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5 Top Pros Share Their Go-To Race Day Warm-Up Routines

A good warm-up on race day can really set you up for success. How do you do it?

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Failing to warm up well on race day is probably one of the most common mistakes triathletes make. You’ve done weeks and weeks of training, you’ve tapered well, your gear is in great condition and awaits you in transition, and yet, when the guns goes off, your body (and mind) stutter off the start line and you wonder what’s going on. The answer? You’ve not warmed up. Many top pros will practice their warm-up routines ahead of key workouts in training so that they become well-learned and familiar. We asked five pro athletes to share their go-to warm-up sets with us…

RELATED: Dear Coach: What’s the Importance of Warming Up and Cooling Down?

Haley Chura: “The shorter the race, the longer the warm-up”

3 hours pre-race: Wake up and take a warm shower. I then make coffee and oatmeal and have a leisurely breakfast. If I’m alone I might text some of my friends who are very early risers.

90 minutes pre-race: I like to arrive at the race venue fairly early, especially if I have to find a parking space or have a longer walk to transition. 

60 minutes pre-race: Do a 15-30 minute very easy jog, finishing with a few strides. The shorter the race, the longer the warm-up. For an Ironman I might only walk a bit. If I’m alone, I’ll listen to some upbeat music, sometimes a single song on repeat.

30 minutes pre-race: Put on my wetsuit or swimskin and start heading toward the water.

15 minutes pre-race: Take a gel and my last sips of hydration. If swim warm-ups are allowed, I’ll get in the water and swim easy for around five minutes to shake out and adjust my wetsuit.

5 minutes pre-race: Take a deep breath and look around and think about how lucky I am to be fit and healthy enough to be in this gorgeous location surrounded by so many other competitors and spectators ready to tackle the challenges of the day! 

Tim Reed: “Deep breaths before the gun goes off”

“Once I’m up and awake, I’ll do some gentle neural flossing and Graston my legs,” Reed said. (The Graston Technique refers to the practice of using a stainless steel instrument to break down scar tissue, increase blood flow, and help mobilize muscles). Once at the race venue and all set up in transition, his routine looks like this: 

  • 30 minutes pre-race: Easy 10-minute jog slowly building to a moderate effort with 6-8 x 30 seconds @ race pace. 
  • 15 minutes pre-race: Easy swimming, building to moderate with  6-8 x 30-40-second bursts @ race pace.  
  • Deep breaths before the gun goes off!

Sam Long: “Get your heart rate up, settle into your breathing”

Like Reed, Long will do some form of mobility or activation work before leaving his hotel on race morning: “It’s usually the foam roller, activation exercises, and some core work,” he said. Once set up in T1, he’ll then do:

  • 5-10-minute light jog: “I make sure to stay really warm here; I want to get a light sweat going during this jog.”
  • In-water pre-swim start: “I like to get into the water as early as possible to find my stroke, find my feel for the water. I’ll do a few race-pace efforts, just short and sharp, to get used to that takeout speed. I’m looking to get my heart rate up and also settle into my breathing.

Lauren Brandon: “If you’re not allowed in the water, be sure to do plenty of arm swings”

For Brandon, her race-day warm-up routine can vary depending on weather and the race, but her ideal scenario looks like this:

  • A 5-minute jog to warm up the body after setting up in transition
  • “If we can get in the water—which isn’t always possible—then I’ll do a short swim close, but if that’s not allowed, then I make sure to do plenty of arm swings and jumps, really trying to get my heart rate up and get my body warmed up and ready to go!”

RELATED: The Right Warm-Up Can Make You Faster

Angela Naeth: “Always keep it simple”

Naeth said her go-to warm-up is a simple one, “I always like to keep it simple.”

  • Easy jog for 5-10 minutes
  • Once in the water, she’ll swim easy for 5-10 minutes and then add a few fast strokes as: 20 fast strokes, 20 easy strokes. She’ll follow that up with some kick and backstroke, and then swim easy right up until the gun goes.
  • “My main goal is to stay warm”

RELATED: The Pros Share Their Go-To Pre-Race Workouts