• Race day warm-ups

    For most of us, the last thing on our mind when doing our very first triathlon is warming up!  Sometimes we are worrying about having enough energy to complete!  Then as we get fitter and often more competitive, we want to get more out of ourselves and we start to look at ways of improving our performance.   At this point, we need to develop and refine our warm-up routine.

    In reality, all of us, no matter how fit or experienced, will benefit from some form of  ‘warm-up’ or ‘race preparation’.  The physical and mental benefits will lead to enhanced performance and more enjoyment on the day.  The warm-up that is right for you will depend on your goals for the race, the air temperature and the length of the event which will be directly related to the intensity at which you will be racing.

    The warm-up routine discussed in this article will be good for sprint and standard distance athletes who will be working at a high intensity from the hooter but you will also find many elite Iron distance athletes following similar protocols.  If you want to complete your first event at a lower intensity then maybe you will want to jump straight into the swim mobilisation phase.   The same goes if you are completing an Iron distance but are looking to start nice and easy then your focus could be on mobilisation and mental preparations.   Have a think about what will be right for you in your next race.

    The warm-up routine

    A warm-up routine can be broken down into three phases, all post transition set up:

    1.  Muscular warm-up
    2.  Swim mobilisation and activation
    3.  In the water warm-up

    And all of these of course have an element of mental warm-up!

    Muscular warm-up

    If you are reasonably well conditioned, you want to race hard and perform well , then you should allow for a 20-30 min warm-up routine that starts with some aerobic activity.  The most practical warm-up is usually a 10-15 min run that includes some strides.  A warm-up is also about mental preparation so think about your race posture – how do you want this to feel in the race?  Some athletes prefer to be on a turbo for 10 – 15 mins – an easy spin with a few stronger efforts while visualising your race.  But more often that not, this is just not practical.  This can then be followed by some dynamic stretching exercises like hip rotations, forward and backward leg swings and lunges (if you do these regularly as part of your run warm-ups).

    Swim mobilisation

    Once you have completed this warm-up  it is time to get into your wetsuit.   If the air temperature is warm, mobilise with wetsuit pulled just up to your your waist to avoid getting too hot. If it is cool then have your wetsuit on.  Go through a short routine of exercises to mobilise your joints.  As an example you could try the following routine:

    • shoulder shrugs – rotating shoulders – 10 forward, 10 back
    • stretching up, arms pressing into ears  – stretch up then release 10 times
    • hands clasped behind back and gently stretch – don’t overdo this one
    • stretch out in front with hand clasped together – pushing shoulders forward and release, 10 times
    • big arm swings forward and back one at a time and both together, 10 forward, 10 back
    • (at this point some athletes will use swim pull cords for muscle activation)
    • and the final step before getting into the water – practice your stroke!  Perform 20 or so strokes – obviously these will be perfect because you are out of the water.  Visualise you swimming with this stroke in the race.  Now take 20 strokes at your starting race cadence – think about the effort and how it will feel

    In the water 

    It is usually best to get in the water early.  Are you ever the first person of your wave into the water?   The only time when this may not be the best course of action is when the water temperature is very cold and being in the water too long is going to leave you chilled.   Take a couple of minutes to acclimatize, putting your head in the water and getting some water into your wetsuit, then swim out away from the start line for 25 strokes and then back for 25 strokes.  This assumes that athletes are still getting into the water.  Race organisers will not start the race with you out from the start line.   It depends on the wave size and so on but you could get 100m of swimming in this way.  You need to be aware of how much time you may have and of course do not annoy the race organisers by ignoring requests to get into line.   Now find your position on the start line or a little further back and give yourself some space – think about the start and what the first few strokes will be like.  When the starter calls ’30s to go’ you should start your watch and then wait for the hooter!