Getting Hot! How to Warm-up for a Time Trial

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Here in Oregon, our time trial season is set to open at the end of the month with the Jack Frost TT. For many, Jack Frost is a race they do every year as a way to check in how their winter training is going and to see progress from year to year. But, as many of the most experienced time-trialer will you tell you, even the best winter training and progress can be undone without a proper warm-up to accompany your race.

For many racers warming-up before his or her time trial can seem counterintuitive. The logic is that since the race against the clock is very hard he or she should conserve as much energy as possible for the start-line. To an extent, this is true, but, we also have to remember that our bodies do not like sudden changes. This is true for effort levels, temperatures, foods, etc. Our bodies gets in a rhythm and like to stay that. Warming-up the body can help wake the body-up, changing that rhythm and prepare it for the effort that is to come. When we exercise we rely on different metabolic systems depending on intensities. We also have different clearance systems that work in sync with these metabolic shifts in energy systems. The goal of a proper warm up is to gradually take you through these shifts in metabolism and make sure your entire body is activated and ready to handle the effort of your race.

When you first get to the time trial event, there are some important considerations before you start warming up:

  • Double check your start time. These are usually posted near the start gate or at the registration table. The best warm-up in the world wont help if you show up 30 seconds late of your start.
  • Double check that your clock and the starting clock are in sync. Many times riders are looking at their Garmins thinking they have tons of time, only to find out the race officials clocks are 2 minutes faster then their own. The official start clock is located at the start gate where riders take off from.
  • Bring a trainer. Warming up on the road seems like a good idea, but with cars coming into the venue, people trying to find parking, uneven terrain, stop signs, etc, often times your warm-up becomes interrupted. Also, if you warm-up on the road and you get a flat, there is a high likelihood you’ll miss your start time.
  • Bring a spare wheel when possible. Trainers reck havoc on tires. Since you will be warming-up on the trainer, try and bring a spare wheel so you aren’t at risk of puncturing on the tire you used for your warm up.
  • Work backwards from your start time. Generally you want to save just enough time to hop off your trainer, switch wheels, and riding easy for 10min to and around your start location.
  • The shorter your event, the longer and more intense your warm up is in general.
  • Introduce efforts from easy to hard, then back to easy.
  • Make sure to hydrate and potentially top off fuel with a carb / electrolyte drink while warming up.
  • Be at Start 5-10min early. Listen for your last name or number to be called.

Everyone will respond a little differently to warming-up. Some riders need longer, others need less time.  But here is an example warm-up that should get you tapped into all your metabolic systems and ready for your race against the clock:

  • 10-15min EASY riding. Little ring, low resistance.

  • 3x1minx1min fast RPM efforts. Fast cadence, low resistance. Focus on feeling the entire pedal stroke. Rest easy at normal cadence between each effort.

  • 2x5minx5min RAMP-UPs. Start at an easy / endurance pace, and gradually build intensity over the course of 5min. Finish the last minute at and slightly above threshold. Rest for 5min EASY effort, then do one more, followed by another 5min EASY riding.

  • 2x20secx2min ALL-OUTS. Feel the lungs burn. Recover for 2min with easy riding between each 20sec effort.

  • 5min EASY riding. Little ring, low resistance.

  • Hop off the trainer, switch the rear wheel, then ride easy over to the start location.

This in a nutshell should have you ready for your TT. The more times you practice, the better you will become.  For more information on TT practice, warming up, dialing in your TT position and more, contact us at


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