Training provides long-term fitness improvements but produces fatigue as well. Leading up to an important race, it can be a challenge to find the balance between maintaining the best possible racing fitness level and rest to reduce the fatigue of training. This is referred to as a taper. The last few weeks before your race, it’s important to cut back your mileage to give your body and mind a chance to rest, recover, and prepare for race day.
Several studies concluded that the optimal length of taper is seven days to three weeks, depending on the distance of the race and how hard you’ve trained. Too short a taper will leave you tired on race day, while tapering for too long will lead to a loss of fitness. Even though you may feel sluggish and lazy while tapering, t’s important to stick to your training plan through the taper to race day.
Here are some general guidelines for tapering:
- Shave off miles weekly by about 15-20% each week.
- Your final taper week should be reduced by 50-75% of your peak training week.
- Dropping your miles during your taper doesn’t mean dropping intensity as well. Keep up the intensity of your runs!
- Don’t be surprised if you feel some new aches and pains during the tapering period. It’s a normal part of the process as your body repairs itself from months of training.
Sleep is also an important part of the tapering process. Aim for at least eight hours per night. Don’t forget to hydrate and keep up with good nutrition!