The tapering phase is a critical part of your training plan. During the last couple of weeks of your training, it’s important that you taper, or cut back your mileage, to give your body and mind a chance to rest, recover, and prepare for your race.
Here are some general guidelines for what to do and what to expect during the pre-race tapering period:
THREE WEEKS BEFORE YOUR RACE
- The longest run of your training plan should be done three weeks before the race. For a half marathon, this is 10-17 miles. For a full 20-29 miles. After that, reduce your mileage about 25% each week until the race.
- You will be tempted to run longer and harder during this time, but you must resist the urge. At this point, nothing you do other than tapering will improve your race. Try to remember: Less is more. Running less reduces your risk of injury, gives you time to rest and recover, and allows your muscles to store carbohydrates in preparation for the big race. Use the taper phase to mentally prepare yourself.
TWO WEEKS BEFORE YOUR RACE
- Reduce you mileage another 25% from the prior week.
- Don’t be surprised if you feel some new aches and pains during the tapering period. It’s a normal part of the process, as your body repairs itself from months of training.
- Sleep is also an important part of the tapering process. You don’t need to sleep for excessive amounts of time, but try to get at least eight hours a night.
- Now is a good time to get that pre-race deep tissue massage to loosen up your muscles. A deep tissue massage can have the same effect of a hard workout on your muscles, so you don’t want to do it too close to the race.
ONE WEEK BEFORE YOUR RACE
- Reduce your weekly mileage another 25%. Keep your normal pace. Slowing too much can alter your stride or make you feel sluggish.
- Work on your mental preparation by reviewing the course map and visualizing yourself during the race.
- Eat a diet rich in complex carbohydrates (whole-grain breads, pasta, and cereals), and drink plenty of fluids. In the week before your marathon, about 65-70% of your calories should come from carbs. Avoid alcoholic beverages since they have a dehydrating effect and can also interfere with your sleep.
- Take at least one or two days off from running during marathon week. Some people prefer to take off the two days before the race, while others will take off Friday before a Sunday marathon and do a very easy 20 to 30-minute run the day before the race to work out last-minute nerves.
As race day approaches, you’re likely to be stressed and short tempered. Stay relaxed and positive, pre-race nerves are normal. Try to avoid stressful activities or situations. Start packing for and plan your race day for zero stress. Most of all remember to have fun, you have trained hard and should enjoy the race. Train to Race, Don’t Race to Train!