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The Importance Of The Pre-Race Taper

Monday, September 17, 2018


The mighty, and dreaded, taper. We all know it’s in our best interest to lessen our mileage and increase rest prior to a race, but why is it so hard to do?

Tapering is the act of reducing exercise in the week (or weeks if you are running a marathon or ultramarathon) prior to your race. The act of reducing exercise rebuilds the things that you deplete during all of the long miles and speedwork you put in during training. By tapering in the lead-up to a race, you allow your body to repair itself and make itself stronger.

Nutrition, rest, and hydration should be your main focus during the taper to allow your body the best chance at repair.

That being said, you shouldn’t sit around on the couch during. You don’t want your body to be stagnant. You don’t have to quit running, and you don’t have to cut back on how fast you run. All you have to do is reduce your mileage. Keep moving, but don’t overdo the time on your legs.

While tapering is extremely important to your body before a race and has been proven to improve your performance on race day, many of us hate to do it. It feels counterintuitive to reduce your mileage right before a race. You spent months being ruled by that training plan hanging from your refrigerator. You have rearranged your life for the past 12 to 16 weeks to revolve around your running, and now – well now you are left with a lot of time to think about running. The clock slows as race day approaches and the nerves have the opportunity to sink in deep into your psyche.

And what does a runner do when they are nervous, anxious, bored? Why they get out there run it off. It can be difficult to go from 60 miles a week down to 30 or 40 within a 7-day time frame. The drop of 20 to 30 miles in one-week means a lot of time for anxiety to creep in.

Knowing that the taper will make you stronger during your race should be all the motivation we need, but most of the time it’s not, at least not for me.

What happens if you do follow your taper? You will be an energetic animal at the starting line. You will be well rested, well fueled, and ready to run. Your legs and lungs will feel fresh and strong. That ache in your *insert sore body part here* will have had time to stop complaining. You will jump from the starting line like a greyhound chasing a rabbit.

The hard part is adhering to the plan. Take the extra time and plan it out before time. Keep busy. Schedule time with friends during your normal long run time. Go see a movie at a theater. Cook an elaborate meal. Get a pedicure – if you are willing to let anyone see your feet. Treat yourself to a massage or day at a spa.

Keep busy and think about all of the good things your body is doing to ensure you have a successful race day. Don’t show up tired and overtrained.

Active.com has a good article on exactly what you should do during your taper weeks, in case you aren’t using a plan, or your plan doesn’t include details.

Are you with me? Do you find that the taper is the hardest part of any training plan?


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