Tapering should be a runners favourite word (I know its mine) but many runners stress out about losing fitness or gaining weight in the tapering period and mistakenly train hard up until race day...dont do this!
Tapering refers to rest and recovery from a long training program and is a vital for a marathon and half marathon distances. It is best to consist of two or three weeks before your event. I start tapering immediately after my last longest training run which is usually two weeks to the day before my race.
Tapering doesn’t mean you stop running altogether, but your long runs will be decreased and your overall weekly kilometres should be reduced by 30-40%. You can still run 3-4 times a week, of distances under 15-20km for a marathon and 10-12km for a half marathon.
Many runners don’t embrace the joy of tapering and fear they will lose fitness if they don’t keep piling on the kilometres and run up until race day. But research shows the reverse is true. Studies show that runners who reduce their training load- both with distances and intensity (speed and strength work) achieve a 3% increase in performance on race day, than runners who increase their training loads right up until race day..it doesn't sound much, but 3% can make a big difference to your race time..it will get you a PB and isn't that the ultimate goal with our running...plus it makes you feel so much better to not be tired and fatigued when race day comes around.
Tapering and recovery repairs and strengthen muscles, it gives the body a chance to store glycogen energy and fluids rather than depleting them all in the long distance runs. Mentally it helps combat fatigue and the mental strain of doing the long distance runs.
Cut your long runs and weekly km totals back two weeks prior to your event and make your last run 3 days before your event. 95% of running events are held on Sunday mornings, so I make my last run on the Thursday morning before my race.
Things to remember in Tapering
* You are no longer working on fitness gains, you are working on recovery
* You are replacing fluids and nutrients that you need to repair your systems and to stay there until race day and during your race- intense training depletes these things
* You may put on a kilo or two, but that is just fluids and carbs that are waiting to be burned on race day
* The repair of muscles can only be achieved by reducing your training load, it cannot be done by increasing it
* Tapering allows your bodies immune system to repair and rebuild
*Ideally cut out other non running training as well in the taper- so cross training, gym sessions and weights(especially lower body) other high energy sports- like football, tennis, netball, basketball etc
*Yoga and Pilates is Ok for the first week of taper, but should also be cut out in the week before your race
* Stretching can be done right up until race day, and massage can be done probably up until 3-4 days before the race- do not have any deep tissue massage within 48 hours of your race day
* Increase protein intake in the first week of taper as it will assist in muscle repair as well
* Increase your good carb intake (fruit, vegetables, wholegrain breads and cereals, brown rice, legumes, nuts etc) all through the taper cycle as well as increasing your daily water intake..not by litres and extra 500mls a day is fine.
* Give up alcohol in the taper and reduce caffeine intake..
* Carb loading should be included in the taper- 2 days out from the Half and 3 days out from the marathon
Mostly embrace the TAPER, its your reward for all the hard training and its a way to prepare your body and your mind for race day- if you do this for two to three weeks before your race- you will be standing on the race line jumping out of your skin to get running- this is a much nicer feeling than standing there feeling weary and tired...