With a little under 3 weeks until the City 2 Surf, I thought now was a good a time as any to write a blog about tapering. Love it or loathe it, tapering is a fantastic element that you can incorporate into your training program to improve your race results!
Many athletes fail to realise that one of the most important aspects of marathon training is the taper phase. Taper, or tapering, refers to a reduction in training (either in distance or intensity) in preparation for race day. Numerous studies have concluded that tapering is essential for best performance and can be undertaken from as little as one week out from race day (a 10km running event) to two or three weeks out (a Marathon event). Research by the journal Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise found athletes who tapered showed improved performance times by up to 3 percent with better running economy. This translates of 5 to 10 minutes improvements in a marathon event.
Here are some tips on how to get the most out of tapering:
3 weeks out from race day
This week sees a reduction in weekly training volume by 20 to 25% (Woo Hoo!). This can also be done by giving yourself an extra rest day or by simply cutting out mileage from your regular recovery runs. This reduction in mileage promotes restocking of depleted energy supply, repair of damaged tissues and aids recovery. The combination of decreased workload and increased rest can be invigorating—expect to feel excited, anxious, or both!
2 weeks out from race day
This week sees a reduction in training volume by an additional 15 to 20 percent. If you are a 80km/ week runner, this week sees you clocking 55 to 60km. If you’re targeting a time goal on race day, the following workout during your longer weekly runs will help you keep on track. Warm up for 10 to 15 minutes with a light jog, then run one kilometre at 30 seconds faster pace than your planned race pace, followed by one kilometre at 30 seconds slower than race pace. Repeat two to four times. Rest for two days. This will keep your body sharp for race day.
1 week out from race day
If you thought the training was tough, wait until you reduce your mileage this week! It takes discipline and confidence to give your body the rest it needs. All the hard work is done and the goal this week is to stay rested and relaxed (yes, you read it here!) which will encourage you to mentally into “race mode”. This week sees a reduction in your typical weekly km's by 50 to 60%. Reduce your running to just four days this week. A very light, race-pace workout early in the week will help you stay switched on and alleviate some nerves. Remember: During this final week, you can’t under-do. You can only overdo.
I personally like going for a light run the day before a marathon. Anything up to 5km works well for me. This actively encourages blood flow to the legs and will help you feel less anxious. This also helps activate the central nervous system, which will enable your legs to respond better on race day!
Just remember that you’ve put in the all the hard work with training, don’t go overboard on the taper. GOOD LUCK!
Katie Nilan is a podiatrist who is passionate about what she does. She has written for the Australian Women's Health Magazine & was awarded "Pride of professionalism and services to Community Award" by Sydney Rotary. She has represented Australia in 3 sports: swimming, triathlon & surf lifesaving.