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Perfecting Your Race-Day Warmup

Your race day warm-up is something you should have practiced multiple times prior to race day. One thing I have learned from having coached hundreds of athletes is that most have never developed a consistent race warm-up plan, they just wing it. Not getting this right can cost you at the finish line.

Warming up by feel leads to inconsistent training and race day results, but with some practice, can lead to a strong pre-race routine that will power you to the finish line. Developing your pre-race or pre-interval training routine and getting it right will take time, and you will need to go through some trial and error to get it right. Honing your pre-race routine is best done when you are doing interval training sessions that lead up to key races.

Below is an outline of a race warm-up model that I use with my private clients and is part of my rowing training programs. If you do not already have a solid consistent race warm-up routine give it a try prior to speed interval work that is part of your training program.

  • Start by doing a general warm-up at about 50 percent of your current race speed lasting about eight to 12 minutes.
  • Follow the general warm-up with a series of three short training bursts lasting about 40 to 60 seconds. The first interval should be slightly faster than your general warm-up speed, roughly 60% of race speed and go for about 40 to 60 seconds then rest for about 90 seconds. The second interval (40 to 60 seconds) should be at 70% speed and the third at 80% of race speed. Then rest for 3 to 5 minutes.
  • Finish your race warm-up with four shorter intervals (about four) lasting about 20 at 90%, 100%, 110% of race speed. Then and then finish with the last interval at your projected race speed.

Try and finish your race warm-up about 3-5 minutes prior to the start time of your race or training pieces. It is best to practice your race warm-up multiple times before you get to your event. What is described above works best for races lasting between one and 30 minutes in length.

Longer races like a half or full marathons may only require a general warm-up lasting eight to twelve minutes. Sprint racing one minute or less is a whole different beast, especially when running.

Coach Bob Kaehler is a three-time Olympian (1992, 1996 and 2000) and four-time world champion rower. He began rowing at the age of sixteen at the Sagamore Rowing Club, N.Y., and continued through his college years at Rutgers University, and at Columbia where he earned his Master’s Degree in Physical Therapy. After nearly two decades as a physical therapist, Coach Kaehler now devotes his efforts to his true passion of health, fitness, and athletic performance. Coach Kaehler has developed a training and conditioning system based on principles of Body Balance. Kaehler’s innovative Body Balanced approach helps athletes achieve the perfect combination of strength and flexibility, to attain maximum power and efficiency for their chosen activity. For more information on Coach Kaehler and his services, visit

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