How to Taper for a Race
Tapering - not only does it mean that an important race or competition is right around the corner, tapering also requires a substantial decrease in training volume for anywhere from 2-3 days to 2-3 weeks prior to your upcoming event. The goal of tapering is to maintain fitness and allow the body to build upon the recent adaptations created through training while also decreasing any negative impact training has had on the body. By allowing the body to recover and “super-compensate”, you’ll be fitter, healthy, rested, and ready to rock and roll on race day!
The first thing to consider when you taper is this, “how important is the upcoming event?” In other words, is this an A, B, or C race? If it’s a C race, treat it as an intense training session and don’t taper at all! If it’s a B race, you’ll want to dedicate anywhere between 3 days and a week… this can easily be built into your training cycle as part of or after a deload. If it’s an A race, you can take as little as 5 days and as much as 2-3 weeks to slowly decrease volume leading into one of your 2-3 biggest events of your season. The second major thing to consider is where you are in your periodized macro / micro cycle. If you’ve already put in a ton of volume over the course of a long season, you’ll want to dial it down considerably and take a longer taper than if your season is still relatively young.
Tapering requires you to decrease the VOLUME of your training by between 40-60% which can mean less miles running or biking, less sets and reps in the gym, and/or less overall hours of training in a week. Many coaches prescribe slightly increasing intensity during the taper, which helps to prevent de-training or a loss of fitness. Done right, fitness should INCREASE during this time frame, not DECREASE. Finally, a good tapering protocol necessitates an excellent recovery protocol… extra foam rolling and massage work, more cryotherapy and cold showers, plus meditation, sauna work, and Epsom salt baths. Basically, anything and everything you can do to help prepare your mind and body for the event ahead! Add in a potential increase in intensity and extra carbohydrate consumption, it does wonders for mind and body alike and will help you reap rewards on race day!