A warm-up results in a number of physiological responses that are essential for optimal performance. A good analogy is allowing your car engine to warm-up on a cold day. Fuel and oil become more viscous and flows better. Moving parts glide past each other more smoothly and the whole engine performs far more efficiently than if you’d just pressed the accelerator to the floor immediately.
A very important aim of the warm-up is to “switch” your aerobic energy system on prior to you starting your main effort. Doing so means you use energy more efficiently and you are less likely to fatigue prematurely as a result. Your heart rate should be increased progressively, enabling more oxygen to be transported through your blood to and used within the working muscles. With increased body temperature, the range of motion around your joints will also improve and you will get close to your optimal efficiency very quickly.
If you will be doing sprint efforts or preparing for very high-intensity race, neuromuscular activation is also very important. That means that signals will be sent from your brain, through the nervous system to your the muscles to tell them to switch on rapidly. That means doing very short efforts, around 6 seconds long at about 80% maximal effort, to prepare for these demands.
Having a planned warm-up routine will help you prepare mentally for your race or training session. Ideally, you should be relatively relaxed and focused on the task in hand rather than worrying about what the competition is doing. You may choose to think about your process goals or race strategies whilst warming up. High levels of anxiety at the start of a race wastes energy and often leads to poor decision making such as starting off too hard. Many riders like to listen to music through headphones during the warm-up as it helps them achieve the appropriate level of arousal and enables them to shut out what others are doing.