There are some things you can just jump into without warming up – a pool on a hot summer’s day, for instance – but going cycling isn’t one of them.
Warming up your muscles before heading out on a ride helps to protect your body from injury and can help you to perform better.
You may not be sure what type of warm-up is sufficient for what kind of exercise, though. These are the easiest ways to warm up before a ride or race.
Before a ride
The golden rule for warming up is, the shorter and more intense the ride, the longer the warm-up. Warm-ups should be done between 5 and 15 minutes before a race, but if you’re just going on a casual ride, your warm-up can be integrated into the ride itself.
Before you get on your bike, a stretch or two is always good. Experienced cyclists recommend the butterfly (sit upright, pull your feet towards your body with your hands, and push your knees to the ground gently) or the frog pose (start in the push-up position with your knees double-shoulder-width apart, lower your knees to the ground and try to push the balls of your feet together, then push your hips into the ground slowly, raise your chest and arch your back).
Despite cycling being a low-impact sport, it is always good to get into the swing of things by pedalling or spinning (depending if you’re on a stationary or road bike) comfortably for 10 to 12 minutes to allow your body to naturally and gradually warm up by itself.
Use this time to check in with your body and pay attention to how your legs feel. This will dictate what the rest of your ride will be like and what kind of exertion you can attempt. Also use the first 15 to 20 minutes of your ride for self-reflection and mental training.
Once you’ve cycled easily for about 15 minutes, and if you’re still feeling good, now is the time to up your pace. If you are going for a hard and intense ride, you can restrict the easy riding of your warm-up to about 12 minutes, and use another 8 minutes for harder riding.
Before a race
Before a race it is recommended that you up the time of easy riding to 15 minutes, and also include a few minutes of race-pace riding, and some riding at your threshold. Remember that the warm-up should be longer if the race is longer and more intense than your normal weekly rides.
Another important thing to remember after a race is the cool down. The rule of thumb for the cool down is the opposite of its warm-up: a long ride means the cool down should be kept short. Upon completion of a race, slow down and lessen the pace in five-minute increments. From your threshold, take it down to 90% maximum effort for five minutes, then five minutes at 80%, and continue this until you reach 50%.
Make warming up before a ride and cooling down afterwards a part of your routine, and you’ll be surprised at how much further your