Whilst we like to think taper time starts after finishing our last long run, it is not actually the case, as the training week 2 weeks out is just as heavy as many of those before. As far as our body, or legs are concerned, they're still doing a lot of work, and will most probably feel just as tired as they have for this previous month of high mileage.
So, in reality our taper starts from this weekend (2 weeks to go!) if you're preparing for the Melbourne Marathon as our weekly running volume reduces by about 20-30% in this second last week, and reduces again for the final week, thus allowing for full recovery. Your running frequency and schedule should remain the same, it's just the volume, distance or number of reps that reduces.
And with that, here's a few tips that I like to suggest to keep you focussed on Race Day and to ensure you get to the start line in the best shape & ready to race.
Taper time is essentially the time our body needs to recover from the heavy running loads & high mileage training we have done, particular in the past month. This of course serves to ensure we are at our physical peak to perform on Race Day.
So, what do we need to do?
1. Assist Your Recovery ; stay hydrated, well rested, get plenty of sleep, and avoid alcohol.
2. Muscle Maintenance ; Continue or even pay more attention to your physical maintenance ( active recovery) to ensure your legs are at their peak by Race Day. This means massage, stretching, using your foam roller & spikey ball regularly.
3. Remain focussed on the goal ahead ; No cramming! Don't be tempted to start doing extra 'other' sessions or more running than your program says. Keep your running frequency the same, it's just your mileage or number of reps that will reduce. As you start to feel better and fresher in the legs, the temptation to do more comes up, but don't, simple. You're at more risk of overdoing it now than ever, so just Don't!
Also, this is not the time to start up some extra circuit training or the like to fill in the extra time. Focus on running well, make your sessions sharp. Apart from that, relax, and take the time to recover. You deserve it & you need it!
4. Reflect on all the hard work that you've done, and consider all the long hard Interval and Tempo sessions. You will gain confidence by acknowledging the hard yards you've been through. Try not to overthink this, as you have nothing further to gain in these final two weeks from a conditioning perspective. The work is done, recover, and focus on your Race and Race Plan.
5. Eat well, nourish your body. You don't need to eat more, and you definitely don't want to eat less ( just because you're running less). Ensure your muscles are recover and are well stocked with glycogen by the night before Race Day. Stay hydrated, and ensure you are fully hydrated throughout the last week before Race Day.
However, it is also a time that some may start to wonder or ask a few questions about whether you are well enough prepared, whether you've done enough miles etc? Whilst it's hard to back off the training mileage when it's all you've done for the past 4-5 months, you must trust in your program. Understand that you've done a lot of training, a lot of hard speed & strength work, and a lot of miles. Now, is the time for you to recover from all that, in preparation for Race Day. Don't overlook how important this final stage is. If you don't get to the start line fully recovered, your performance will suffer!
Well done! You're nearly there, but you're not done yet!