Some say taper week brings out the worst in runners. They get grumpy, agitated, angry and frustrated because they are required to cut down on mileage (which means running a lot less than usual).
I don’t know where they come from but TAPER WEEK IS THE BEST!
Taper week/s is just as important as your other heavy training weeks. Do it wrongly and you risk performing well on race day.
Want to do it right? Here are the dos and don’ts:
1. Get Enough Sleep!
These days, sleep is considered luxury! We’d be lucky to get in at least 7 hours of good sleep. But to perform at your best, the body needs rest!
As you’ll most probably be too jittery to fall asleep the night before race day, sleep and rest 4-5 days before is crucial!
Aim for some consistency in terms of bed time and sleeping hours.
2. Massage and Foam Rolling
Aim to foam roll and stretch every other day to release any tension and tight knots in your muscles. I like to stretch before bed time because it helps me to sleep better!
3. Eat Enough
For most of us, we fear the weight gain by eating the same amount (If not more) and decreasing mileage.
Just eat as you normally would. Eating the same amount but not running as much will help you fill glycogen stores that have been depleted during training.
Remember not to go to either extremes of eating too much or too little. Both will have an impact on your performance.
4. Carbo Load
Do carbo load 3 days before race day. You can read more about it here.
5. Keep Your Body and Legs Fresh
It is a fine balance between doing too much and too little during the final week of taper. You don’t want to be doing too much that your body cannot recover and you don’t want to be doing too little that your legs feel stiff.
During the final week, do one short speed session and go easy the rest of the days. You can do a combination of strides, 100s, 200s and 400s. Keep reps to a minimum if you do them at max pace but you can do a little more if you’re going at interval pace. This should get your heart racing, blood flowing and legs feeling fresh.
You should feel strong after the session and not drained. Everyone is different so see what works best for you!
6. Stick to Your Routine
The final week is not the time to introduce anything new. Try not to eat anything new even though it may be seemingly healthy. You never know how your stomach or body might react.
Just stick with what you know and what you normally do.
1. No Last Minute Cramming
Unlike when you’re sitting for an exam, last minute cramming WILL NOT WORK!
During taper week, less is always more. Now is not the time to put in last minute lost mileage during training or any sort of key workouts. These will put you at risk for injury and fatigued muscles before race day. Weekly mileage is recommended to be reduced to at least 40% of your usual training week.
It does require some effort but try to decrease overall volume and duration while maintaining intensity. For example, you can use the same effort for your 200m repeats but instead of doing 10 reps, do 5.
A key thing to remember is that any physiological adaptations require at least 4-6 weeks. Last minute training is not going to improve your performance. In fact, it will probably do more harm than good!
2. No Unnecessary Activities
This is not the time to be trying a new sport or workout. Anything from hiking to a spin class is out of the question. Do those AFTER the race.
At this point, you want to be well rested. Reducing overall stress on your body will help your body to function optimally. This includes keeping hormone levels in check which are responsible for many physiological activities in the body including sleep!
3. Don’t Overanalyse
During the final days, you want everything to be perfect! From the food you eat to the amount of sleep that you get. It can be pretty stressful!
Even after putting in all the hard work, you cannot predict what happens on race day. A good performance is never guaranteed to anyone. Just smile and be happy that you’ve managed to put in all the crazy amount of running that is required of marathon training.
Have some confidence by knowing that you have given yourself the best possible chance of achieving your race day goals.
Tapering is serious business. It allows your body to rest and recover from the gruelling hours of training that you’ve put it through. Bodily functions from muscle glycogen stores, hormones, enzymes, the immune system and anything that have gone out of whack during training will return to optimal conditions. Any micro tears in your muscles or connective tissues (tendons and ligaments) will also have a chance to repair and strengthen.
Tapering prepares your body for peak performance on race day. So, TAPER AWAY!
All the best!