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Tapering before an event: should we/shouldn't we?

You've trained hard put the miles in and ticked most runs off of the plan. It's now time to sit back do a few low mileage runs at a gentle pace and reap the rewards of all that hard work, or is it?

It's not just about cutting back the mileage either. For some the training programme may have included strength and conditioning work, riding your bike, swimming and other types of cross training do we cut back on this aswell?

The research I've read tells me that tapering is essential for a successful race? Some studies indicate that tapering properly can mean a 3 percent improvement in performance; which in running terms means a possible PR!

In addition tapering according to research allows muscle glycogen stores to return to peak levels. Metabolic enzymes, antioxidants, and various hormones, depleted during training, return to their optimal ranges. Muscle and connective tissues repair and strengthen. And, supposedly the body’s immune system improves dramatically too. In short, tapering allows your body to prepare for peak performance.

What about the mind, how do people cope psychology when training slows right down? Anyone got any tried and trusted distraction techniques?

My question is what do you think? Do you taper because your told it's the right thing to do or do you believe in what research tells us? How do you cope with tapering? Do you cut all activities back or is it just running? Or do you just carry on with the same routine right up to race day?

Amanda Amanda

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  1. rob k

    rob k For me it depends on the event. I would taper for a marathon but not anything else and frequently read morerun back to back races. I would, however, tend to avoid anything demanding and fast on the track in the week before a long distance race.

    0 23 Oct 18
  2. Sharnie1

    Sharnie1 Think running debates are eternal, fuelling, fluids, shoes, heartrate, miles, cross training, form, read morecadence, barefoot, electrolytes, realfood, vegan, vegetarian, tailwind, rec run, a week off and carb loading and so on - experience and learning what works for you is the answer there will never be a one size fits all solution so find what works for you for what distances - but keep an open mind and go with what you feel is right for you - I suspect you'll do exactly that because you're a pretty sensible person and do listen to what your body is saying 👍

    0 22 Oct 18
  3. Amanda

    Amanda Some really interesting replies here thankyou. I'm all for tapering possibly more so because from read morebeing here I see how it works and why it's important.

    My reason for putting it up for discussion was I had gotten into a bit of a heated debate about tapering with a friend about different aspects of running and he believes we only taper because research tells us its what we should be doing and something else will be 'all the rage' in time, he doesn't agree with recovery runs either thinks they are a waste of time just take a few day's off?

    We are still friends but I won't be taking any advise from him around my running!!

    0 22 Oct 18
  4. Richard Woodfield

    Richard Woodfield I'm a firm believer in tapering. My guess would be that of people who take their running/training read morereasonably seriously more arrive on race day who are over-tired and a bit lethargic than who are "undercooked" through having tapered too long or too dramatically.

    It's a great feeling to be limbering up for the start of a race feeling that you haven't still got that last 5% of tiredness from your last long run still lingering in the legs.

    I would guess that if you are superfit and fairly youthful tapering may not be quite so critical. I don't fit into those categories tho....

    0 21 Oct 18
  5. Ruth M C

    Ruth M C All very interesting comments. I like to taper, but not for too long as i tend to 'go of the boil'. read moreI agree with Sharnie about getting to the start raring to get at it!

    0 20 Oct 18
  6. Emma12

    Emma12 I reduce the pace and distance but do a few miles at race pace at the start of race week just as a read morereminder. I still do my kickboxing and strength training but reduce the weight and reps. Certainly no sparring and no leg kicks in race week. I agree with Sharnie about being hungry so for me, still going training means time away from the fridge!

    As you've got plenty of float weeks in your plan, you could practice a taper week to see how you feel.

    0 20 Oct 18
  7. SharonMc

    SharonMc I agree with the reasoning behind tapering but have to say I don't enjoy it - was only saying to read moresomeone earlier this week that I can't wait for my race to be over so I can get back to normal running 😁 I tend to run the same amount of times but with shorter distance and intensity but throw in a few strides. A good idea as Sharnie says to stay away from park run as it can be tempting to go out too fast. The Saturday before last year's marathon my daughter wanted to do park run but as soon as we got there I went and did my own run before it started then waited for her. No park run this morning so off for my last leg stretcher now 😁

    0 20 Oct 18
  8. Amanda

    Amanda @Jilly there are some good points. When we think about tapering we concentrate on cutting back the read moremileage, it did make me wonder about all of the other activities that we include in that training programme. I agree with you that we all taper in a different way mostly gained by experience of what has worked in the past. So my thinking is maybe we should take an holistic view when writing the end of the plan including watching food intake more closely?

    @Lizzy there is an argument that the body adapts to your routine when training so if you run x4 per week in training you should run x4 per week in tapering but with less intensity and mileage.

    @Sharnie the idea of having an A/B plan makes sense. Most of us will include a few races within the plan, this is something I will change within my own current plan. I wonder if it's the thought if loosing fitness that drives runners to the start line of a park run prior to a big event?

    1 20 Oct 18
  9. Jilly

    Jilly Sharnie makes 2 very good points which i should pay attention to.

    No PB chasing a week before, have no intention of doing that, but if it wasn't for my neck, I possibly would have considered pushing harder on Sunday than what is sensible.

    And eating food. Have just ate my bodyweight in mint chocolate Matchsticks 🤢

    0 19 Oct 18
  10. Sharnie1

    Sharnie1 I have A and B races in my year - for an A race I taper - it's an important part of recovering from read morethe hard impact of training, and resting the overworked muscles, it also reminds your brain how much you love to run if you're getting a bit jaded from a plan, it's also important to keep ticking over and moving so you don't lose fitness, just at a slower pace and a gradually decreasing distance. The other thing that tends to happen when you suddenly have more time on your hands is that you get hungry - very, very hungry, so it's important you don't overdo the carb loading in the last couple of weeks else you pitch up on the start line carrying more pounds than you've trained with!!

    For me 2 weeks is enough, some people prefer 3 but I know that I go better off a 2 week taper otherwise I start to lose fitness. As for distraction - all the things you don't have time for when you're training hard - a good book, extra time with the family - make a list of the things you missed because of training??

    If it's a Bit event it's in the plan for training so I'll do any last pace work on the Monday or Tuesday and from there slow down and maybe put in an extra rest day depending on the length of the event.

    I've seen a lot of people ruin a potential marathon pb with a pb park run the weekend before - so my advice is steer clear of temptation - your legs are raring to go - don't waste that 👍

    0 19 Oct 18
  11. lizzy

    lizzy I cut back on taper week on my runs and on certain exercises. Never do weights during tapering and read moreon no terms would I start a new class.

    During this week of taper, I've only managed x2 shorts runs ( due to hols) but kept to my LBT class. Mainly ad I have read that cutting back or not doing some of your normal routeen can also confuse the body? I might be wrong on that but it's how I try to treat my taper week.

    0 19 Oct 18
  12. Jilly

    Jilly I believe in tapering. I believe you ease back, get fresh legs and come back in with a bang! It's read morethe way in which people taper that is different.

    For me, I ease back on the runs, though may throw in a little sharpener (short fartlek) the Tuesday before. Possibly keep up my classes but reduce intensity, but I would not do anything I don't normally do, e.g. a yoga class because I think I should start stretching.

    A couple of my training plans have been in 4 week cycles, with the 4th being an easing back week, in miles, intensity, everything. You then move up a notch with the next cycle feeling rested. Tapering is similar in that respect.

    Having said all that, if you're feeling a bit crap, niggle or impending lurgy, you ease back, forget classes and do short easy runs. You don't jeopardise all those weeks of hard work.

    0 19 Oct 18