Warm up for a 20 minute race

Warm-up-20-min-raceAim of Session

Getting the rider ready for a short race effort using a progressive warm-up and intense bursts







Session description

Time Power Comments
5 min Zone 1 Keep cadence high, HR should be below threshold
5 min Low end zone 2 Keep cadence high, HR should be below threshold
10 min Start LT power Progress effort every minute or so, bring HR to zone 3
5 min Mid zone 3 Steady work in zone 3
5 min From mid zone 3 Progress through gears, keep cadence high, 1 min at pace
5 min LT power Return to zone 2
6 min Supra-max efforts* 4 x 15s bursts, return to a spinning gear for a minute or so
41 min   TOTAL TIME

 *These can be done on the way to the line


This warm up is designed specifically for races over a short distance/time. The first 10 minutes of the session is included to gradually raise the heart rate and subsequently the cardiac output (the amount of blood that leaves the heart every minute). Increasing the blood flow to the important muscle groups allows for a greater supply of oxygen. This early stage can help in alleviating any stiffness or soreness that might still be present from previous training / activity.

The next 15 minutes will look to continue this increase in heart rate until it is sitting within zone 3. At this kind of intensity, muscle contraction is beginning to become more forceful, and the muscle contraction process will begin to produce significant amounts of heat, allowing the temperature of the muscles to rise. A rise in muscle temperature is crucial to success, as it allows for chemical reactions involved in energy production to work more efficiently. Also, a warmer muscle is much more pliable meaning the risk of injury is greatly reduced.

Increasing the pace in the next 5 minutes allows the energy systems that help sustain greater powers (anaerobic) to be switched on and readied. Again, this is important for specific enzymes to work to an optimal level. The 5 minutes back in zone 2 gives the body a chance to remove any waste products of energy production from the previous 5 minutes.

The final 6 minutes of the session involves some small bursts right at the top end. These bursts might be the most crucial part of the warm-up. These bursts allow the fast twitch muscle fibres to be stressed and prepared to produce power for those sprints at the very top end. Also, these bursts allow the release of hormones such as adrenaline, giving the whole body a higher tempo as you roll up to the line. A lot of research work has been completed on the use of high intensity exercise to increase physiology above baseline - without exception, the experiments have shown that this kind of work increases the speed at which your oxygen uptake rises at exercise onset. This will reduce the oxygen deficit, and decrease the need for anaerobic work at the beginning of the race.

Application for the Rider

In general, the length of warm-up is dependent on length of race: shorter race, longer warm-up. The type of warm-up is individual, and can be specific to the event. It is dependent on what you have done the day before; and also other factors such as the weather and nutrition.

Often it is perceived that a warm-up is just about preventing injury, preventing the overload of ‘cold’ muscles which may result in a strain or tear. Undoubtedly this is a key aspect, but a thorough warm-up with some race pace efforts allows the body to be really switched on and ready to go. Key enzymes needed for muscle contraction and energy supply will be switched on - not just because of the increased temperature, but also the slight increase in acidity: the phrase "warm-up" is a little misleading, but "acid-up" doesn't quite have the same ring to it! In a race with a short distance, if you are still warming-up during the first 5-10 minutes to the race, you have already lost a lot of ground, and anaerobic energy supply will hamper you later in the race.

Practicalities and tips!

  • Decide on whether a turbo, or road warm-up is more advantageous to YOU. Don't be influenced by others' actions and / or comments
  • Have a routine that prepares you physically and mentally
  • Wear layers of clothes, and strip off as you warm up
  • Give thought to ergogenic aids / hydration during the warm-up
  • Set your watch to the “official” race time
  • Know where the start is, and how long it will take to get there
  • Time your warm-up to finish about ten minutes before your start
  • Give yourself a 5 minute cushion to get to the starting area, make sure you are sweating
  • Sit alone or roll around and focus on the desired wattage and heart rates for the race

Evaluation of the session

  • What heart rate did you reach by the end of the warm-up? Was it close to race levels?
  • How long was it between the end of the WU and the race start?