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warm up

The 3% Rule


The 3% Rule

By ALP Coach Jennifer Sharp


You spend money on equipment, coaching, nutritional advice, etc., yet are you getting the most out of your racing? If you knew that you could improve your cycling by 3% and increase the likelihood of winning a race - you’d do it, right?

At this point, you’ve probably pined a number or two to a jersey and raced. And by now, you should have a good idea about what you need to take with you in your race bag (click here for a race checklist). You’ve likely figured out that a gel 15 minutes before the start of a time trial is better than 15 minutes after you complete an effort. And hopefully it’s been at least a little while since someone clued you in on not wearing under-roos beneath your cycling shorts. 

While there are a million general rules of thumb you could apply to becoming a better racer, there are two things that can help you with that top 3% of improvement: your warmup and cool down.

Why focus on a warmup? A proper warmup promotes blood flow to your legs by increasing your muscle and body temperature. By warming up, you dilate your blood vessels, improve your range of emotion and can mentally prepare for the effort at hand. Your warmup should be specific to the type of race your about to do - whether that be a road race, crit, time trial, short track, endurance mountain bike race, etc. 

Chicago Women's Elite Cycling Team Warming up for the Time Trail at Joe Martin Stage Race

Chicago Women's Elite Cycling Team Warming up for the Time Trail at Joe Martin Stage Race

What kind of warmup? For the sake of simplicity, I’m going to focus on crits. At ALP Cycles we prescribe the following warmup protocol: 

Total crit warmup time: 38 minutes

10 minutes in zone 1/2, easy spinning

3 x 1 minute high cadence (110+ rpms) with 1 minute of easy riding between. 

2 minutes zone 3

1 minute easy

4 minutes zone 3 

1 minute easy

2 minutes at functional threshold power

2 minutes easy

:30 seconds HARD

5 minutes easy

After you complete your race, you should immediately start thinking about your cool down as a way to aid recovery. Post-race go for an easy recovery spin or hook up to the trainer. Your perceived exertion should be a 3 or less out of 10, with a cadence between 80-100. Easy cool down rides help you recover from the race more quickly and allows you to train again in a shorter amount of time. If you can grab a recovery drink (3:1 - 5:1 carbohydrate to protein ratio) and sip it while you cool down, even better. Cool downs should last anywhere between 15-20 minutes.

Want to learn more about the 3% rule or other warmup protocols designed for your specific race and what you can do to maximize your results on the bike? We can help! Contact ALP Cycles Coaching today.