The dreaded taper. One of the simplest principles, approached by many in the most complicated fashion. After weeks of hard work leading up to a big race, finding the balance between too much work and too much rest can be a difficult prospect for many endurance athletes.
In line with my last article, tapering is not an exact science and can vary from person to person. Different approaches depend on many factors including race distance, current fitness, injury/illness history, race location etc.
Here at Thanyapura we are hosting a 10 mile run event, quite a long distance in the heat which may be daunting for some. Here are some tips to get the help you through the taper phase for the race.
Time it Right
For this event an optimal taper period is 10-14 days. During this time training volume should be reduced to give muscles enough rest to recover from accumulated training.
A good guideline to follow is a 25% reduction in the second week before the race, followed by a 50% reduction in the week prior to race day.
This stepped reduction is practiced by many athletes and researched as an effective balance between too much and too little.
Adapting to the Heat
Races in hot countries also pose another hurdle which can be easily overcome through adaptation. Therefore, if you are from a cold climate then you should ideally travel to the event two weeks in advance.
This will give the body enough time to acclimatize to the heat as this process generally takes 10-14 days. For more details on heat acclimatization, check back to my previous article.
You Will Not Lose Fitness!
Many athletes enter a taper period and do too much, believing that fitness will be lost. If the correct taper time is followed then studies have shown this is not the case.
A review on tapering studies published in Medicine and Exercise in Sports Science shows that muscle damage is reduced and both immune function and muscle strength can be increased with an effective taper.
Furthermore, aerobic fitness is not reduced and in fact improved when tapering correctly. The take away point here is: the aim of the taper should be to minimize accumulated training fatigue rather than to try and gain additional fitness or adaptation. Or in other words, do not worry! Chill out and relax, better to do less than more.
Nutrition is particularly important during the taper phase. Around training it is crucial to make sure you refuel and recover after each session in order to stop fatigue accumulation.
One piece of advice is not to overcompensate for a lack of training by skimping on nutrition. That said, over consumption of carbohydrates is not going to equal a massive personal best.
Best to add a little extra carbohydrate in the week prior to race day, to give a bit extra energy for the run. This can simply done with an extra banana at lunchtime for example.
This is one aspect that should have a little extra focus when tapering for a hot race. Carrying a water bottle at all times ensures hydration is easily accessible. Another tip here is to add a little extra salt into your diet.
Sodium helps the body to absorb water effectively, so a pinch of salt with each meal is a good idea to keep the body hydrated.
If you are currently on a 10k training plan or a 5k on, it’s important to understand the methods of the taper and understanding that different races require different approaches. For more information or any questions on the topic email myself at email@example.com