Taper week! - What's that?
The definition goes like this: “reduce the volume and intensity of your trainings to allow your body to become ready for race day”.
Yeah okay, but what should you do then? And when? And for how long?
Keep on reading if you want to have an answer on all these questions.
What is it and why should I do it?
Before an intensive event takes place (eg a race), usually there is some kind of tapering involved. The longer the distance, the longer the taper period will be.
Still not following me?
Here are some practical examples:
- 10K race needs a taper period of a few days
- 1/2 marathon needs a taper period of at least one week
- a full marathon needs a taper week of two weeks
- every distance above marathon distance needs two or more weeks
“But why is it so important to do this?”
During your training period, you are asking a lot of your body and putting it under a lot of stress. The aim of tapering is to allow your body to fully recover and to also restore it hormone levels (this can be disrupted if you train too much without proper recovery). Moreover, it is also necessary to restore your mental toughness aka your motivation.
We sometimes forget this, but taking care of your mental health during tough training blocks is also important to be able to keep going. Take the advantage of focusing on more mobility and easy exercises during taper time and you will notice that both your mind and body will be grateful for it.
My personal approach to it
For this ultra, I have to admit that I am not really doing it correctly. However, I know my body and I am listening carefully to it so I have faith that by Saturday I will be fully prepared. Besides, it’s not a 100K race, which would be a total different story.
Anytime, that was not my point.
As a coach, I do respect these timings a lot for my clients but also change them according to the level and needs of my athletes. Every person is different thus they all need a different approach too. During taper period, I will include shorter runs into their training plans and I will also leave the tough intervals out of it. The focus should really be on recovery.
Something I also really try to make them do (not always easy 🤪), are yoga sessions or at least some stretches before they go to bed. Another really important factor of taper week is getting in enough Zzzz’s. Sleep isn’t for the weak, but for champions.
Last, but not least, is nutrition. Make sure that during taper week your focus shifts in the beginning of the period more to a protein-based diet to help restore all the possible muscle damage you have done. The second part should be more carb-focused to fuel your muscles with enough energy. What I personally like to do too, is focus a lot on foods that have high levels of antioxidants such as blueberries.
Might be something mentally, but if it works, it works 🙂
Fast forward to the tapering for my ultra: I just did my last ‘tough’ session (easy run with some elevation gain) and now it’s time for some food and chill time.
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