The taper refers to the practice of reducing exercise in the days just before an important race. Getting the taper correct is key to making the most of your training and the race itself.
What you can’t do is train hard all the way up the date of the race. For the half marathon, the taper should last for 2-weeks. Whereas you are looking closer to 10 days for the 10mile race.
A review on tapering published in the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise concluded “the primary aim of the taper should be to minimize accumulated fatigue, rather than to attain additional physiological adaptations of fitness gains”. The taper is a time to recover, so don’t blow all those weeks of great training.
Our training plans will all include elements of this checklist.
The taper starts with a comfortable shorter long run the Sunday with 2 weeks to go. This long run will generally contain some marathon pace practice work and will probably be your highest weekly mileage week of training.
2 weeks to go
2 weeks to go before race day. We reduce the volume of training. The long run the Sunday before will be comfortable short. It should include some race pace work, to get your body used to the pace you want to run at race day.
10 mile runners will probably have a good session on the Tuesday, whereas the half marathon guys will be firmly tucked into their taper by now.
This is not the time to play catch up… any physiological change that occurs during this time will be minimal and now it’s really important to aim to maintain and protect what you’ve got.
Kit should all be settled and continue to practice taking on your gels during the long run and importantly at the times you plan on having them during the race itself.
You should start to feel more energized during this time as you cut back on your training, take time to rest up and relax and continue to maintain your levels of nutrition. This can be the time to just add in a few extra carbohydrate snacks to help build your energy levels.
Stay mentally positive, don’t focus too much about the race and it should all tick along nicely.
1 week to go
One week to go before your ½ marathon or 10 mile race and it becomes a nervy time. You’ll start to become more anxious and this is a period of time that’s more of a mental than a physical game.
Your last long run needs to be around 60 to 70 minutes in duration and within that you may want to practice some race pace work. The run should be comfortable and relaxed and feel like no effort at all.
You want to be looking at the long range weather forecast as this helps to get you thinking about race day conditions, whether you need to refine your race strategy and the kit you’re going to use. If it’s going to be 26 degrees, then you might have to run a bit slower on race day.
This week is about relaxing and taking extra rest days. You still want to be doing some faster running, maybe a small threshold session on the Tuesday, and some easier running the rest of the week.
Don’t go out and run hard at any point just to prove to yourself you can still run.
Mentally you’ll start to question if you can do this, it’s quite normal but be positive, look back at your training diary and the key sessions you’ve run and remind yourself you can do it. Try and stay relaxed and switch off from the race.
Start to graze on carbohydrates a bit more but don’t over do it and have mountains of pasta, just add a little bit more than you would usually have. Also, it’s important to stay hydrated but again don’t overdo it by drinking gallons of water and energy drinks. Don’t end up comfort eating or drinking because you have more time on your hands.
Don’t start doing odd jobs around the house that you might have been putting off for a while. There’ll be time to do these jobs after the race.
The aim of this week is to stay positive and become mentally and physically energized
A few rules to a good taper:
1. Don't play catch up
Don’t try and fit in an extra session that you may have missed, this will just be of detriment to your overall training. You are where you are due to your training.
2. Eat well and stay hydrated
Don’t diet during the taper, eat well and aim to keep nicely hydrated at all times.
3. Chill out and catch some Zzz's
Rest up as much as possible, get in some early nights and even have a nap if you can during the day. It’s really important to relax and recover during the taper.
4. Be prepared
Make sure you’ve got all your kit ready, travel plans are sorted and your pre-race evening meal and breakfast are organised. Be prepared so that on race day you’re on autopilot and don’t have anything to worry about.