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Sunday, 24 January 2016 16:06

Warm-up and cool-down for cyclo-cross racers

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A good warm-up is essential to prepare yourself physically and mentally for a race, so you can optimize your performance. Especially if you're participating in a tough race like a cyclo-ross. Immediately after the race, your recovery and adaptation process starts. A cool-down accelerates this process and can be seen as the first preparation for the next workout or race. What is the best thing you can do before and after a cyclo-cross race?

Prepare your body for the race

Each rider has his own warm-up routine. This can range from a passive warm-up to a highly intensive active warm-up. In a passive warm-up the temperature of the body and muscles is increased by an external source, for example the heating of a car, or a warming patch.

The aim of an active warm-up is to increase the body temperature and the temperature of the muscles, this makes your muscles and joints more flexible. It also increases the transmission speed of your nerve impulses so that the signals from your brains travel faster through your nervous system towards your muscles. By increasing the heart rate slowly, more oxygen will be transported to the working muscles and you will 'switch' your anaerobic energy system on prior to the start of the race.

Make sure you're not burned out before the race starts

You don't want to be burn out before the race starts. When a warm-up is too long and too intensive your glycogen stores can already be lower before the start of the race. An intensive warm-up with higher ambient temperatures can also increase the body temperature too much to sustain high intensity exercise for a longer period. If the ambient temperature is higher, it's more difficult for the body to lose heat.

What does a warm-up for a cyclo-cross race look like?

The shorter and more explosive the race, the longer the warm-up will be. For an effort of half an hour to an hour, such as in a cyclo-cross, a warm-up of about 20 minutes is sufficient. You could do this warming up on the track, but keep in mind that this is not always possible before the start of your race. If it is possible to ride on the track, then ride one or two laps at a lower intensity to explore the track, and then do a proper warm-up on a bicycle trainer just before your race.

Make sure you start your warm up on time so you have enough time to go to the start. With bad weather conditions it is important to put on dry clothes after you warm up so that you will appear dry and warm at the start. Possibly take an energy gel before you start.

Cool-down after your race

By doing a cool-down after a cyclo-cross race, you will remove the waste products from your muscles that have accumulated during the race. Without a proper cool-down these waste products remain for some time in your muscles and will slow down the recovery process. The more strenuous the exercise was, the longer the cool-down should be. A cool-down after a cyclo-cross race lasts about 10-15 minutes. During the cool-down your heartbeat should slowly return to your resting heart rate and you can also take a recovery drink containing protein and carbohydrates.

You should do your cool-down in a dry environment in dry and warm clothes, the last thing you want is to a catch cold. If the weather conditions are very bad you could go home first and do some light work on an indoor trainer.

Sample warm-up protocol:

5 min warm-up in recovery zone RPM 90

4 x (1 min RPM 110 in tempo zone + 1 min RPM 90 in slow endurance zone)

3 min tempo zone RPM 100

2 min threshold zone RPM 100

4 min slow endurance zone RPM 90-95 (in minute 2 and 4; 15 sec sprint)

2 min  slow endurance RPM  90

Please note, this is an example! You are always responsible for your health and safety!

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