Training to Taper

TaperOver the next couple weeks my wife will be running a half marathon followed by Ragnar, a high level relay race. She was interested in the concept of tapering and how she should taper for both events, if that would be a good idea and really how to train for both in order to do well.

What is tapering

Tapering is a concept where you drastically reduce the intensity and duration of your training prior to your biggest event/race.

The summer Olympics are just around the corner.  Right now many of the swimmer, some I have worked directly with, a hard core into their training programs.  These programs typically consist of swimming six days a week with workouts twice a day.  This type of training doesn’t really allow their muscles to fully recover from the extent of the training.

Prior to big races like conference, NCAA, or Olympic trials these swimmers will go from swimming 8000 or more yards a practice to maybe swimming 2000 yards the entire day.  The intensity of those practices will be drastically reduced.

Through out the season of training you never give your muscles the time they need to actually heal, remember the best way to defeat <a href=””>muscle soreness</a>?  While you don’t feel like you are “injured” anymore your muscles aren’t acting at 100%, so that is why tapering is so important.

How do I taper?

triathalon trainingTapering is a learned skill. If you have a coach they would be the best to consult during this time.  If you don’t have a coach, then trial and error is your best friend.

However, for most people  two weeks to a month out from your race seems to be a good point to start tapering.  Muscles take six weeks to heal completely so you want to make sure you are getting close to the completely healed stage.

Once you have “X”ed out the day on your calender for your race go back about 2 weeks and circle that day. From this day until the race all you need to do is exercise to the point where you feel warm and awesome. No time trials, no wind sprints just running or exercising to feel good. This will very from person to person.

Be careful that you don’t slack off either. It is possible in a taper to completely ruin all your training if you just stop exercising or cut back too much.  If this happens you will feel weak and slugish during your competition.

Here are a few examples of how to taper, remembering that it is up to how you feel and not necessarily just because the paper said so.

If you are doing a full marathon a few 6 mile runs with a few 3 mile runs, might work for you.  If you know that isn’t enough then take it up to a couple 10 milers and keep your low at about 6.

If you are trailing for an Olympic triathalon, work more on techniques on how to swim in open water and cut your distance down to around 2000 yards, total.

They key is just to stay loose, keep the muscles warm, but prevent them from getting sore! If you are getting sore during this time you need to back off. You have to let the muscles completely heal.

How do I taper if I have two event back to back?

This is a great question. If you are in my wife’s situation, where her events are only about a week apart you can actually start your taper as you normally would for the first event. You just need to make sure that after the event you continue with the taper as if that first race didn’t happen.  Also, do a quality recovery run after the first event, as you might be a little sore from it.

However, if your events are about a month or more apart you need to be much more careful. I would recommend not tapering for the first one. I would use it as a training event. The reason for this is once you have tapered it takes about 2 weeks to a month to get back your competition ability. You will still be able to compete, but not at the level you would like.

So, with all that being said, tapering is a very personalized activity. It is up to you how you want to taper, but realize you need to do what is best for you. You need to make sure that you are allowing the muscles to heal completely and that you are still keeping your endurance and strength up. If you have any specific questions about tampering for a race coming up, message me and I will help guide you through a possible taper strategy for you.


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