The art of a proper warm-up.
Maybe it’s because of the cold water or because it’s sometime more difficult to access to the water just prior the start, but I have noticed during my decades of practice that triathletes do easily skip the warm-up before the race.
They usually keep it to its simplest expression which is: one or two feet in the water and just pouring water on the back of their neck or in the best cases you can see them shaking a bit they arms and shoulders.
Well ok, you already sweaty by putting on your brand new tight fit wetsuit which is almost a warm-up or own sport by itself 😀
But It has always amazed me this huge difference on our race practice and the one we use to do during training sessions.
You wouldn’t jump in the pool and swim straight your main intervals set before a 200m-1k of proper warm-up/drill session? Would you? Nope!
So what make you think that you can skip it at the right exact moment you need most your body to be ready to give its best?Mmm…
And have you ever got that uncomfortable oppressing feeling right after the start feeling a short in breath? You may think it is the panic of open water and the mass start, maybe, but have you never thought that it could be because you did not warm-up well enough?
Here is my tips on how to warm-up properly:
A proper warm-up is a routine, a personalized routine that have to be adapted to your level of practice and to the race your are about to start.
You don’t warm-up same if you are a good swimmer or not, or if you do it for a sprint or an Ironman distance.
You are going to start with the swim so it makes sense that your main warm-up will be swim based. For the rest the race swim will anyway warm you up for the bike&run to come.
As I said it it’s a routine so try to mimic more or less the kind of warm-up you do in your training sessions.
For exemple a good swimmer that is used to swim about +3k per session could easily swim 3-400m warm-up, starting with 200 easy and 4-5times 25m progressively faster. Translated time wise it could be 5-7’ easy+4-5×15-20’’faster in order to open your cardiovascular system.
If swimming is more difficult for you and completing the race lap is already a challenge by itself then keep the aquatic side of the warm-up at the minimum maybe 25-50m to get use to the water. But to compensate you could run 10’ easy before putting your wetsuit on.
Another good way to warm-up when the water is really cold or when the access to the water is restricted, it is to use the elastics/tubes that you have for improving your swim stokes on the dry land. They are super easy to fix anywhere and they are great substitute for your upper body warm-up. You can also complete your warm-up with arms and shoulders rotations (as competitors swimmers do before right before the start) and some jumps and flexions for your legs.
Another key role for the warm-up is the injuries prevention, starting a brutal effort on your body at too low temp, may cause damages to your muscles, joints or/and ligaments. And this point is getting as more important as you get older.
As I said before your warm-up won’t be same according to the race distance. Shorter and intensive your race will be, longer and progressively intense will have to be your warm-up. “Au contraire” if you are about to start a long race, then keep it in low intensity to avoid spending your precious glycogens stocks and saving chance to stay “bonk-proof” later on the run.
Your warm-up will be also a good way to get use to the water temperature. If there is much difference between the air and the water, it will help to avoid a thermic shock. But of course don’t marinate too long in a frizzing cold water!
Mastering the art of warm-up is a question of timing, its effect will last about 20min, so do not warm-up too early before or you will loose most of the benefits.
And my final tip: Arrive on time at the race spot, if you rush, you might have to skip it, and starting the race with useless stress is never a good begging 😉
Voilà! I hope that at least this post will make you think twice before skipping it, now you don’t have excuses, you can’t say no more: I didn’t know!
If you have questions on this subject let a comment below.