Perfecting the Taper for Better Athletic Performance

Perfecting the Taper for Better Athletic Performance

📅April 20th, 2015, 20:41

Ah, the taper. You have been putting weeks and weeks into your training. You’ve made sacrifices, skipped social events in the name of fitness, and finally race day is almost here. You may have heard the expression the hay is in the barn, but there’s still a few weeks of focus to go. The key to success for endurance athletes is perfecting the taper for better athletic performance so that you show up for race day ready to go.

Many times with the anticipation of race day it’s hard to stick to your plan during the taper. You may go from feeling fierce to feeling flat and lethargic from one day to the next. You question if you did enough work or if an additional workout will get you to the start line in better shape.

The taper period is one of the most important part of your training cycle as this is when you assimilate all the training you have put in so that you feel fresh on race day. It takes two weeks for hard workouts to really have an effect on your fitness, so squash those thoughts of adding hard training during this period. The taper is all about getting you to the start line healthy, recovered, and ready to make use of all the training you’ve invested over the past few months. But what exactly are you supposed to do during the taper?

There are a lot of different philosophies out there when it comes to tapering, and no single method is going to be ideal for everyone since we’re all different with our own unique physiologies. What follows will be a basic, general guideline with a few key things to keep in mind during this period.

Generally, a taper is about two weeks long. Some folks like a longer taper, like 3 weeks, and some prefer only a week, but two weeks is a good place to start. During the first week of your taper period, the rule of thumb is to cut your workload about 25% while keeping your paces the same. This should make your hard workouts very doable, but not too easy. You should start to feel a bit lazy. That’s a good thing. Use this extra time to add in more recovery with an additional focus on nutrition and sleep. Don’t worry about your workouts not being very long – your body won’t have the time for that work to sink in.

taper imageIn the second week of your taper, the rule of thumb is to reduce your workload about 50%. You will probably feel more lethargic and antsy this week, but this is when your body really prepares itself for the effort ahead. To reiterate, no fitness is gained in the last week of training…your goal is to get to the start line feeling your best. This is the best time to put an extra focus on all the little things:

  • Get that sports massage you have been dreaming about
  • Get extra sleep, especially two nights before the big day
  • Keep your nutrition the same and simple
  • Resist the urge to go too hard in your training as your mind plays tricks on you
  • Trust your training!

This is where a log with all your hard work displayed can help keep your mind strong. Being able to visually see the work you have done can do wonders for your confidence and can remind you that you are fit and that the hard work is done. Having a coach is also helpful in order to help hold you back and keep you on the right track.  

Going into the event you have been trying to peak perfectly for, the most important thing to remember is that being fresh is better than being tired. This is even more crucial the longer the event. You need your legs and your mind ready for the challenge!