Do you warm up before an event, or are you the kind of rider who would rather linger over another coffee, or sit in the car with the heater on?
A proper warm can really help to to prepare your mind and body - which will in turn help you get you the most out of your ride.
If you've been training for weeks, or months, for an event - it makes sense to set aside twenty minutes on the day to give yourself the chance to make the most of all your hard work.
Why warm up?
Giving your legs an easy spin before you start to put the effort in means your body has a chance to gradually acclimatize to what's coming.
Over your warm up, you will gradually raise your heart rate, which will allow your blood to pump more oxygen to your muscles. As your temperature rises, you're muscles will become more flexible and mobile, taking you closer to your peak efficiency. All of this adds up to a happier, faster, less injury prone body.
If you're preparing for a race which will involve quick, hard efforts, then including some short, sharp sprints will remind your brain what it feels like to recruit those fast-twitch muscle fibers - meaning that next time you need to do so, in the race, the reaction will be much quicker.
On top of the physical benefits of a warm up, come the mental bonus'. If you're prone to feeling nervous before an event, having a go-to routine will reassure you. Initially, the gentle warm up will give you a chance to focus on your body, and switch your brain off. Over time, you'll be able to associate it with positive results - so stick with it, and keep practicing until your routine becomes natural.
How should you warm up?
The optimum warm-up depends upon the ride you've got ahead of you.
A long ride or sportive: Unless you want to be the first rider out the start gate, and the first rider home - in other words, you're treating this as a race - then you don't need to be getting those fast-twitch muscles fibres going, you just need a gentle spin to prepare your body.
You don't need to set aside specific time to do this - just keep your efforts lower for the first ten to twenty minutes of your ride, gradually increasing the intensity. Think of your effort level as being ranked out of 10 - start at 3/10 for five minutes, then ramp up to 4/10 for the next ten minutes, and notch it up to 5/10 before spending a few minutes at 6/10.
A time trial: A time trial is a longer, sustained effort - so you want to get your body ready to work close to your threshold (8/10) for the duration of the event.
Start with ten minutes of easy spinning, then get your heart pumping with five sets of 20 seconds spinning a fast cadence, and 40 seconds taking it easy. Once you've got your heart pumping, spend 3 minutes riding at around 7/10 - not so hard they you feel like you're tiring your legs, but enough so that your body remembers what race effort feels like. Follow this with five minutes of gentle spinning to the start.
A road race/short event: The shorter the event, the more important the warm up - because your body will need to be ready and raring to knock out those hard efforts right from the word go.
Give yourself 20 - 30 minutes - and start with a ten minute warm up, then follow this up with five sets of 20 seconds fast cadence, and 40 seconds gentle spinning. Then, repeat this, but in a higher gear, so you're working much harder over your 20 second efforts. Once you've completed these, spin an easy gear for five minutes, and you're good to go!