Tips for tapering
So you’ve got an entry, put the miles in and starved off injury- that’s pretty good going and I expect there are many people lacking one or several of these prerequisites for the marathon with just one week to go. But what about those crucial final days…. If you’ve come this far, it is likely that you’ve also incorporated some sort of ‘taper’ into the final weeks before the 23rd April.
So what is a taper and why should you be doing it?
Tapering is a reduction in training load before competition and the perfect taper will balance out the reduced training stimulus with the reduction in accumulated fatigue to give positive psychological and physiological adaptations and allow optimal performance. So, other than doing it because everyone else seems to be, effective tapering has been shown to improve performance by around 2-3%, both experimentally and in the real world. Although a taper should be simple, in reality some runners find it hard to hold back the milage in the final weeks and sometimes feel a bit lethargic.
How should you taper?
Training load consists of training frequency (number of sessions), training volume (duration of sessions) and intensity (the demand of each session). Overall training load should be reduced doing the taper phase, but each variable should be altered differently. Research examining a collection of 27 studies focused on tapering in competitive athletes, concludes that the most effective taper is characterised by being spread out over a two week period, where training volume is exponentially reduced by 41-60%. It is key to maintain frequency of training to some extent and maintaining training intensity is crucial for optimising performance. Inigo Mujika, a coach and physiologist, is the leading expert on the topic and describes different types and durations of taperswhich you can read more about in his book.
Hopefully you have already been tapering and over this final week you might opt for a rest day on Wednesday and include some interval sessions along with shorter easy runs- but don’t over do it with your fresh legs before the big day! Don’t forget you’ve already put the work and taper in, so don’t overlook the final logistical and nutritional preparations- then you won’t even need me to wish you good luck!
Maverick Trail Division