Tapering.. it's a word I'm sure most people have heard of, but what does it actually mean in practice? Given the time of year, I'm getting a lot of questions about the process, so here's my take on it and how to go about maximising your PB chances come race day.
Quite simply, the aim of the taper is to reduce the accumulated fatigue in your body, while maintaining the fitness you've built up over your training cycle. It allows you to arrive on the start line with fresh legs, feeling strong and ready to perform!
3 WEEKS TO GO
This should be a pretty standard training week, but with a slight reduction in your mileage while keeping the intensity the same. So if youâ€™ve been doing some interval sessions or hill workouts keep those in, however look to drop your overall mileage by about 10% from your peak week. So if you ran 50 miles in your peak week, then drop down to 45 for this week.
2 WEEKS TO GO
- Reduce your mileage by 25 - 30% from your peak week. So again if you were doing 50 miles, then this week should be around 37 miles.
- Very good idea to add strides at the end of your easy runs.
- Include 1 interval session, here are some examples of what you can do:
- 3x (3K at Threshold (Z4) with 2 minutes rest)
- 6 x (3 minutes at Threshold with 90 seconds rest)
- Run on the same days as you'd normally run, your body likes routine. Just less distance / intensity.
- Last long run, keep it to 90 - 120 minutes.
- Reduce your mileage by 50-60% from your peak week. So 20-25 miles using our example. This is for the 6 days up to race day.
- Try not to listen to all the gremlins saying you haven't done enough, resist the urge to run more than you should.
- Keep the frequency up, just reduce distance and intensity.
- Easy runs will promote recovery, as the blood will be flowing helping to flush out your system.
- Practice a few miles at goal pace if you're feeling confident. 6 x 3 minutes at Marathon goal pace on Tuesday is something I always do.
- If you want to run the day before, then keep it short. 1-3 miles, very relaxed.
There are many other ways you can help speed up the recovery process, while keeping active. Check out my blog post here for the full list. However here are some new ways I've discovered recently that are working well.
OOFOS - This company make some great recovery sandals. They are very supportive, helping take some of the impact away while walking allowing you to keep moving. I've been using them since I got my stress fracture last year and have found they add that little extra to getting your legs back up and running again that little bit quicker. Check out my kit page for links.
ROLL RECOVERY - I managed to find a R8 roller second hand, as they are not easy to find in the UK. It's probably the best single recovery gadget I've ever used. Super simple, portable and actually makes a difference. Well worth trying to get your hands on one.
OVERNIGHT PROTEIN - Casein protein is a type that's designed to take before bed, so your body uses it overnight as it rebuilds as you sleep. It's hard to put an exact amount it will help, but it's certainly all part of the jigsaw allowing me to do what I do.
SPRING ENERGY - They make a super convenient 'gel' type product called McRaecovery (Named after the ultra runner Sally McRae). You can keep it in your bag, travel around with it and even take it on your run so you have it as soon as you finish. Check it out on 'my kit' page.