For most runners tapering is one of the hardest things to do really well. However, tapering is truly the key to a successful race. After months of training a proper taper sets you up for a great race.
I promise you this: There is one sure-fire way to have a bad race – overtrain the taper. That sounds harsh, but the truth is that an inadequate taper is certain to leave you heading into a race without the possibility of running at your potential best. I am repeatedly asked the same question that also frustrates me as a runner, “During the taper, if I am feeling good, is it okay if I run a little extra?” The answer is simple – it is totally okay to run a little extra... IF you want to royally screw up your race.
Tapering is all about resting your body and allowing it to heal. You want to step onto the starting line on race day fully prepared and at 100% peak fitness.
So choose what is most important to you and be sure to rest during the taper. Check out these tips:
- Less is More: The truth is that it takes 2 weeks for a workout to factor into your overall fitness level. That means that your workouts during your 10 days to 2 weeks of tapering will not enhance your fitness. Workouts during the taper are strictly designed to avoid feeling “stale” and to keep you from going stir crazy. Feeling fatigued or nursing an injury? Take an extra rest day. Be conservative with your training as you taper and remember: You can easily do more harm than good by overtraining as you taper.
- Intensity vs. Volume: Although your overall volume of mileage should decrease signficiantly during the taper, your intensity does not need to change. You can run your designated mileage at the assigned paces. You would be better off running a hard 3 miles than an easy 5 miles as you taper. In addition, if you are overcoming aches and pains consider taking a rest day so that your run days are quality runs. Think “quality over quantity” as you taper.
- Rest Rest Rest: Rest does not simply mean rest from running. It also means rest from lifting, rest from swimming, rest from cycling, rest from zumba-ing, rest from yard work, etc. etc. You will have extra time on your hands as you taper. Don’t treat this as an opportunity to pick up a new sport or start a massive remodeling project. Read a book and go to bed! Seriously – rest. You can use it after all of this time in training!
- Stay Healthy: Many runners are susceptible to illness as they taper. Take extra measures to stay healthy. Simple practices like handwashing, taking vitamins, and staying hydrated will help you to stay well. In addition avoid anyone who is carrying a virus. Hand sanitizer is your friend!
- Take Care of Details: During training you grow accustomed to hydrating well, eating well, taking electrolytes, stretching, and going to bed early before a long run. Although your training volume is decreasing don’t let these great habits slip away. In fact, this is the time to really focus on taking care of details. Wear compression socks, use the Grid Roller, drink electrolytes… all of the details will set you up for great race.
- Be Prepared to Be Stir Crazy: You will undoubtedly go a little stir crazy during the taper. That is okay and it is normal. I read the entire Twilight Series during one taper! If you are not going stir crazy you may not be resting enough!
- Trust the Taper: Repeat the mantra: Trust the Taper, Trust the Taper, Trust the Taper. The taper is really where all of your training meets rest in a perfect race day experience.
Train smart + Taper Smart = The Perfect Race!
Good luck! And Trust the Taper!