What is tapering?
Tapering essentially means reducing our training load to help us fully recover and become 100% fresh come race day to bring our best legs and fitness. This usually occurs in the final 1-3 weeks before a race, depending on the distance.
Why should I taper?
Training hard in the final week before race day will bring us minimal fitness gains, whilst still carrying a risk of injury and creating fatigue within your body. As a result, we reduce our training volume and intensity so that our body has time to fully recover from the hard training of the previous weeks and months. This allows our bodies to build back their carbohydrate stores which will have been depleted from many long runs and allows any muscle damage to repair.
What should I do when I am tapering?
Tapering usually starts the day after your final long training run. When you are tapering you are spending less time out running which gives you a lot more free time. So what should you do with all of this new found time? The focus of tapering is on recovery, so it's best to get some extra sleep, focus on mobility and cook yourself some high quality meals. This is also a great opportunity to catch up with friends or family who you might have previously been too busy to see!
We still want to keep up some speed work to keep us 'sharp' and capable of running fast, however we do this with much less volume than a normal training block.
For most of us, tapering feels super counter-intuitive, and can be the hardest period of a training block. We've spent weeks and months training hard, building good routines and building our mileage only to feel like we're going backwards right before the race. Trust the process and when everything magically falls into place half way through your race you'll realise why we did it this way.
You've put in all of that hard work, now it's time for the final week - read on to find out how to best prepare in the week before your race.