Tapering; what, why, how?
I thought I’d explain a bit about what, how, why of tapering! I'm using a marathon as an example in this blog post, you also need to taper for all races; shorter races get a shorter taper and longer races a longer one.
The taper is when your training reduces back before the race (phew eh!). So usually distance drops back first, then speed and then the final week before the race you do very little (runs that week have very little training value!). For a marathon the taper can last 2, 3 or 4 weeks, 3 is more common; so your longest long run of training will be 2, 3 or 4 weeks before race day.
Why do we do this? The taper allows your body time to adapt to all the training you’ve done, so it goes away and builds your muscles, bones, joints etc stronger. It also allows you to fully recover from the training build, so you’ll be full of beans and bounce and hopefully niggle free come race day. The taper is one of the reasons you can run the race faster than your long runs; you went into every long run a little fatigued from the training that week and the previous long run.
Some people feel energised by the taper, some people feel flat/low, some people feel they should be doing more (don’t!), some people are very glad that the running load is reducing! Everyone is different so don’t worry if your experience is different to others :) Things you can do to help your body make the most of the taper;
eat good, nutrient rich food with good quality protein to help that recovery and adaptation
sleep well and rest properly
stay off the alcohol if you can, it disrupts how our body uses protein for recovery and increases inflammation
Here are a few reminders for when you are in the taper phase itself;
Tapering is all about prioritising recovery to let your body adapt to all the training and so you feel totally fresh and ready to go on race da. So if you feel you need to rest to do that, rest.
There is very little training value to the runs from now to the race day
If you are injured, have a niggle, or have been ill recently it’s even more important that you rest up and recover fully. It’s far, far better to be fully fit and well on race day morning that anything else!
If you aren’t sure take things easy and skip runs
In fact you’ll lose very, very little fitness if you do no running at all between now and the race :)
To help your body recovery and fully adapt to all your training remember to keep hydrated, eat good nutrient rich foods with high quality protein (your body used more protein to recover)
Also remember that plenty of sleep and relaxing rest time will really help too