of stoplights and such. Doing your warm-up on the trainer makes it really easy to always replicate the same thing. Putting your headphones on while warming-up and getting in the zone with music is another plus of doing your warm-up on the trainer!
Something to consider for cyclocross racing is that you want to go on the course and figure out details of the course. Sometimes you only have a few minutes between other races to do that and you have to consider that in your warm-up protocol as well. If you can ride the course a lot, then maybe you spin easy on the course and finish your warm-up with efforts on the trainer. If you only have a super tight window to get on the course and you can only ride 8-10mins on it, then maybe you spin a little longer before starting your effort on the trainer! Always be ready to adjust depending on conditions, schedule and how much time you need on the course!
Magh’s Warm-Up protocol.
I have raced over 500 events in the past 10 years. It took me a bit of time but I finally figured out, maybe 6-7 years ago, what warm-up works best for me! Here’s a detailed timeline of my perfect warm-up strategy
2-3h before the race : Whenever there is an opportunity, I’ll get on the course and spin easy to figure out what the course is. I might do a few turns faster to feel what pressure I want in my tires and how the course feels at race speed. All in all, I will hop on the course once or twice for 8-15mins each time.
50min before the race : I hop on the trainer and start warming up for the race. Here’s my go to warm-up.
10-12mins easy spin
3 to 5min build-up to 125-135% (7-8 of RPE) of FTP (I adjust depending on how tired or how good I feel on that day)
2-3min easy spin
3x 30sec build-up from 6-7/10 RPE to 9/10 RPE / 30sec rec in between.
2x 10-12sec 85- 90% of max effort sprint / full rec between each.
2-3mins easy spin
That takes me about 25mins to do that.
25min before the race : One last bathroom stop, put race kit on, take 2mins to meditate and breathe.
20min before the race: – Head over to that start and while I’m riding over to the start, I’ll do a few drills to make sure I’m comfortable on my bike. I’ll also do 1-2 short starts to figure out gears and stay activated while we wait for the start!
3-2-1, GO! – With this warm-up, I know I will be 100% ready to tackle a fast start and have energy for the whole 50-60mins race!
I encourage you to “steal” my warm-up, try it, and adjust it with what works best for you. It’s a great place to start and hopefully saves you a few weeks/months of trial and error!
See you at the races! 🙂