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Warm up for BMX racing and BMX training

This month I want to mention the importance of warming up. There seems to be a lack of understanding that heating up is burning energy, or “burning matches” as they say in cycling. The truth of the matter is that a warm-up routine is not only to prepare the body for optimal performance, but also to prepare the mind for the task at hand. The best results in training and racing are the result of various components and a good warm-up is easily the number one limiting factor of great performance in training and racing.

I was fortunate to spend some time observing and speaking with Olympic caliber track and field athletes as they prepared for their training at the Chula Vista training center. Although the actual training was only going to be 6-8 sprints, they warmed up for 30 minutes and this was less than 2 minutes of explosive work in total. The truth is, you want to be able to do the actual training at full physiological and psychological capacity. When I have my athletes sprint, the purpose is to program the physiological component with the psychological component so that several important things happen:

o Neurologically, the mind is telling the motor units of a muscle group to activate, the mind needs to clearly tell the motor units what they need to do without hesitation. Imagine two phone lines connected and open for you to communicate. The mind needs to be ready and undistracted to get the message across. A proper intense warm-up with mental focus and a vision of what you want to do will help facilitate this.

o For the body to respond to the mental request for movement, this neural pathway must be activated to perform the correct movements and to full capacity. It is crucial that the motor units and muscles are activated before the intense effort expected. In other words, if the muscles are cold, not only will there be a delay, there is also the possibility that the muscles will not respond to full contraction.

o For BMX racing, proper warm-up will also release lactate acid faster and recycle it with excellent efficiency. If there is no warm-up, the body will not tolerate lactate kindly either. Make sure to do a long sprint to remove wear and tear and open up this component of the system as well. (Do this before practice, not before the first heat!)

When I was a young pro warming up for 20 minutes in the woods at, say, South Park NBL National an hour before my practice, my teammates used to look at me like I was a freak. I remember them and most of the pros using practice as a warm-up, but they never seemed ready for the first heat and therefore would never get going for the rest of the day. A good warm-up sets the tone for your race day!

A proper warm-up will prevent an athlete from neurologically confused when riding a new track, as they may not properly adapt to the new dynamics of a track, making them guess if they feel good about themselves on this track. This could possibly affect the confidence of the athletes, spending more time without being sure before the first heat, when they need to use this energy to be ready for everything when that door falls.

Warm-up routines vary for different demands, both for racing and for workouts on and off the bike. It’s best to develop a complete routine for speed training and then apply that routine before practicing at an event and even before practicing on a local night. There are 2 different types of energy systems that need to warm up: aerobic and anaerobic. Almost always an anaerobic “dynamic warm-up” is more specific to BMX, Sprints, or strength work. In BMX, every move is a “dynamic demand”; therefore, dynamic warm-up is necessary. Usually this means sprints of all varieties, lengths, and intensities. The duration can be a minimum of 10 minutes to 20 minutes filled with sprints and maybe even some bunnyhop and coaster manuals. Of course, this would be done with plenty of rest between efforts and without running for 20 minutes consistently. Once this is done, training or track practice will come. Again, you want to be on the track ready for the demands, so that you can program yourself to get to know the track the best you can!

Off-bike training, such as GYM work or plyometric training, can generally benefit from a dynamic warm-up that consists of a combination of both exercises or bike sprinting. Exercises can consist of making the body not only achieve neural adaptation, but also get full range of motion so there are no surprises when squatting or doing a pli jump. The same principle applies in terms of neural activation: make the mind and body respond together in a cohesive way so that you can get the most out of exercise and training. A typically dynamic warm-up will consist of exercises such as jumping rope, lunges, body squats, and light non-static stretches. A quick note on stretching: straining a muscle by stretching more than it is currently capable of or holding it for more than 20 seconds can also damage it in the form of micro tears. The end result will be a slight paralysis of the muscles from contracting at full capacity because those slightly torn muscle fibers just won’t respond; there damaged. So stretch slightly if you need to stretch before the activity.

Well there you have it, warming up and doing a dynamic one specifically for BMX racing and training will allow you to get ready and get the most out of your session.

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