Why warming up really is hot stuff

Cycling Plus Editor Rob is surprised at how hard his Wattbike warm up is

Sweat is pouring from me onto the Wattbike and the garage floor, my heart rate is climbing rapidly and my legs are spinning at an insane rate. I’m genuinely unsure if I’m going to make it through the 20 minutes prescribed by Wattbike sports scientist Eddie Fletcher. And this is just the bloody warm-up!

If, like me, your usual pre-ride warm-up involves simply rubbing your hands together, then the first time you undertake a ‘proper’ Wattbike warm-up is going to be a bit of a shock.

It feels like hard work – it’s basically 20 minutes of spinning your legs at a low-resistance at an increasing rev count, eventually finishing up with some flat-out, windmilling six-second bursts at 150rpm-plus. At first it feels completely counterintuitive – you’re working pretty hard before segueing into a tough session.

"Yes coach…"

When senior writer John Whitney and I first ‘warmed up’ under Eddie’s watchful gaze, we weren’t surprised to hear that some people have even struggled to get to the end of the 20 minutes… Eddie tells me that the shorter the session, the longer the warm-up. Basically, you use the warm-up to get your body’s systems ready for the work you’re about to do.

While the warm up feels hard, Eddie insists it isn’t – you build up to around 85 per cent of your max heart rate after 13 minutes or so, and 70 percent of it is done at under 70 percent. “It’s not particularly taxing but the body and mind has been well prepared for the workout to follow," he explains. ”“This warm-up does not build high levels of lactate despite the initial perception of it being ‘hard’, it’s well within the body’s capability to buffer the lactate. Some enhanced lactate is beneficial.”

He reckons that a workout without a warm-up simply won’t be as effective. Which explains why pros and serious time trial riders will work up a sweat on rollers or a turbo before they race.

And you know what? Despite my initial scepticism – and slightly sicky feeling – I’m a convert. Once I get the Wattbike workout of the way, I’m ready to ‘smash’ the sessions that I’m following.

So, next time you’re doing an interval session, or hill reps, work up a sweat before you really work up a sweat!

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