It’s time for Tuesdays on the Run with Patty from My No-Guilt Life, Erika from MCM Mama Runs and me! Today’s topic is Tapering. Some people love it, some people hate it, 90% of the population has no idea what it means. Here’s a hint, it’s not an adorable herbivorous mammal.
As cute as those guys are, they don’t help you with your racing. Tapering is when, a week or two weeks before your race, you dramatically decrease your mileage. Different training plans handle the taper differently, but in almost every case the runner views the taper with a combination of relief (the hard miles of training are behind me) and anxiety (Am I sure I trained enough? Am I ready? Maybe I need to get one more long run in…).
It can be hard to accept that you’ve done your best in training and now it’s time to let your muscles, tendons and brain recover so that they’re all in tip top shape for your important race. The temptation is mighty strong to sneak in one more long run during the taper, especially if you feel like you need to catch up from missing a long run somewhere in your training.
According to running.competitor.com, it usually takes about twelve days for your body to fully recover from a challenging long run. The taper allows your muscles and tendons to rest enough to really heal. You don’t stop running entirely, the taper for a half marathon typically has you do 3-4 mile runs at a comfortable pace, dropping down to one or two miles a couple of days before the race.
Here are the different benefits you get from following a good taper plan:
- Your muscles can rebuild their glycogen stores so you start on race day with a fully fueled gas tank.
- Your muscles and tendons get an optimal period to repair and recover to reduce the likelihood of inflammation or injuries ruining your race.
- You can get a mental boost from feeling fresh and raring to go. A few weeks without a long run helps you get excited about the race and can fill you with anticipation instead of dread.
- The taper can even boost your immune system, helping you get to the starting line without being sick.
Tapering also helps reduce the risk of an overuse or just bad luck induced injury in the days right before a race when you might not have time to heal up. Trust in your training and your abilities and you’ll do great.
Some people get the “taper-crazies” where they feel like they’re being lazy and just sitting on the couch gets them all stir crazy. I personally love the taper, it’s a guilt-free excuse to relax some. If you’re suffering from the taper-crazies you can always clean the house (or hey, come clean my house), take long gentle bike rides, go to the movies, catch up on Dr. Who on Netflix or learn to knit.
My biggest problem with tapering is when I have half marathons close together. It’s hard to schedule a recovery period, another couple of long runs and a taper all in a three week period. So, I tend to run the first half marathon at an easy pace, treating it more like a training run and then tapering for the race I’m aiming to PR at.
Do you have problems trusting in your training plan during the taper? Is it a relief or does it cause you anxiety?