Warming up and Cooling down are two topics you might have never really pondered, but they can be great ways to increase your overall endurance and hours on-bike in a simple way—that will make you faster!
Said simply, warming up is the time before the workout and it can be very little time or a lot of time depending on who you are and what you are trying to do. Some people don’t take much time to warm up and other people take a long time. Some people don’t have more time and ‘need’ to get training faster. Sometimes it is cold and it takes longer to get ready to work. You might need to ride longer to get to the location where you want to do intervals. In all of these cases, the idea is that before you get to the main workout you should do some things that help you perform the main workout better. This includes physiological things certainly but also *importantly* the mental aspects like motivation, arousal, focus, etc. It may very well include logistics like getting to the spot, staging for a race, warm-up drills, or adjusting clothing.
You warm-up so that you are ready to work out better. That is a pretty easy-to-agree-with statement (I think). You could also say that you practice warming up to figure out what works well for you for different types of efforts. This lets you optimize your race warmup (and the whole holistic ‘Pre-Race Routine’) so that on race day … it’s just another day of training. You are confident!
Check Out this ‘how to warmup’ post if you are wondering about some of the hows/whys.
Beyond these generalities though, I wanted to address the statement I made above about ‘some people don’t have more time’. This is certainly true some people (who I love to work with) do a lot of amazing things in the day and their time to sit and pedal a bike is quite minimal. BUT removing the warmup may not be the solution and in fact, the warmup may not always be removed due to time availability as much as boredom or because ‘the smart trainer made me’. While you may not be able to warm up 30-60 minutes every day it might be something you could plan into a weekend interval set or once a week when the time does present it rather than going straight from video-conference to sweet spot intensity.
Riding at a lower intensity and ensuring you are ready to work hard (physiologically, psychologically, and logistically) holds a lot of benefits. This is something that I work on a fair bit with intermediate and advanced riders to increase their fitness and/or performance. The intervals aren’t harder but they ride more total time. They ride to the mountain bike trails or the road group ride. They chunk their indoor ride into 45-minute warmups, 45 minute main sets, 45-minute cooldowns. They even mix sports to get through long workouts in the winter season by warming up for cross-training on the indoor rollers before heading out (this helps you start warm too!).
Riding at low intensities for much of our training might seem like a pretty agreeable statement (even if you are ‘time-limited), but it is actually surprisingly quite contentious and like many things that are ‘common-sense’, it is not common practice.
(You can listen to renowned sport scientist Stephen Seiler talk about the myth of ‘more pain, more gain’ here.)
With clients who are short on time, we may indeed have a higher percentage of ‘intensity’ (e.g. not an 80:20 split or ‘polarization’), at least during certain portions of the year. However skipping the warmup and sacrificing the quality of the high intensity makes the training even more ‘moderate’ because you aren’t ready physiologically, psychologically, and/or logistically.
A time-limited athlete then would be better to warm-up (letting that bad zoom meeting get out of your head and those hip muscles get used to pedaling versus sitting) and do a good job on fewer intervals. If you want to get fitter but you have already been sweet-spotting or tempo-ing with all of your training time consider if you could add time via longer warmups or even consider reducing your interval/intensity time to warmup and then do fewer BUT better quality intervals
For many expert riders, this might make a 90-minute ride into a 100-minute ride. For an elite racer, it might even be a 3-hour vs. 1.5 hour ride.
Need more intel on warming up? Check out our previous posts and podcasts that mention warming up http://ConsummateAthlete.com/?s=warming+up