How to Execute the Proper Taper

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Marathon season is upon us. If you are participating in the Bank of America Chicago Marathon, you are likely already into your taper. The taper is a very important part of your training and should be planned very carefully; I often tell my athletes that at the point where you are tapering, there is literally nothing you can do to make your race better; however, there are a lot of things you can do to make your race worse.

Generally, most people plan for a three-week taper. Here are a few things to keep in mind when doing your taper:

  • Keep the same pace you have been running during all your long runs. It is tempting to try and run faster during your “long” runs as they dwindle down. Resist that temptation! The taper is there for a reason: to give your body a chance for rest and recover. If you start running faster than you have been on the long runs, it is likely you will not be allowing your body the recovery it needs.
  • Stay healthy. After your longest mileage week and you begin the taper, your immune system becomes weakened. It is important that you do all you can to remain healthy until your race. Some things to consider are taking Vitamin C, staying away from big crowds or other people (and kids) who are sick and wash your hands frequently.
  • Get plenty of rest. It is very normal during your taper to feel like you have a ton of energy and you just have to “do something.” What you really want to be doing is resting more than usual. Stay off your feet as much as possible and try to get an extra hour of sleep in the week before your race.
  • Monitor your nutrition in the week before your event. Carbo-loading is NOT a big bowl of pasta the night before your race. To build up your glycogen stores, you can take in approximately 150-250 extra calories each day in the form of carbohydrates. Your large “carbo-loading” meal will need to be 2 days before the event instead of the day before. Stay away from sugar and make sure you are hydrating well. If you will be running in a particularly hot race, you may need to hydrate more than you think as well as add in some electrolytes.
  • Stick to your plan! By the time you taper, you should have everything mapped out – from what you will wear to what you will eat and drink to your planned race pace. It is critical to stick to your plan and not try anything new. Your body may not react the way you expect when you try something different and this is not what you want to happen during your race. Focus on what has worked for you and you will achieve your best result!
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MJ Gasik started competing in the sport of triathlon in 2003 and has completed 12 Ironman distance races including the World Championships in Kona, HI. MJ is a USAT Certified Coach, Ironman U Certified Coach, USMS Level 4 Certified Coach and is the founder and owner of Tri Right Coaching. MJ has coached hundreds of athletes from beginners through elite to personal bests in distances from sprint through Ironman.

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