The last long run is in the books, you are finally starting to feel a bit better from weeks of hard training, and the race is fast approaching; that means it is officially taper time!
You have made it this far, but you are not sure how to approach the last few weeks of training and preparation that goes into race day. Tapering is really both an art and a science. Understanding what you are trying to get out of the taper is really important but you also want to avoid some of the most common mistakes. Tapering is tricky because in some ways you are changing your routine in order to be recovered on race day, but you also don’t want to throw off your entire schedule regarding running frequency, sleep, meal times etc…Here are some specifics on what NOT to do during tapering
What NOT to do…
- Train too much: Seems obvious, but many runners struggle to really taper and get the benefits of feeling rested and bouncy on race day. Of course it can vary greatly from person to person, but some reduction in training is always needed in order to get the full effective of your training.
- Change your running frequency: You will generally want to keep how many times per week you run the same. You may take the occasional extra day off, but don’t drastically reduce the days of the week that you run. Simply run less each time that you head out the door.
- Try a new diet: Now is not the time to try new diets or try to cut weight. You can appropriately change portion sizes to account for the reduced amount of running you are doing, but nothing extreme in regards to new foods or diets.
- Forget to get extra sleep: While you certainly don’t need to go into hibernation, taper time is a great opportunity to catch up on sleep or grab that afternoon nap you have been missing the last few months. For many of us, we don’t realize how tired we are until we listen to our body a bit and feel how helpful that extra sleep can be.
- Over carb-load: While you for sure need carbohydrates for race day, don’t go to the extreme and start wolfing down pounds of pasta the week of or the night before the race. You can increase carbohydrate intake prior to race day, but still monitor your weight if you have a preferred “race weight.” If you have been doing well on your long runs, then you probably don’t need to change much.
- Forget to mentally prepare: With the extra time you have from not running so much, now is the time to review the course, spend time managing your travel and race day logistics and generally leave nothing to chance for the race.
- Not resting enough: A big part of tapering inherently is rest and getting your muscles as fully recovered as possible from all the work you have put in. When it doubt, error on the side of more rest.
Do your best to avoid these mistakes and reference what has worked for you to get to this point. Embrace tapering as a fun time where excitement and anticipation builds and you want to have that bounce in your step on race day. Enjoy the process of feeling better physically while you prepare mentally and emotionally for the big day!