There’s no question that you should warm up your muscles before exercise. But if you compete, race logistics and bad weather can often mean waiting around after your warmup before you actually step onto the starting line.
Do these kinds of delays affect your performance?
According to a new study in the Journal of Strength & Conditioning the answer is yes. This, of course, makes sense. The whole point of a warmup is to “warm up” your muscles. When you wait around—unless you’re doing it in a sauna—your muscles start to cool down immediately.
In the new study, a 30-minute delay after the warmup was long enough to affect race performance. The researchers tested this in both runners and rowers, who warmed up before completing either a 2.4-kilometer running or 2-kilometer rowing time trial. When the racers waited 30 minutes in the cold (41° Fahrenheit) after their warmup, performance on the time trial dropped by 4%—about 20 seconds. Sure, it’s a small amount, but it’s larger than the day-to-day variation of these types of races. So, large enough to push you behind in the pack.
To make the most out of your warmups, especially in cold weather:
- Do your warmup as close to the start of the race as possible, and keep an eye on race delays.
- Warm up indoors, focusing on dynamic stretches like walking toe touches and leg swings.
- Keep your head and extremities covered in the cold to maintain your core temperature.