After surviving peak week, you’re finally heading in to what is both loved and hated by many runners: taper.
It’s the time where your mind plays tricks. Was that a niggle or nag in your left knee? Did you power through enough long runs? What do you do with this abundant free time?!
OMG, slow down and let’s chat.
First up, here are all the previous steps in the Road to a PR series:
As discussed in peak week training, traditional training plans used to call for a taper of 3 to sometimes even 4 weeks.
I certainly tested out that style for a few of my races wayyyyy back when (yup like 2002-2007). For my first few races, I had no idea how I should feel and I was so amped up, it probably didn’t matter.
But by the time I got to my second marathon, my legs felt heavy, my brain felt not quite ready and I was all around sluggish. Since transitioning to the 2 week taper plan that’s a thing of the past AND it also means taper madness is less likely!
With 2 weeks, you’re not forced to relax, but allowed to relax. You’re opened up to prepare mentally for the race. Your body is still in training mode rather than reverting to a maintenance mode.
What to Do In Taper?
Taper does not mean plop on the couch and bust out the Cool Ranch Doritos (weren’t those the best?!).
Taper does not meant catch up on 42 overdue work and home projects.
Taper does not meant switch to lots of other workouts because you aren’t running.
A two week taper is a blip in your overall training, which means you’ve got to use the time wisely. Here’s a little break down of how that week might look.
Day 1 – Complete recovery from your longest/hardest run.
Day 2 – Get your pre-race massage scheduled, at least 6 days before. Enjoy a short run with some fartleks.
Day 3 – Head out for a medium distance EASY run. Do your hip strength exercises.
Day 4 – Time for another short run with a few speed pick ups. Do the IT Band Lunge Matrix.
Day 5 – Slow it all down with some restorative yoga.
Day 6 – Short easy run and a final test run of what to eat before your race. More hip exercises.
Day 7 – Long run (could be 8 miles for a half marathon or 10-12 for a full)
Day 8 – Complete recovery day. Plan out meals that are anti-inflammatory for the week.
Day 9 – Enjoy a walk, a hike, a yoga flow or bike ride. Keep it easy and fun. Create your race day plan (see below)
Day 10 – Short run with a few speed pick ups. Great day to assess your goals and set your mantra.
Day 11 – Another good day for restorative yoga and fully planning your race outfit and needs (checklist here)
Day 12 – Short run with a few speed pick ups. Focus on a great night of sleep.
Day 13 – Head to the expo, stay off your feet, hydrate with electrolytes, relax!
Day 14 – Race day!!
This is time to de-stress to the max and take care of your body.Have your best race ever with these taper tips! #bibchat #running Click To Tweet
It’s very common develop a cold in the days before a race. Science suggests this is because the body is no longer adrenaline focused pushing you through weeks of training and thus the immune system kicks back in to action because it’s no longer being suppressed.
Don’t fret, nearly everyone finds that in these two weeks if they focus on recovery they are ready to rock and roll race morning. I say that these colds are the body’s way of ensuring we actually follow our taper plan!!
Eating too much?
Don’t stress about calories. Yes you’re running less and technically need less, but hunger pains also decrease after that first week of lower mileage. If you don’t go carbo loading crazy and focus on choosing foods to help your body recover, you’ll be just fine.
You want to show up on race day well fueled, not sluggish from restricting your food. Focus on eating when hungry and getting in lots of vegetables for the nutrients and anti-inflammatory recovery properties.Get tons of green smoothie ideas here >>
Get 20 salad ideas here >>
Get 97 high protein breakfast ideas here >>
What About Taper Madness?
As noted with a short taper it’s less likely you’ll find yourself craving more runs, but that doesn’t mean you won’t have a little taper madness.
“Taper madness” coined by long time runners refers to the days leading up to the race when your brain starts to play tricks on you and with longer tapers where you feel completely out of whack due to the massive mileage drop.
Suddenly, things that have never once bothered you in training will hurt. Why are you feeling your big toe in your favorite shoes? Why is your knee tingling? Why did you get a Rudolph sized zit on your nose?!
I can’t answer the last one, but I can say it’s all totally normal. Knowing you aren’t alone is the first step in letting go of the stress that’s likely creating all your issues. A few other tips that work well:
- Find a mantra, like “all is well” and use it all week
- When something hurts, remind yourself it’s likely stress and will be fine on race day (99% of the time this is true)
- Get a massage, allow yourself to relax and treat your body well
Deep breathe, the big day is finally just around the corner. As taper finishes, it’s very normal to start feeling nervous and surprise that can actually be a really good thing.
Nerves actually prime your brain and get you focused on the task at hand, so learn to harness them for your benefit.
- Channel the energy to drive you to hit a brand new distance or pace.
- Recognize it as adrenaline and know it’s a good thing, that’s what pushes you just a bit harder than in training.
- Trust that once the race starts you’ll be glad for that extra energy boost of adrenaline.
- Meditate. Ok I know I said harness the nerves, but if you’re ruminating all week then sitting down for a minute just to breathe is going to help you get a grip on what really matters. You may have trained hard, but it is just a race.
Race Day Pre-Planning
Another way to tackle nerves is to do some planning, give you brain something tangible to think about. Here are a few key things which will also help on race morning:
- Checkout the parking situation or know where you can be dropped off
- Plan a specific spot for spectators during and after the race
- If traveling pack your pre-race food and double check all your must haves (here is a great printable)
- Lay out all of your gear and pin on the race bib
Taper doesn’t have to be the maddening, horrible time that we often portray on social media. I mean the jokes are still funny and much like being a bridezilla, you’re given a grace period in the week preceding the race. You’re welcome.
How do you handle taper madness?
What’s your trick for race nerves?
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