It sucks. All athletes know that.
I am currently tapering for the Calgary Police Half Marathon which goes on Sunday. This is my first time running a half marathon without having come off the bike; I reckon it will be a weird feeling to race on fresh legs, but nonetheless, I am stoked. If you have ever raced, which I am positive most of you have (because that is what it is all about) then you have also reduced your activity leading up to race day.
Ah yes, the dreaded Taper.
I have spoken with a couple of athletes who describe the taper period as ‘unbearable’, ‘horrible’, and the ever popular ‘I am going crazy’. It can be all that and more for your spouse who has to deal with your constant complaining during this time.
When you taper, you purposely reduce both training volume and intensity to ensure you are rested for the event; typically your ‘A’ race for the season. This period can be as short as a couple of days or as long as a couple of weeks. It all depends on the length of the event, your fitness, and current goals. I am not an expert, so I digress.
It can be hard to rest leading up to an event. You are hyped about racing and want to make sure that when the gun goes off, you hit the water with the best fitness you can. Why let your hard-earned fitness slip away along with your finishing time? It can be tempting to keep crushing your workouts; intervals, speed work, and distance.
Resist the temptation. RESIST. RESIST.
I have blogged about the importance of rest days in the past, and did not mention this benefit; they allow you to watch how your body reacts to rest. By watching how your body reacts, you can not only gain confidence that a taper period will benefit you in a race, but you can effectively plan your taper period as well.
My body does well with a 3 week phase, either ‘base’ or ‘build’, ending with 4 days of lighter, active recovery. I tried following Joe Friel’s advice and used a 7 day ‘rest’ period, it took me another 5 days to get back into the training grove. For the past 4 months, I have used the 3 week on, 4 day off with great success.
So test it out and find the right balance. It ain’t easy, but if you execute it just right, then you will reap the rewards.
Question: How do you taper? Do you find it beneficial?