One of the more overlooked parts of the race morning ritual is the warm up. For those athletes who are not new to the race scene, we have all been guilty of skipping this critical part of racing. Whether we were running late from setting up transition or standing in line to use the facilities, we are all guilty of this at one point or another.
Why is the warm up so critical? It prepares the body for physical activity by raising your heart rate and body temperature while lengthening and loosening muscles.
What does a good warm up look like? Warm ups should be individualized based on the type of athlete and race distance. A seasoned endurance swimmer may need more time to warm up and feel engaged than someone who feels better at the beginning of shorter distance workouts. Consider your swim fitness level when deciding how far to swim.
Here are some ideas for warm ups on race morning depending on access to the water.
Water access, jump in! Swim for 200m – 300m nice and slow. After this, if the water is calm, consider doing some drills (25m – 50m each): catch up, gorilla hands, etc. Following the drills, do some tempo swimming (200m – 300m) to raise your heart rate and engage your muscles in a race specific style. Once warmed up, slowly swim back to the exit and prepare for the race. Check out the swim exit and path into transition and mentally prepare to race. (We do not have access to the Potomac River prior to the start of the race at Nation’s Triathlon.)
No water access, no problem. You won’t always have access to the water or sometimes the water temperature is cold enough that getting in doesn’t make a lot of sense (65 degrees or colder). For these instances, having a set of exercises that mimic swimming will help you focus on the swim ahead. Start with arm swings and circles (or stretch bands) (2 – 3 minutes). These should simulate your swim stroke to loosen up your shoulders and upper back. Once your arms are warm, a few push-ups (15 – 20 or so) to engage your chest will be helpful. Consider some neck rolls to loosen up your neck. Follow up with some light stretching and reflecting on your training and mental preparation for your race.
Last but not least, whether you get in the water or not, don’t let your body temperature drop too much otherwise most of the benefits of the warm up are lost. Do some light running or leg drills to keep your heart rate and body temperature up. This shouldn’t be anything taxing and taking away from your race. Consider: strides, butt kicks, leaps, and high knees.
Once complete, a good warm up should leave you relaxed, confident, and prepared for your race before you.
*Note: Consider, just like everything else in racing, practicing your warm up will allow you to know what works best for you on race day. Attempting something new could leave you tired and unready to take on the day.