As race season has gotten started we have focused heavily on making sure you have all the tips and information you need to get started if you are new to the world of running, or to provide knowledge to add to your already existing arsenal. We have covered hydration, nutrition, mental strength, proper training techniques and so much more. Today I want to give you another piece of information that does something wonderful, improves your performance without you having to spend a single dime (which we all love). So what is this magic performance boost called? The answer is: Tapering.
What is tapering?
This training technique is called tapering. In the context of sports, tapering refers to the practice of reducing exercise in the days just before an important competition. Tapering is customary in many endurance sports, such as long-distance running and swimming. For many athletes, a significant period of tapering is essential for optimal performance.
Now many people can do this differently, I like to continue with the same amount of days training but lower the intensity and duration of the workout during the tapering phase. Contrary to what many believe (or used to believe) that tapering before a competition or race could hinder your race performance it actually does the exact opposite and many elite athletes are making this a priority during their training routines. The goal of tapering is to keep all of the physical adaptations of the training process while eliminating the negative effects such as, fatigue, muscle soreness and all the stuff we don’t want to feel during the actual event. Many may not know about tapering, or perhaps they feel it’s not beneficial which is often why many runners overlook this crucial part of training, the key is to learn to embrace the inactivity.
How long should the tapering process occur?
This is also highly subjective and depending on the person or the coach who trains you, you are probably going to get a different amount of time suggested. For me, I like 1-2 weeks tops for a tapering phase and that seems to be a good amount of time to make a helpful change to the routine, what I mean is I don’t feel under prepared come race time and I also don’t feel over trained which I think could be the worst of the 2.
To give more insight into the under training worry or aspect of this process, I want to say that there is a fine line between not training and tapering. Remember to focus on less time and intensity per workout, keeping the same number of workouts per week.
So during a taper phase, do I just slim down the workouts and that is it?
Like all things in training, it’s not that easy and the answer is no, there is more to be done. Something to keep in mind during this phase is your caloric intake and how this can be a counter productive part of tapering if not done properly. Often times a specific diet is put into place during these intense training routines and what can happen during a taper phase if the diet is not adjusted to reflect training intensity and time could actually harm your race performance (always a catch right)? The reason for this is when calories burn, it is based upon 2 factors and that is Intensity and duration. When you are lowering those things but still eating more than your calorie expenditure you run the risk of gaining weight and even a small amount of weight change you could potentially feel come race day.
What are the key points to take away?
During the tapering phase you must be extra conscious of your training. Create the balance of training, but doing so lightly. Also be paying attention to the type of food you consume. Pair tapering with many of the other aspects we have discussed in previous blog posts and there is no telling where the results could take you.
Another thing to note is that tapering is not just for endurance athletes and the optimal time for a taper period in other sports may differ slightly, but the idea is just the same. There is nothing like showing up to an event feeling as prepared as one could be, give this a try in your training and let me know how you have felt pre/post run.
Do you have different taper routines? Let’s discuss what you do below.