Triathlon race warm up

I’m wondering what people do to warm up pre-triathlon. Specifically interested in 70.3 but love to hear thoughts on any distance. I’ve warmed up on a turbo before, but as the bike typically needs to be in transition at least 30 minutes before race start, which is an hour or more before you’re actually on the bike, I’m not sure how beneficial that is. I’ve also tried doing a short run with a few pick-ups just to get the blood flowing, which I can usually do closer to swim start. Also tried doing neither of those and just doing a swim warm-up, and then turning up the kick toward the end of the swim leg to get the legs going. Not sure any of those is particularly great, but also not sure what else to do. Would love to hear y’all’s thoughts. If it matters for your answer, I’m in my 6th year racing tris, 42 years old, usually finishing top 3 overall in local races, so I’m very competitive and want to win - hence, wanting to optimize the warm-up.

My experience:

Before a sprint, 1-2k run at easy pace to move blood. Then into wetsuit and 5min swim before the start.

Before Olympic or 70.3, just 5-10min easy swimming. I would also consider the run here but as start times were so early I figured to rather keep it simple.

Worked well for me!

Middle distance? Best warm up has to be a swim…if you’re allowed in the water. Easy pace for as long as is allowed, with a couple of short sharp sprints. Get out, stay warm and have a gel.

Kicking more or faster at the end of the swim readies you for the run out of the water to the bike. Imo this is comfort more than performance, but if it’s a few seconds you’re after the received wisdom is a fast kick in the last 200-400m.

Warming up on the bike just creates a potential DNS situation, and doesn’t really prep you for the swim. A rapid jog in a wetsuit to make the start line if you can’t get in the water early.

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Great - Thanks, you guys. It’s good to know I’m not crazy and that I don’t need to worry about trying to get some great bike warm-up in. Thank you for the responses!

Same age, similar FOP competitive level, 15 years racing, for reference.

This, almost exactly.

Sprints and olys, I run, including 2-3 race pace efforts. Then wetsuit on, and I go swim 5-10 minutes to loosen up, again 2-3 surges to race pace. Once out of the water, I’ll do a couple of quick strides in the wetsuit. If I feel like I’ve been standing around too long, I’ll do 10-15 pushups as I wait (if it’s a beach start). Otherwise, treading water keeps the blood flowing enough for me.

70.3s just the swimming. By T1, I’m plenty warm enough to support an 85% FTP effort jumping right on the bike.


Excellent. Thank you!

Now that I’ve got power on my bike im finding that in reality i need to go easier by rpe when first starting on the bike. That horrible feeling thr first few minutes was because of going too hard too soon burning up valuable glycogen.

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For anything 70.3 or longer I’d just go with a little swimming and maybe a little jog/dynamic movements to get the blood flowing. In a race that long you don’t really want to use up any energy at all in the warm-up.

For Oly’s I haven’t found a good sweet spot, but for Sprints/ Super-Sprints I always try to get a warm up in all 3 sports. The rule of thumb I’ve heard is to warm up in reverse race order. That means running (I have a standard warm up that last 15mins for all my run workouts that ends with some strides), I’ll bring a trainer along for a similarly structured bike warm up and then a swim getting use to the water with some sprints to get ready for the start.

The other rule of thumb I’ve heard is “the shorter the race, the longer the warm-up.” I’ve found that to be true in my racing.

I used to do this, and then I found it’s just too logistically challenging in most cases and wasn’t making me perform any better. YMMV. Certainly a swim, but I’ve found swimming and a small amount of race-pace running is plenty for Sprints. I found that trying to get in all three in some kind of structured warmup in addition to all the other stuff you have to do before the race added to pre-race anxiety and just made it harder to relax, which is already hard enough for most of us before our races.

I like to pay the $10 or whatever for a reserved transition spot in local races, too. There’s something sublime about showing up like 45 minutes prior to the gun, setting everything up, quick run, wetsuit on, quick swim and go. I don’t miss the days of being among the first to show up at the race site just to sit there for two and a half hours or whatever and have to wait in line to pee like six times.

This is certainly true for me, within reason. It doesn’t really scale. I warm up the same way for Olys and Sprints: ~10 min of running with a couple of race-pace surges of 30s or so, wetsuit on, go swim and all that stuff I wrote before. 70.3+, just the swim.

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From experience in long (IM) and shorter races (olympic) the key is to get loose and stay warm. A short run and a few hundred meters in the water, but don’t get cold and wait around, your body temp can drop if it’s cold out.

Warming up helps you to prevent injury. What happens is that during a warm-up, your heart rate and breathing gradually increase. The blood flow to your muscles also increases and your body temperature is increased. Eventually, your body will be able to meet the demands of your workout. Read more about specific running warmups in an article I wrote