Tapering… some people love it, some people hate it. Familiar with the term?
/ˈtāpər/ – verb:
1. diminish or reduce or cause to diminish or reduce in thickness toward one end.
2. gradually lessen.
3. the point at the end of a runner’s training cycle when s/he turns into a manic human, frantically devouring every carbohydrate within arms reach while possibly weeping.
Guess what, it is all part of the training puzzle and it is important!
Training for a race:
You’ve spent weeks giving up things you love (sleeping in, any kind of a social life, your toenails) to take on something that feels bigger than you. Maybe you’ve set a new time goal that gives you minor anxiety attacks everything time you think about it, or maybe you’re taking on a brand new distance. You have pushed yourself out the door when you’re exhausted; you’ve run distances you previously thought were impossible at paces you never could have imagined. You have literally put your blood, sweat and tears into this and now, two weeks from race day, it’s time to put your feet up and calmly bask in all of your athletic glory, right? Well, it isn’t that simple.
You have been incredibly phyiscally active for the past three months, training your butt off, working hard, cross training and building up your mileage. Just like most things, you can’t just come to a dead hault. Yes you need to drastically decrease your milegage to conserve energy before race day, but thats the key. You still need to get some mileage in or you will probably go crazy! Now that you are a fitness machine, ready to tackle the challenge of your race with flying colours, stopping running completely will cause you to have a surplus of energy that surely will leave you resembling a mexican jumping bean.
The truth is, the “taper” section of training can leave you feeling a bit out of sorts. It is absolutely okay to feel consfused about what to do here. You might be thinking to yourself “Do I run, do I not run? If I don’t run I will loose all my fitness! If I don’t run I am going to get fat in 2 weeks! If I run too much I am going to be too tired for my race and not be able to finish…
Admit it… these ridiculous thoughts have crossed your mind! The good news is you are not alone in the struggle and there are ways to navigate it so you make it to the start line emotionally intact and in one piece.
7 Pre-race tips:
This might sound cheesy, but do it. You need to calm down, relax and find your inner breath. Breahte deeply and often and whenever you feel like you could stand to blow off some steam.
2. Make sure to get enough sleep:
This is your chance to actually rest and build the energy stores your body is going to need to get you from the start to the finish. It is difficult to say how many hours sleep you need per night as every person has their own magic number, but you should definitely make getting the right amount for you a top priority. Try going to bed earlier than you normally would at least 2 weeks leading up to your big day. And since you won’t be waking up at dark-early o’clock to get the miles in, allow yourself to sleep in a little on the weekends.
3. Don’t obsess over the mileage:
If you are following a training plan, trust in it. You do not need to do more kilometres than what your training plan says, no matter how fresh your legs feel. You also do not need to run the distance you are running race day (especially if this is your first time racing this distance!). The mileage you put in both on your long runs and mid week runs is enough to get you through the full distance all at once on race day. If you are running more than you need to, you are increasing your risk of being in less than optimal shape come race day, or worse, sick, injured and sidelined. It’s not worth it!
< 4. Focus on high quality nutrition:
Many runners crave carbs and carbs alone, especially during your weeks of taper. The misconception with is that you have to eat carbs like pizza, bread and pastas. Wrong. A lot of people either don’t realize or don’t full understand that fruits and vegetables are carbs too! Go ahead, load up on that salad, enjoy thaose yams, and indulge in a delicious daily smoothie. Ensure that you’re balancing your diet with proteins and delicious vegatables to prevent feeling bloated and sluggish from carb comas. Do not eat that entire pizza!
The coming weeks before the race, make sure you are well hydrated. Focus on getting through your 600ml waterbottle (the ones from costco… everyone has one!) 3 times in a day. The week and last days before, add electrolytes to your water. They are just as important as water.
6. New aches and pains/panic attacks:
Totally normal, do not have a melt down! Your body is probably sorting through all the hard work you put it through. Those new random pains that you are sure is a new injury… most likely all in your head, unless you’ve just taken up a new sport in the last two weeks. If the pain has never presented itself before, relax, have a bath, do some yoga, have a nice warm tea. Whatever you do to help you chill out.
7. Trust in your training: You have put in the work. You have earned this. You’re ready to go.
What is your next big race? Leave it in the comments below!