Ask Levi: How Long Should I Warm-up at Race Intensity?

Today’s question is about how long to spend warming up at race intensity before a Cat 5 race…

Great site! Just found it. Question: my Robbie Ventura DVD mentions you should reach match your race intensity during your warm up. As a Cat 5 racer (24miles) how long should I “warm up” at that intensity? I keep thinking I’ll burn out or waste to much energy during my “pre-race” warm up.

Warming-up Willie

Hi Willie,

Excellent question! Warming up can be tricky but it’s extremely important – in some cases, in can make or break your race.

You’re on the right track so far. You definitely do want to hit your planned race intensity during your warm-up. A lot of people don’t realize that, and then they end up in a state of shock when the race heats up for the first time. There is a slight chance you’ll wear yourself out before the race starts, but there’s a much greater chance that you would get dropped early if you don’t perform a substantial warm-up.

Now, to answer your question…

The best answer to your question is also a vague one – you need to warm up hard enough that your body is ready to race, but not so much that you wear yourself out. The exact time will differ based on the individual, the specific race, the weather conditions, and how you feel that day.

Looking at your race, it’s 24 miles. (I’m going to assume you mean a circuit race or something and not a time trial.) It might take an hour to finish. But you have to keep in mind, “race intensity” will vary greatly over that hour. So what I would do is include more than one intensity in your warm-up.

To give you a general idea for a starting point, after you do 10-20 minutes of easy and moderate riding, throw in maybe 5 jumps (short sprints, perhaps 5 seconds each, almost full intensity) and a few minutes of hard race pace intensity (perhaps as three, one-minute intervals.)

You could also set it up as a “ladder” type warm-up where you do one minute in each heart rate zone ( increasing difficulty as you go along,) then work your way back down.

There are many ways you can warm-up. As you train and race more, you’ll develop a better sense of how to read your body, and therefore better understand the fine line between not enough and too much warming up!

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