By Amanda Loudin
As your important races get closer, you're likely increasing your training so you can handle the events with ease. Upping your mileage is key for getting in top shape, but it won't do you any good if you don't take the time to scale back a week or so prior to your race.
Known as a taper, the final days leading up to your race are when you let your body recover from all your hard training. These easier/shorter mileage days let your body maximize its fuel and enzyme stores, rest your muscles and help you prepare mentally for the race effort.
To do the taper right, however, you need to follow some basic principles:
- Determine the length of your taper - this is an individual decision and should be specific to the race length. For a sprint triathlon, 5K or 10K, the taper should usually be about a week long. For longer distances, increase the taper time.
- Maintain some race-specific speed work - Even though you are cutting back on the miles, you should keep some quality speedwork in the mix. For instance, if you usually run intervals on a Tuesday, continue to do so the Tuesday before your race. However, cut the amount of speedwork down by 50 percent or more.
- Take the day off entirely two days before your race. The day before, go out for a very short run, or a short swim/run combo, just to loosen up your muscles.
- Carbo-load for a day or two before the race. This doesn't have to be a big increase from your normal carbohydrate intake, but do take in more than you normally would. If you know you'll be racing in the heat, up the salt intake as well.
- Use some of your extra time to visualize your race and how you would like it to go.
Tapering is a very individual task; what works for one person probably won't work for the next. It may take you a few races to figure out the ideal combination of rest and quality work in the week(s) leading up to your race day. But once you've got it down, you'll know it.
Good luck and enjoy your rest!