It’s taper time! For many athletes, the cut back in volume of training to get ready for race day can be as big a challenge as training. Why is tapering important and what should you be doing during taper?
Congratulations! You’ve made it this far in training and have just a couple weeks to go having finished your last long run two weeks before race day. You’ve done the work and put in the miles and supplemental training.
A good taper reduces workout volume yet still keeps the athlete sharp by maintaining some intensity and training volume. Typically there will still be some short uptempo work scheduled. Plan to keep your same running schedule just with less mileage. Completely stopping running could leave you feeling very flat and achy. However, if you come into taper with more aches and pains for whatever reason, a more substantial taper can only help.
Resist the urge to cram in any training that you missed or work as hard as you can at every workout because a little voice is telling you to push hard. Ignore that voice and remember that rest during taper will make you strong for race day. This is not the time to use all the new found "free time" to work on all the house and garden projects you have been putting off. This is a great time to remind yourself of those hard workouts you’ve had this training cycle. Remind yourself about how you pushed through the challenges and finished.
Instead of cutting calories because you are not training as long, eat mindfully and healthfully reminding yourself that you are building your body for race day. During a taper (with proper fueling), muscle damage has a chance to repair, glycogen stores increase, enzyme and hormone levels that have been depleted return to optimal ranges, Vo2 Max increases, immune function and muscle strength increases. These are all good things that can set you up for a great race.
Some athletes find they sleep better and their mood improves. Some athletes find that they are grumpy and odd little pains can manifest. Some studies show that performance can improve anywhere from 1-10% with a proper taper regardless of what you feel like during taper! So, stick to the plan and keep your eye on race day!