Wednesday, October 17, 2007
This pic says it all. Does Taz know the art of the taper, or what? He's even meditating about riding the bike and everything!
Race day inches closer and closer. I thought I'd review the art of the taper. Too many athletes don't believe in taper. I think this is a huge mistake. After putting in months and months of training, it seems criminal not to allow your body to rest, recover and reap the many rewards of all the hard work. Arriving at the start line without tapering is a sure way to cause injury, burn-out, or at the least, a poor performance.
Many athletes refuse to taper because they are terrified they will lose all their fitness in just a few short weeks. However, there is hard science and physiological data behind tapering. Triathlon coach gurus, such as Joe Friel and Paul Huddle , have time and time again advocated a well-timed taper. It works. On the contrary to losing fitness, your body is allowed to peak and actually make fitness gains. During the final weeks before a race, you will not make any more fitness gains but you can make yourself more tired. Remember--it takes 10 days to see the results from any single workout.
The key is to shorten the duration and volume of your training but increase the intensity. In a 3 week taper, drop the volume to 70% of your training in the first week, 50% in the 2nd, and 25% in the 3rd. Remember, this is only a guideline. Now is the time to listen to your body. If you feel tired or stale for any of your workouts, skip it. The key is to feel fresh and ready for each workout.
1. The longer the race, the longer a taper.
Typically about 1 week for an A sprint race or 5-10K running race. 2 weeks for an Olympic race. 3 for half-Ironman and 4 for full Ironman.
2. Work on speed when volume is cut.
This is the perfect time to hit the track!
3. Practice nutrition and transitions.
4. Be religious about recovery.
That means stretching, Yoga, massage, good quality and volume of sleep and excellent nutrition.
Picture how you want everything to go on race day. Be as detailed as possible.
6. When in doubt, skip it or go easy.
Another reason people hate to taper is because it makes you feel like crap. This is normal. Resist the urge to go out and log in big miles. The sluggishness you feel is not your body losing fitness but rather the tail-end of fatigue kicking in from all the big volume. Remember, fatigue trails training volume. Expect to feel tired, cranky and sluggish the first 5-7 days of your taper. Resist the overwhelming urge to gorge on junk food. Allow your body to recover and be patient with yourself. I call this phase 1 of the taper--the "hang over" stage. Phase 2 is the "jitter" phase. Now you're rested but you're still reducing training volume. So you're full of energy and driving everyone around you nuts. This is also normal. Resist the urge with all your might to go out on a killer 100-mile bike ride. You are ready. Stick to your plan. You might experience some insomnia during this stage. Try to stick to your usual sleep schedule. This is a perfect time to focus on all those things you've been neglecting during training--family, work, other hobbies, social life--remember these things? Oh, yeah. Try to regain the balance in your life you had before you were bit by the tri bug. Phase 3 is the "just right" phase. You will still have pre-race anxiety but, if everything is according to plan, you feel fresh and fast for your workouts. You feel recharged and will arrive on the start line with a "Bring It" attitude. Go get 'em!
Some helpful tapering articles: