Alright guys, let's talk about tapering. Tapering is something that you do before you lead up to an important race. Typically for longer distance events, we look at doing what's called a taper period. Simply put, a taper period is a period of time before a race when you reduce both the volume and the intensity of your run work outs.
You should have been working super hard and have come through a peak season; a really hard cycle in your training. Now you're closing in on your marathon or half marathon, whatever it might be, and it's time to taper. So what does that look like? Well, it depends on a couple things. It depends on your fitness level, and the race distance you're running.
The following guidelines are what I would recommend as appropriate taper periods:
Marathons - Your taper should be somewhere between two to three weeks, so 14 to 21 days before your event you should begin your taper period.
If you're running a Half Marathon, it will be between 10 to 14 days.
5K and 10K races, you still want to taper. 5 - 7 days is typically a sufficient taper period for these distances.
You will continue to train during the taper period, but you're certainly not going to be doing hard, intense work outs. Your plan should include primarily easy mileage, with a lot of relaxed, chill running. The work is in the bag and you can't get any more fit in the last couple weeks.
The important part of tapering, is to slowly reduce your volume and intensity in order to enhance muscle recovery, and your body's ability to repair itself. So that's the reason why we taper.
What To Expect
Here's a couple things you should be expecting during the taper:
If you're like me and a lot of runners, you're going to get anxious during this time of reduced workload. You're going to feel like you're not working hard enough. It's totally normal and that's okay. A lot of people actually start to get grumpy and I'm one of those people in that camp. I start to get really edgy in the last few weeks leading into a race because of the taper. It's something you should just be expecting. Know that it's coming and don't let yourself get rattled. It's part of the process, it's part of your training, and it's super critical if you want to put down a good race!
Tips For During Your Taper
As mentioned above, the reduced running during the taper period can be tough psychologically, so I like to stay busy by shifting my focus to race preparations, while I've got some extra time on my hands and off my feet.
The first thing I'd recommend is; Study The Course you're running. Have a look at the course profile. Look at where the aid stations are and where the turns are. Sometimes you can find videos on YouTube of the course, which helps you to identify the key points in that race. It's a nice visual you can program into our mind and something that can help reduce your nerves on race day. You can also research what the aid stations will be serving; what type of drink, what type of gels, where will you find stuff on the course? Not that you have to memorize these things, but it will give you something to think about, and help you create your race strategy going in.
Another thing you can do is make sure you Get A Lot Of Rest in those last few weeks. You've worked your butt off at this point, so take your rest. Stay super hydrated, and get eight hours of sleep each night if you can. You need to promote recovery so that you can perform your best come race day.
Speaking of the last couple weeks, I'll give you one last tip. What I see happen for a lot of runners, is that they're more Prone To Getting Sick in the last couple weeks before a race. The body has been through a high stress training cycle and often the reduced intensity can signal the immune system to relax as well. So make sure your diet is on point and that you're drinking lots of water each day. You can use a Vitamin C supplement to give your immune system a boost.
If you're reading this post and you're in your taper period or getting close.....congratulations! Enjoy the taper because you've earned it. Just remember that it's a part of the process and is an essential step in your program. If you have any questions, leave a comment below and I'll answer every single one.
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