There is a certain art to tapering, as it feels strange at first to pull back on your training so dramatically while your instincts are telling you to run like mad right up until the last minute. And as withdrawal symptoms set in, we naturally put pressure on ourselves to hit the pavements.
To prevent you from going mad with frustration and to ensure you arrive on the start line feeling refreshed, here are a few pointers to help you perfect the taper.
1. Avoid junk miles
There’s a good chance that you’ll be feeling increasingly nervous as race day gets closer. And a bit like last minute revision, we often have an urge to cram in some extra miles in the week or two leading up to a race. Don’t be lured into thinking that because you missed out on several weeks of training due to injury or work getting in the way, you can make up for it now. Because at this stage in the game, it’s not going to help you get a faster time.
Perceived wisdom says that your training load should reduce to approximately 80%, 60% and 30% respectively in the three weeks before the race. Don’t worry - you won’t lose any fitness - because the idea is to gradually decrease your training load so that you peak on race day!
2. Rest - but not too much
There’s a fine balance between decreasing your training load and ‘over-tapering’ to the point where you become part sofa. Because, there’s a danger that if you rest too much you’ll feel sluggish - both mentally and physically - which isn’t what you want.
You need to find that balance where you feel satisfied that you’re doing enough to ensure your legs don’t get heavy but simultaneously have time to rest and recover. It’s tricky!
3. Don’t forget speed work
Speedwork is generally speaking quite hard work - so it may seem ironic to be asking you do some in the three weeks where you should be taking it easy. But although you may be ‘tapering’, this doesn’t mean that all your runs will be ‘easy’.
Hopefully your training plan will involve some tempo runs which will allow you to blow out the cobwebs without doing any detrimental damage.
Most runners admit to not doing enough stretching. Indeed, it’s not glamorous, nor does it feel like training - but if you’ve been neglecting your stretching, now is a good time to do some. You should combine some active stretching (before a run) and passive stretching (after a run).
5. Treat yourself to a massage
After all the hard work you’ve put in, why not treat yourself to a sports massage or other sort of pampering session? Sports massage is one of the best ways to alleviate your aching muscles as well as help improve performance. The ideal time to have one is 2-3 days before the event, as it can take a day or so for your body to recover from the treatment.
Words: Tobias Mews