Q: As a long-time cyclist and now an avid xc-skier, I’ve always required a good bit of a warm-up before I can really start to ‘turn it on.’ Trying to push too hard too early will usually compromise the whole outing.
Although I’m over 50 now, even back in my 20s and 30s I still felt I always needed that good warm-up period before any thought of shifting to the big ring.
It might just be the way I’m made and not much to be done about it, but is there any way to train your body to warm up more quickly? I ride and ski with a number of (younger) guys now, who all like to turn it on the moment they clear the driveway. I’d love to know not only any tips for quicker warm-ups, but any data or thoughts you might have on whether it’s even possible to train my body to require less of a warmup.
A: Let me start off with giving an explanation of what a proper warm up accomplishes and what happens when we don’t prepare appropriately. A good warm up functions as a way to ease in two primary systems of the body that are key in exercise; cardiovascular and musculoskeletal. Jumping quickly into a high intensity workload can shock these systems and end up putting them in a situation where they were under prepared and can’t react quick or fast enough to return you to steady state. With your cardiovascular system when you begin exercise, your body systems tend to lag behind the actual needs for the exercise. What this does is puts us in an oxygen debt that we need to overcome. If we start too fast, body can be put under too much debt to overcome and we are continuously working in a negative state. When we are in good shape this delay and response quickens and becomes more efficient and can return us to a homeostasis quicker. Another function that a good warm up helps with is it accesses and prepares body to be ready to utilize energy systems that we utilize during high intensity exercise. In a warm up before a work out with high intensity gradually working in some Level 3 and 4 work is a good way to prepare for longer, harder efforts.
The second system that is prepped with a good warm up is the musculoskeletal. This system deals with both our muscles and joints. Loosening and increasing range of motion (ROM) is the main focus of this systems warm up. Increasing ROM will allow more efficient production of power and can allow for more freedom in the movement chains that we need to use for correct technique. We have all felt the stiffness in our muscles and joints when we first begin a workout.
So in terms of a shorter warm up, here are some suggestions that I have for accelerating a warm up or making it more efficient.
Prior to hopping onto the bike or skis we can do some dynamic stretching and movement to get the body going. All of these things you can do in about a 5 to 10 minute time frame while you might be waiting for others to arrive or if you arrive a little bit early.
Jump Rope: Double leg and alternating leg for ~1 – 2 minutes
Jumping Jacks: 2-3 x 15 – 20
Lunges: 2 – 3 x 5 – 10 each leg
Skips: 20 – 30 meters
Carioca Drill: 20 – 30 meters both sides
Leg Swings: Lateral and frontal swings
Arm Swings: Forward and backwards full ROM
If you’re able to… here is a <20 minute progressive workout that can have you gradually increasing intensity but easing into each intensity.
10 minutes: Level 1
2 minutes: Level 2
1 minutes: Level 1
2 minutes: Level 3
1 minute: Level 1
1 minute: Level 4
1 minute Level 1
After you complete this you should be able to hop into whatever intensity you wish.
Hope this helps and good luck with training going forward.
CXC Team Head Coach