A proper warmup is key if you want to perform your best in any hard cycling effort, but newer cyclists often don’t understand this. The result is not warming up enough prior to races, thinking I should “save myself” for the race.

Newbies should take a cue from more experienced racers here, because seasoned riders know the importance of a warmup and what works best for them. And while it is common for indoor racers to take their warmups less seriously than they would outdoors, Zwift provides an ideal test platform for perfecting your pre-race warmup routine. With that in mind, here is a quick guide to pre-race warmups for Zwifters.

Purpose of a Warmup

We warm up so we can be in the optimal physical and mental state going into the race. Physically, a warmup should accomplish the following:

  • Increase blood flow: during a warmup your heart rate increases and your blood vessels dilate, delivering more blood to your muscles so they can do more work
  • Improve oxygen delivery: as your body heats up, your blood’s hemoglobin gives off more oxygen.
  • Increase muscle fiber recruitment: slowly bringing your muscles into use will let the stress of the race be spread across more muscle fibers than if you just jump into a hard effort.

Mentally, top athletes will tell you that a pre-race routine is key to high performance. The warmup should allow you to eliminate distractions, address your concerns, and focus on goals for the job ahead.

A Warmup Framework

A good pre-race warmup typically lasts 15-25 minutes and looks something like this:

  • Warmup into the warmup (5-7 minutes of easy spinning)
  • 4-8 minute block at 80-90% of FTP
  • Recovery
  • 60-90 second block at 100% of FTP
  • Recovery
  • A handful of hard, short intervals to raise the heart rate (10-20 seconds each, with 20-30 seconds recovery between each)
  • Recovery (stay warm until the race starts)

Here’s a video from Shane Miller outlining his pre-race warmup routine, which follow the general outline above. (This is an excellent routine which I use myself before Zwift races… and the Zwift workout file (.zwo) is linked below.)

Grab the workout file >


What About You?

How do you warm up prior to your Zwift races? Got any tips on things you’ve tried that worked well, or didn’t? Share below!