Need to know how to warm up prior to a triathlon? Will Clarke advises how to ready yourself for taking part in swim-bike-run event.

Warming up is an important part of everyone’s preparation. It increases the blood flow to your muscles, warming your body enough, and waking up the key muscle groups that you’re going to be using. By going through the range of movements required slowly enough will ensure that you’re not going to surprise your muscles doing some damage when the gun finally fires.

In triathlon I’d say that you really don’t need too do too much in the way of warming up, arguably it’s perhaps one of the sports that requires the least amount of warming up. The reason is, triathlon is an endurance sport, so you probably shouldn’t be moving so fast the whole way that you’re at risk of pulling muscles. 

Triathlon is an endurance sport, so you probably shouldn’t be moving so fast the whole way that you’re at risk of pulling muscles.

If you’re a very fast athlete able to run 20kph average for a 5k or 10k, your body will be well used to that speed anyway. Besides you’re starting the day with a swim which is very low impact, and most of us are not swimming so fast that we’re even able to do damage to our muscles.

Next up is the bike which is also almost zero impact, by the time the run comes round, I’d say that you’ll be warmed up enough! My other reason is warming up has an energy cost, I know only small, but it all counts and it’s all time on your feet.

Several days before

In my opinion you should have a rest day 2-3 days before the race, where you sleep in and top up your energy stores, to make sure you’re completely fresh before starting the engine again the following days. This strategy will do you no harm at all and you won’t lose any form the week before the race.

The day before

The day before your race is very important. I’d always try to train all three sports for a very short amount of time to familiarise yourself with the movement, loosen up the muscles and get the feeling of going fast in your legs. Try to include some short but fast accelerations to get the blood flowing to the muscles and this will help you feel good and ready to go on race day.

On the day

On race morning I’d advise a very light jog for 5-10mins, before getting on your swim gear and stretching the legs with some dynamic exercises like leg swinging. I’d actually avoid statically stretching the muscles as this will take away some of the tension and power out of your legs. However if you have some injury concerns like a sore calf muscle then it can be sensible to give some extra attention to that muscle and stretch it out properly before the race.

Depending on your swimming level, I also like to get in the water before the race providing it’s not too cold in there. Feel for the water is important for swimming fast. We usually swim close to our max for the first 200m to get into position at the start so, for me, it’s important to be ready for that.

After the race

It’s important afterwards that you spend some time cooling down. I’d advise first taking a protein shake and putting on some compression socks which are perfect for recovery. It’s especially important if you have ambitions to do some good quality training the next week or you have another race just around the corner.

Remember that so long as you recover well from it, a race is the best training session you’ll ever do so you’ll always take a big fitness boost from it. Try to do something very light, swimming and cycling are perfect as they’re low impact.

I think few people will have the energy and the motivation to go running after a triathlon. Triathlon events usually require quite a bit of walking, for example if you have to get back to the car park, so there is another good opportunity to get the fresh blood back to your muscles aiding your recovery. 

Picture credit: Hans Christiansson /