A Beginner’s Guide To Tapering

An Introduction To The Concept And How-To Of Tapering

With Coach Alexa, Online Running Coach for We Run and the We Run Virtual Running Club

Hi team, Coach Alexa here. Today, we’re delving into the concept of tapering – what it is, why it’s important, and how to do it effectively. While there are more detailed videos elsewhere in the Club on specific aspects of tapering, I’ve realised the need for a comprehensive explanation covering the whole concept of tapering; what it is, why we do it, and broadly how we taper before a race. Let’s dive in.

The Essence of Tapering

Tapering is the process of reducing your training load before a race. This helps to make sure you’re fully recovered from the training buildup, allowing your body to be full of beans, energised and free from fatigue going into your race. Studies show tapering can help you enter your race with maximum potential, having eliminated tiredness and adapted your body to the training.

Customising Your Taper

What your taper looks like depends on individual factors and primarily the sort of race you’re preparing for. Broadly speaking, the longer the race, the longer the taper. For example, a typical marathon taper lasts about three weeks, beginning after your longest long run. Then, generally speaking, distance training is reduced first, as endurance takes longer to build and fade. Speed training is scaled back later since it builds and fades faster. In the final week, strength training is also decreased.

Tapering for Shorter Races

For shorter races like 10Ks or half marathons, the tapering period is usually shorter – about 10 days to two weeks. This is based on individual needs and training history. The fundamental principle remains the same: reduce distance training first, followed by speed, while maintaining and later reducing your running strength training.

Holistic Tapering: Beyond Physical Training

A less discussed aspect of tapering is the mental component. Studies show that reducing mental stress and challenging activities before a race can enhance mental resilience during your race. A ‘mental taper’, involving less taxing brain activities, can help put our body in that rest and recovery state, helping runners maintain pace and push through fatigue on race day. I’m very aware that this is often easier said than done with all the responsibilities and commitments we all have to juggle!

Preparing for Race Day

On the morning of the race, the goal is to have no muscle soreness or injuries, feeling energised and fully repaired. A successful taper ensures you are in the best physical and mental state to excel in your race.

Remember, while tapering is a key component to your race preparation, it needs to be personalised based on your specific circumstances and race goals. Happy running!

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