The taper is as important to your training as speedwork, long runs, and consistent training. Unfortunately, it is often abused and misused which can have negative impacts on your race performance.
For weeks/months you have been building up mileage, adding intensity, and are now peaking before your big race. If you have been following a professional or set training schedule then the taper is already built in and it should be relatively easy to follow.
During your taper you will slowly decrease your overall mileage, as a result many people skip runs or workouts during this phase. Don’t! It is important to stay consistent, even as you back down the mileage. You should also focus on relaxing, stretching, and planning mentally for the big day!
According to a study published in Medicine & Science in Sports and Exercise:
The primary aim of the taper should be to minimize accumulated fatigue, rather than to attain additional physiological adaptations or fitness gains.
Run to Win lists four primary benefits of the taper:
- A reduced level of perceived exertion: You can run faster and longer with less energy and strain.
- Improved muscular economy: The amount of oxygen that your muscles require at a given intensity decreases, and your VO2 max (a measure of aerobic performance) can improve by as much as 8%.
- Improved glycogen storage: Your muscles can store more fuel than is possible during intense training, assuming that your diet provides that fuel.
- You will sleep better.
- Watch your diet, as you train less you are burning fewer calories
- Gradually decrease your mileage, not intensity. You can still do some speedwork even the week before a big race.
- Keep running consistently, your body needs to stay loose, just make them easier and shorter!
- Don’t start your taper too soon, this can lead to negative effects as your body deconditions.
- Check out this article with a long list of problems and solutions.
- Avoid extra stress or strenuous work