This month I want to touch on the importance of warming up. There seems to be a lack of understanding that warming up is burning energy, or “burning matches” as they say in cycling. The truth of the matter is that a warm up routine is to not only to get the body in a mode to be ready for optimum performance, but to also get your mind ready for the task at hand. The best results in training and racing result from several components and a good warm up is easily the number one limiting factor from great training and racing performances.
I was fortunate to spend some time observing and talking to track and field Olympic caliber athletes while they were warming up for their training at the Chula Vista training center. Although the actual workout was only going to be 6-8 sprints, they warmed up for 30 minutes and this was for less than 2 minutes of total of explosive work. The truth is, you want to be able to do the actual workout at full physiological and psychological capacity. When I have my athletes do sprints, the purpose is to program the physiological component with the psychological component so that several important things take place:
o Neurologically, the mind is telling the motor units of a muscle cluster to fire, the mind needs to tell the motor units clearly what they need to do without hesitation. Imagine two phone lines connected and opened up so they can communicate. The mind needs to be ready and without distraction to convey the message. A proper intense warm up with a mental focus and vision of what you want to do will help facilitate this.
o In order for the body to respond to the mental request of movement, this neural pathway needs to be activated to perform the correct movements and at full capacity. It’s crucial the motor units and muscles need to be turned on prior to the expected intense effort. Another words, if the muscles are cold, there will not only be a delay, there is also a possibility that the muscles won’t respond at full contraction.
o For BMX racing, a proper warm up will also facilitate Lactate Acid faster and recycle it with superb efficiency. If there is no warm up, the body will also not tolerate Lactate kindly. Be sure to do a long sprint to get the burn out of the way and to open up this component of the system as well. (Do this before practice, not before the first moto!)
When I was a young pro warming up for 20 minutes in the woods of say the South Park NBL National an hour before my practice, my team mates used to look at me like I was a freak. I remember them and the majority of the pros using practice as their warm up, yet never seemed to be ready for the first moto and thus, would never get going for the rest of the day. A good warm up sets the tone for your racing day!
A proper warm up will prevent an athlete from being neurologically confused when riding a new track as they might not adapt to the new dynamics of a track properly, making them second guess if they feel good about themselves riding this track. This could possibly mess with an athletes confidence, spending more time being uncertain before the first moto, when they need to be using this energy to be ready for everything when that gate drops.
Warm up routines vary for different demands, for both on and off the bike racing or training. It’s best to develop a well-rounded routine for a sprint workout and then apply that routine before practice at an event and or even before practice on a local night. There are 2 different types of energy systems that need to warm up: Aerobic and Anaerobic. Almost always an anaerobic “dynamic warm up” is more specific to BMX, Sprints and or Strength work. In BMX, every movement is a “dynamic demand”; therefore a dynamic warm up is in order. Typically this means sprints of all varieties, lengths and intensities. The duration could be from a minimum of 10 minutes to 20 minutes filled with sprints and maybe even some bunnyhops and coaster manuals. Of course this would be done with plenty of rest between efforts and not to sprint for 20 minutes consistently. Once this is done, then the workout and or track practice shall come. Again, you want to get on the track ready for the demands so you can program yourself to know the track as best as you can!
Off the bike training such as GYM work or plyometric training can usually benefit from a dynamic warm up consisting of a combination of both exercises or bike sprints. Exercises can consist of getting the body to not only achieving neural adaptation, but to also get full range of motion so there will be no surprises when you squat down or do a plyo jump. Same principle applies in terms of neural activation: Get the mind and body to respond cohesively together so you can get the most out of the exercise and training. A typically dynamic warm up will consist of exercises such as skipping rope, lunges, body squats, and light non-static stretching. A quick note on stretching: Forcing a muscle by stretching beyond what it’s capable at the time and or holding it longer than 20 seconds can also cause damage it in the form of micro tears. The end result will be a slight paralysis of the muscles from contracting at full capacity because those lightly torn muscle fibers simply won’t respond; there damaged. So stretch lightly if you need to stretch before activity.
Well there you have it, warming up and doing a dynamic one specifically for BMX racing and training will enable you to be ready and to get the most out of your session!