All the fuss: The Marathon Taper

Source: running magazine.ca

Source: runningmagazine.ca

Yes, I had to go there. While so much have been said about this important component of marathon training, some of us may still be a bit confused with all the information and cross information out there. Tapering is concisely defined as a reduction in training before a big event (runnersworld.com). Well, simple enough right? Except, with runners, it rarely is. There are many differing views on the form, duration and intensity this Taper should take. I, for one, think the concept is important but “tweak-able” as there is no one-size-fits-all in running, only a training method or plan tailored to suit the individual runner.

A comprehensive marathon training plan will include the taper element if only to make sure of its success, as it is nearly impossible to think of the human body undergoing the rigorous training inherent in such a plan and not be given the time to regroup, recalibrate and detrain..for want of a better word. Some pros argue 3 weeks, others say two. Really, it should fall somewhere in-between there but largely be based on your level and intensity of training. Studies and reports across the running spectrum has lauded the benefits of tapering to your marathon performance and goal time, siting improved and sustained race-day performance: increased energy, strength, confidence and endurance as ways in which runners benefit from this training mechanism. Pros and coaches alike also agree that during this period of – cutting back – the body re calibrates itself through muscle repair and recovery, increases muscle glycogen, and boosts muscle power, while the mind de-stresses, which reduces mental fatigue and enhances mental efficiency. It also allows for an important factor, reducing the chances of over training, which  can lead to a less-than-fresh feel heading into the race and even put one at risk for injury leading up to race day.

Experts say the key to a successful taper to ensure maximum efficiency on race day is to find the right balance between three key training elements: duration, mileage and key workouts (competitor.com). For me, that means I’ve cut down my mileage to around 75% this week, next week I’ll bring it down to 50%, while my focus is on running longer intervals at tempo and marathon pace with my speed work dropping to 1 day p/week for 1 hr. I have one medium long run planned this weekend at marathon pace and 1 hr of cross-training at the gym. Next week, leading into the weekend, will see a slight tweak to this plan as I eliminate the medium long run, which will pretty much wrap up my tapering as I head to Boston and Marathon Monday.

I tend to be not much of a rule person and have more-often-than-not found my way by finding what works for me through trial and error. However, in the last couple years, I’ve come to trust the taper method to take me through a race and to the finish line, that is, the few times I’ve not been injured. And so, true to form, I’m in full taper mode and trying my darndest to still the chit chatter of voices in my head that bemoans my current reduced-running state. It’ll be alright I’m sure; listening to your body is key and so is finding the right balance that works for you.

 

 

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