Tapering.. it's a word I'm sure most people have heard of, but what does it actually mean? We are now just 4 weeks out from the first of the major Spring marathons, so naturally I'm getting a lot of questions about the process, so here's my take on it and how to go about optimising your time between now and the big day!
Quite simply, the aim of the taper is to reduce the accumulated fatigue in your body, while maintaining the fitness you've built up over your training cycle. It allows you to arrive on the start line with fresh legs, feeling strong and ready to give it your all!
3 WEEKS TO GO
This should be a pretty standard training week, but with a slight reduction in your mileage while keeping the intensity the same. So if you’ve been doing some interval sessions or hill workouts keep those in, however look to drop your overall mileage by about 10% from your biggest week.
So if you ran 50 miles in your biggest week, then drop down to 45 for this week.
For a lot of people your longest run (20-23 miles or 32-37km) will have been the week before.. with exactly 3 weeks to go to the day. So this weeks long run will be around 15-18 miles or 24-29km. It will be good to do most of this run at an 'easy' pace, while adding in some 3-5km blocks of goal marathon pace during it.
2 WEEKS TO GO
Reduce your mileage by 25 - 30% from your biggest week. So again if you were doing 50 miles, then this week should be around 37 miles.
Very good idea to add strides at the end of a couple of your easy runs (good practice for all training weeks really.. but even more so here).
Include 1 interval session, here are some examples of what you can do.. remember to add a warm up and cool down as well.
Run on the same days as you'd normally run, your body likes routine.
Last long run, keep it to 90 - 120 minutes. (This is the Sunday before race day)
A good time to get a sports massage booked in if your budget allows, to freshen up your legs.
Reduce your mileage by 50-60% from your biggest week. So 20-25 miles using our example. This is for the 6 days up to race day.
Try not to listen to all the gremlins saying you haven't done enough, resist the urge to run more than you should. You will only add fatigue to your legs, you can’t add fitness now.
Keep the frequency up, just reduce distance and intensity.
Easy runs will promote recovery, as the blood will be flowing helping to flush out your system.
Practice a few miles at goal pace if you want to add in a bit of faster running. 6 x 3 minutes at Marathon goal pace on Tuesday is something I like to do. This will never feel ‘easy’ so don’t panic, but it's good to get the legs used to what’s coming up at the weekend.
If you want to run the day before, then keep it short and easy and it can be good to calm the nerves.
Here are some other tips for race week that might be useful..
The key thing for the final week is to try and relax as much as possible. Do your best to leave work on time and get to bed early. Friday night is the most important nights sleep (with a Sunday race). It’s pretty normal to not sleep well the night before, hence prioritising the Friday night. Some people will try and add extra cross training, thinking the low impact training is good, but it’s largely pointless.. you can’t add any fitness during the final week. The hay is in the barn! Finally relax, this week, like all your others is all part of the plan of getting the best out of yourself come race day!
As always, if you have any questions, need some help or want to help others by offering your own advice then do so down below.
Next Monday I’ll be back with some tips on carb loading and getting your nutrition sorted for race day itself!
Have a great week of training everyone!