If you are anything like me, I absolutely love taper week. Your running is reduced, your mileage is reduced and your intensity is reduced. It’s a kick back and relax week. It’s about staying rested, and getting yourself mentally prepared. Tapering is actually a very important element in marathon training. It can make or break your race – you don’t want to go in a race overtrained! Here are a couple of tips for a successful taper.
What Is Tapering?
Tapering follows a fatigue-inducing week of high mileage. Preceding taper is training of great volume and intensity, hence you would welcome taper week with open arms. Runners usually cut significant distance from their training during taper week. It also allows your body to top up it’s muscle glycogen stores – very important for marathon running.
#1 Cut Down Mileage
Taper week normally begins 2 – 3 weeks prior to race. 3 weeks out, cut back about 20 – 25 percent of your total mileage. 2 weeks out, cut out another 20 – 25 percent of your mileage.
#2 More Easy Runs
During taper week, perform most of your runs at an easy pace. This is to ensure that your body glycogen stores are not depleted and hydration levels are adequate. Your easy runs shouldn’t be too long either. For instance, if your long runs prior to taper week is 25km, run 20km easy during taper week – nothing more!
#3 Sleep Enough
Make sure you get at least 8 hours of sleep. This isn’t just for a couple of days before your big day, but at least for an entire week. This is really to allow your body to get enough recovery time. Our body performs many recovery functions while we are sleeping.
#4 Don’t Attempt Speedwork Or Hill Repeats
Speedwork and hill repeats will cause more muscle damage which is the total opposite of what you are trying to achieve with tapering. Remember, you wan’t to avoid any fatigue.
#5 Do Goal Marathon Pace Runs
During taper week, remember to do goal pace runs. For instance, run a 2km warmup, run 8km at goal marathon pace and run a 2km cool down. You can also run a 2km warmup, run 4km at 30 seconds faster than goal marathon pace and cool down another 2km. This is to keep the pace refreshed in your mind.
#6 Do A Sharpening Run
A couple of days pre-race, always do a sharpening workout. This is to warm up your muscles and get your muscles in some ways prepared after some good rest. Do a 5km fast run. It’s not meant to be an all out workout – just 5 – 10 seconds faster than goal marathon pace. This is to keep you sharp.
#7 Remember To Carbo Load
3 days out, load up on good quality carbohydrates to ensure your glycogen stores are topped up. Focus on eating a mix of healthy proteins and good carbohydrates for instance, pasta and cereal.
#8 Keep Yourself Adequately Hydrated
Drink lots of water the week leading up to your marathon. Some people like to start drinking electrolytes before the marathon. Some people like to keep themselves hydrated with coconut water. Whatever your choice, make sure you are adequately hydrated! Remember, no alcohol!