Tapering off your training in the final weeks before your race will get you to the starting line in optimal shape. Are you doing this right?Tapering is a common running term for the final phase of training before a race, when you want to bring yourself to peak physical condition. Here’s how to taper off your training effectively and responsibly, so you’ll appear at the starting line in optimal shape.
What is tapering?
In the final phase of training for a full or half marathon, you want to bring yourself to peak physical condition for your race. The accepted way to do this is to gradually reduce your regular training load in a process known as tapering off.
The tapering phase usually starts a few weeks before your race. The general rule is to reduce your running volume and intensity while maintaining your speedwork. In other words, you want to spare your body and save all your strength for the race, but at the same time you want to keep up your speed.
My ASICS training plans gradually reduce your training volume in the last four to two weeks before your marathon. In case you’re concerned you’re not training enough, keep in mind that in this phase it’s much more important not to overtrain before your race.
Tips for effective tapering
During the tapering-off phase of your training plan, keep these points in mind:
- Rest well: Pay particular attention to resting in this phase. Your body needs the time to recover and heighten the training effect of your active sessions. Make sure you get plenty of sleep too.
- Do what you can: You may feel that high-paced training is difficult in this phase, but don’t be disheartened: your body is tired from all the training. Just do what you can and then rest.
- Work on your focus: During these last sessions, train yourself to stay focused even when you are tired. You will need this skill to race well.
You may also want to use the tapering-off phase to improve your diet. Chances are you’ve already started living healthier during your training plan. But in the last phase before your race, consider taking some extra measures. Giving up junk food and alcohol completely in this phase will really pay off on race day!
Final training & carbo loading
As your race approaches, saving your strength becomes key. Two days before your race you will want to do a short speed training (1 km) to stimulate your legs. But be careful not to strain yourself, you definitely don’t want to risk an injury at this point.
A day or two before your race, it's a good idea to load your body with carbohydrates – popularly called ‘carbo loading’ among runners. This means eating lots of rice, noodles, pasta or other starches to stock up on the fuel you'll need on race day.
When preparing for your race, here are two more practical resources:
How has tapering worked for you?
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