Recently along the Front Range we had our first outdoor Triathlon of the season. Temperatures had been in the 80’s earlier in the week but Friday night the mercury plummeted and the wind started to blow hard from the North. This particular race is held in Longmont at Union Reservoir in open country. There is not much stopping the wind from the North to the South except the open prairie. Air Temperature was just above 50 degrees, and the wind chill, was in the low 40’s. The water temperature was a balmy 65 degrees.

I did a short warm up, but nothing nearly as long as I usually do and that was a mistake! The wind was howling and it was much too cold for anyone to warm up on the bike. What I usually recommend is a routine that I learned from Olympic Coach Bobby McGee. Unfortunately I made the mistake of not following this routine!
I start with a few standing ‘static activation’ of key running muscles followed by 5-8 min easy running. Next I perform another group of ‘dynamic activation’ exercises ending with 5-6 strides peaking at just under 5k pace. These exercises don’t just activate the running/cycling muscles but are a great swim warm up as well.
This warm up should be timed to end at a point that allows getting into the water about 15 min before the start, in order to do a few minutes of swimming. My big mistake was not following my own advice as I did not get into the water when I should have. I was worried about getting wet and then cold, and instead stood on the beach, shivering from being in my wetsuit. Eventually, I did join the few in the water for a short swim – but not more than a minute or two. I am sure in hindsight that the land based activation was by now wasted. The result was that I swam like hell out to the first buoy and it was much harder than it needed to be. The winds had picked up to a steady 40 mph at this point and the water was rough with two to three foot choppy waves to swim against!
One of the easy lessons to remember from my session with Coach McGee is the importance of a good warm up. He had asked the athletes in attendance what happens when we get out of a chair we have been in for a while and try and climb a flight of stairs. Even the fittest athlete will be quickly winded due to the simple reason that the muscles go to sleep while you were sitting, or more technically most of the fibers deactivate. When you ask the muscles to perform work you are only able to recruit a small percentage of the muscle group which go anaerobic almost instantly when you hit the stairs!
A good friend of mine and UK Coach, Simon Ward, has a nice race car analogy on his blog. blog about warming as well: https://bit.ly/Mg8Tyv
Here are a set of warm-ups you can incorporate into your next race:
Warm up 1
This warm up will work for triathlons with an early start (say 6-9 am), an opportunity to get in the water before the race start
‘ = minutes
“ = seconds
30’ before the start – 10’ jog – building pace (avoid too much sweating as it makes putting your wetsuit on harder)
15’ before the start – put on your wetsuit and swim 5’ building pace, then do 3 x Deep water starts + 1’ hard + 30” rest
Aim to finish 5’ before the race start
Warm Up 2
This warm up will work for triathlons with an early start (say 6-9 am), with NO opportunity to get in the water until 5’ before the race start
30’ before the start – 10’ jog – building pace (avoid too much sweating as it makes putting your wetsuit on harder
15’ before the start – put on your wetsuit and do 5 – 10 x 45” Swim cords or bands on dry land + 15” rest.
When you can get into the water get in as soon as allowed (i.e. be at the front of the queue) and do swim 5’ building pace, then do 2 x Practice starts + 30” hard swimming 30” rest
Aim to finish 2’ before the race start
Warm Up 3
This warm up will work for triathlons with a later start (say 10 am onwards), where you can rack your bike late or get into transition, NO opportunity to get in the water until 5’ before the race start
2-3 hours before the race start – 10-15’ easy jog to loosen up
45’ before the start – ride bike for 10-15’ building to goal race effort for 2-3’. This might mean taking a trainer with you to the event.
15’ before the start – put on your wetsuit and do 5 – 10 x 45” Swim cords /bands on dry land + 15’ rest.
When you can get into the water get in as soon as allowed (i.e. be at the front of the queue) and do swim 5’ building pace, then do 2 x Practice starts + 30” hard swimming 30” rest
Aim to finish 2’ before the race start.
Warm up 4
This is for Ironman and 1/2 ironman/70.3 events with early starts and access to transition is limited. However opportunity to swim is usually available
60’ before the start – 10’ jog – building pace (avoid too much sweating as it makes putting your wetsuit on harder)
30’ before the start – put on your wetsuit and swim 5’ building pace, then do 3 x Race starts starts + 30” hard + 30” rest. Then do 5’ @ goal race pace + 5’ easy swimming
Aim to finish 10’ before the race start
In all of these warm ups your aim should be to get your effort up to race pace, and warm up for long enough to kick start the aerobic metabolism. This way your body will start to process the lactic acid very quickly when you start and the first few minutes won’t seem quite so painful.
In order to complete your warm up you’ll need to be organized and have a plan to work back from the race start time to your arrival time at transition. I hope this helps you avoid the mistakes I’ve made and allows you to have a great race. Good luck!
 
Simon Butterworth is a seven time Kona finisher and finished 3rd in his AG
in 2011. He is a certified USA Cycling Coach and has been racing and
coaching for over twenty years.

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