The undervalued warm-up (and pre-set)

Every workout should start with a proper warm-up.

If you think your warm-up is taking away your precious training time or slowing your overall pace/speed of the workout, you are missing the point of a warm-up.

A warm-up is to help you execute better during your main set of your workout.

In as little as 5-15 minutes, you can increase blood flow, send more oxygen to the working muscles, prepare your muscles and nerves for an upcoming effort, improve range of motion, and most importantly, help your mind prepare for the upcoming effort. Although a warm-up will not prevent injuries it can certainly reduce your risk.

Even if your workout is focused on skills, form or recovery, it's important to give your body the time it needs to gradually increase the intensity/effort to ensure that you perform your best.
Now you may be thinking that a warm-up includes a little dynamic stretching or light foam rolling before you start your cardio workout and you are not incorrect in this thinking. A proper warm-up not only includes the mobility work that you do before your cardio and muscular systems begin to turn-on but a warm-up needs to activate key muscles, tendons, ligaments and nerves that will allow for a smooth transition before your more specific "work" during your workout. Therefore, we also continue warming up with a pre-set after our "warm-up".
That's a whole lot of warming up! But trust us. It's all worth it when your body is prepped and ready for your main set. We learned about the concept of a pre-set (after the normal 5-10 min designated warm-up and before the main set) from coach Matt Dixon and coach Gerry Rodrigues (two great coaches/mentors). You'll really notice the benefits of a pre-set as the pre-set can often feel harder (or more uncomfortable) than the main set but this is simply because the body is getting primed to perform for the main set. If you skip a proper warm-up (or pre-set) you are simply asking your body to perform in a compromised state as you are not yet ready to push hard (or to perform with good form). If you are the athlete who feels like it takes 20, 30 or 40 min to feel good rhythm (or form) when you are working out or feel you are time-crunched and need to make every minute count in a workout, you'll get so much more, physically and mentally, from your workout with the right warm-up and pre-set. In other words, why use a main set to continue to warm-up and only have your last 5-10 min of your workout be your "best feeling efforts"? It's time to make every workout count. Stop struggling to get through your workouts because you aren't giving your body time to warm-up. We love the idea of a pre-set after the warm-up as it improves neuromuscular control, prepares the muscular and cardio system for what's to come later/next in the workout and gets the mind prepared for the upcoming effort. It also positively stresses the body in many ways, whether it's a form-focused pre-set for improved range of motion or a short intensity pre-set to boost blood flow. If you ever watch cyclists before a time-trial or crit race, track runners or swimmers at a swim meet, they spend a considerable amount of time warming up before they compete. You know you wouldn't start a race without a proper warm-up so why do it in training? And keep in mind that the warm-up and pre-set are still contributing to your overall workout time, distance and training stress so it's not taking away from your valuable "workout" time. (Certainly if you are obsessed with metrics, you will need to change this thinking that you need to get in x-miles or yards for a good workout. We always instruct our athletes to go by time and not distance as it allows for a more quality workout).

Here are a few warm-ups and pre-sets to include in your swim, bike and run workouts: SWIM: Warm-up: 8-10 min EZ swim 1-2 x 200 buoy 4-6 x 50's kick w/ fins (steady effort) w/ 10 sec rest Pre set: 12-16 x 25's (or 8-10 x 50's for more advanced swimmers) w/ paddles and ankle strap (optional snorkel). Descend in sets of 4 from 75-90%. w/ 5-8 sec rest. BIKE: Warm-up: 5-15 minutes EZ spin 9-12 minutes increasing effort from Z1-low Z3 (or 70-85% effort) every 3 minutes Pre set 2-3x's: 1 min z1, 30 sec Z2, 1 min Z1, 30 sec Z3, 1 min Z1, 30 sec Z4 No break, continue to repeat 2-3 rounds total. OR another Pre-set: 3-5 x's: all Z2 effort (1 min 70-75 rpm, 1 min 80-85 rpm, 30 sec 90 rpm, 30 sec 100+ rpm) No break, continue to repeat 3-5 rounds total. RUN: 3-5 min walking with 2-3x's 10-15 sec skipping 2-3 x 5 min EZ jog w/ 30 sec walk Pre-set: 1 min EZ, good form run 30 sec fast feet/pick-ups 1 min EZ run 40 sec fast feet/pickups 1 min EZ run 50 sec fast feet/pickups 1 min EZ run

60 sec fast feet/pickups 1 min EZ run 50 sec fast feet/pickups 1 min EZ run
40 sec fast feet/pickups 1 min EZ run
30 sec fast feet/pickups 1 min EZ run

The next time you are about to workout and question your energy, ability to execute or feel excited to challenge yourself, just remind yourself that you are only a warm-up (and pre-set) away from a great workout.