The Good & Ugly of Taper Week

The result of a taper week is great but going through it can be quite challenging. Here, I share the good and ugly getting the body ready to race during taper week.

I use week in general terms as depending on the race distance and/or importance of the race it can vary in length. For my most important races of the year that last two hours or under I taper for the week leading up to the race including a modification of volume the weekend prior. For less important races I may not start a taper until mid-week not wanting to sacrifice training in an overall plan. For longer races like a marathon or Ironman I would begin tapering the week prior. That could consist of 70-80% of average volume.

I typically complete 50-60% of the volume on a taper week than I would on an average training week including the race. Intensity in those trainings typically stay similar early in the week but again, with less volume. This keeps the muscles and body race ready sharp with out taxing the muscles. The goal is to be fresh on race day without losing the fitness that will carry you through the end of the race strong. When I am tapered and feel fresh I liken it to my legs feeling elastic as usually they feel a bit worn week in and out from the training load. It’s the perfect mix we chase to be fresh but race volume fit.

Those are things to consider when planning a taper to race day. That is the easy part. The hard part is the mental side of the equation. These are some of the ugly things that have accompanied me during a full taper:

The Ugly

  • Body feels clunky not engaging in the typical volume of activities
  • That clunky feeling can seep into the brain and create doubt in how that feels and how you should feel – “Why am I feeling this?” – “Did I start the taper too soon?” – “Did I start it too late?” – “Do I do one more interval, one less interval?” – “Heat, Ice?” – “One last chiropractor visit?”
  • That doubt leads to irritability….rest is not as restful, sleep can be off, and irritability can lead to being short or making poor decisions

The Good

What I have found to work includes:

  • Being cognizant that all the challenges listed above are normal feelings
  • Recognize when you are falling into a trap or trigger and set a new course (this happened to me last night into this morning)
  • Trust your training and previous race experiences. We never feel 100% ready but on race day all those thoughts of doubt disappear in a heart beat. If you don’t have a lot of race experience, talk to an experienced competitor or coach to share what you are feeling…it’s normal and we all face them
  • Find activities that you don’t get to normally due to training that can fill the void of a workout or mental challenge
  • Show up to a group training workout even if you aren’t training to be in the environment. Ex. Bring a bike and cycle next to runners
  • Watch or listen to something motivational (I have been watching YouTube videos of the 1980 USA Olympic Hockey Team this week and I’m saving the movie, Miracle, for Friday night before my race)

Hope this helps when you consider your next taper. It’s challenging but necessary to race our best. If you have any other tips please let me know…always learning.

– Add Health to Your Life

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