Pre-Race Warm-up

Pre-Race Warm-up

The value of a good warm-up is difficult to quantify but it’s not insignificant. Like so many things in life simply doing something is likely of benefit over doing nothing at all. The process of warming up for many sporting events or competitions is relatively simple and includes some basic cardiovascular exercise to elevate heart rate, breathing rate and body temperature before moving into some sports specific movements, drills and harder efforts to mimic the event or gameplay. Priming the brain and body for what’s to come.


Within triathlon it can be a little trickier but its still imminently possible and if you often panic shortly after the swim start or have to slow down dramatically in order to regain your breath (and composure) then a more effective warm-up could hold the key to a more accomplished performance. So arrive early, use the same pre-race routine each time and avoid spending too much time chatting! Here’s an outline of how you could warm-up and prepare for your next race:


  • Arrive at race venue – optional 5-10min easy bike ride to check everything is working well and to begin to introduce some light aerobic exercise into the day.
  • Rack bike and set up transition – make sure to walk through (perhaps jog through) the swim entry to bike exit and bike entry to run exit pathways going past your racking area. I find this mental rehearsal really helps once you’re in the thick of the action.
  • Change into (spare) running shoes and allow 15mins for 7-8mins of light running before beginning some simple drills and strides (accelerations of 10-15secs up and possibly over race pace). There are numerous run drills but these don’t need to be too elaborate (skipping, side-stepping, running backwards, hopping or bouncing, hip openers, lunges all fit the bill). Stick with movement patterns your comfortable with. Light jog again back to transition.
  • Now with around 20mins to go begin calmly putting the wetsuit on and head for race start.
  • If an in-water warm-up is possible (and depending on the temperature of air and water) then this can be a good idea. 5mins is sufficient here. Again start with some easy strokes and then add 10strokes hard / 10 strokes easy for 3 reps. If not allowed then continue intermittent light aerobic exercise on dry-land (jumping jacks, jogging on the spot, even a few press-ups!).
  • Finally back on to dry land 5 mins before race start with chance for some light stretching/mobilising exercises and just keeping that slightly elevated heart rate and breathing rate going. Arm circling, shoulder and back stretching are good here or pay a little more attention to any other areas that feel tight.
  • Then you’re ready – whether it be dry land or in-water start you’re now race prepped and good to go!


Bonus tips:

  • Always take warm clothing and waterproof jacket to UK races. Those early race starts are often cool even if the forecast for day is good.
  • If you’ve had a good breakfast around 3hours before race start then this time should simply involve sipping some energy drink (Xendurance Fuel 5) and perhaps taking some concentrated simple sugars (Xendurance energy gel) within 10-15mins of the start.
  • I always have a small bottle of plain water to wash this down and to rinse goggles prior to the off.
  • Develop a warm-up routine and use it before training sessions (such as run sets and brick sessions). Once you’ve learned a routine then it will come easily on race morning without adding any additional stress.


I really feel this is an area that many of us could do better at; remember that your warm-up doesn’t have to be exactly as outlined above and nor is there a ‘perfect’ warm-up. Have faith though that doing something will be of benefit. Good luck in your next race!


Phil Ellison

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