If you have a major race happening in the next weeks, that means it is taper time. But why do we need to taper? It is to give our bodies reprieve from average training volumes to let our muscles heal and to arrive at the start line feeling fresh as possible.
Benefits of tapering
To get ready for your next race without taking too much time and effort when you workout before your next race and get a little bit faster than before.
It also restores and increases your glycogen stores by as much as fifteen percent. Which is essential considering glycogen and fat are the two primary fuel sources for endurance athletes.
On the other hand, if you taper without any intensity, you will find a very little increase in glycogen stores and won’t have that race pace built into your system.
The takeaway here is to frequently, with intensity, with more extended periods than usual. Resist the temptation to go too fast when you are feeling good during taper.
A taper can be tough mentally, but remember to be kind to people who support you from the very beginning.
So, sit back and relax, because the next ten to twenty-one days are not meant to kill yourself anymore. It is the time to let your body recover and start firing on all cylinders.
How much should I taper?
At this point, your training is done, so resist the urge to get in that last workout or extra interval. Short, fast efforts with plenty of rest will be more beneficial.
All the extra effort you exert will only tire you out and potentially ruin your race because the work is already done at this point. As we know, after a couple of days of the competition, we start feeling better. Fatigue is so much more profound than just a couple of days.
The distance of your race and the importance of your race will depend on your age. So, the taper should last anywhere from ten to twenty-one days; not just a few.
If your race is more important, if your track is longer like a half Ironman or an Ironman, if you are older, the taper should start edging toward that twenty-one-day mark.
For shorter races, like sprints and Olympics, young athletes who recover quickly or if it is not that important race, a taper can be closer to that ten-day mark.
Regardless, of the length of the taper, whether it is ten or twenty-one days, this plan should give everyone an excellent starting point to get them set up for that taper.
What is the right way to taper?
When you start your taper, make sure that on the first three days, it should be your time to take an off. The objective of this is to rinse out a lot of that accumulative fatigue.
You can either take those days entirely off, or you can limit yourself to no more than sixty minutes, and nothing faster than a zone two effort.
This is barely jogging in place for a little bit of time. If you take those entire three days off, your body is going to be pretty happy.
After taking those three days off, or at super low volumes, on your fourth day, you should start sharpening.
This means you should have to perform some sessions that are very specific to your race.
How should I practice?
You should be practicing how you start your swim, your transition one, transition two, and sitting. But in general, you want to bring down your volume to about half the amount you were doing before the taper started.
With that said, what you must do is to include some short, quick efforts, to keep your body in the habit of turning over the legs, turning over the arms, and getting that speed up quite a bit.
The trick is to stop yourself in every one of these workouts before you dig yourself a hole. Do the exercise until you feel good. Do a proper warm down. You do not want to finish one of these taper workouts feeling cooked or even taxed. That period of taper should end.
This is where you start managing the logistical issues of the race. Start dialing in your travel, getting your nutrition in order, getting your bike one last cleaning. Checking your tires and tubes for quality, making sure there are no punctures and maybe replacing them, so you got a brand new set of rubber under the wheels because a clean and neat bike is a fast bike.
You should arrive at the location of the triathlon two days after the race. You are using that day as a full recovery day, doing no workouts. Drive the bike course, and then bike the run course. After that two days out, when you are doing nothing most of the time, you should have gotten yourself fresh and nice.
The day before, you may want to do a small workout to get your body ready to move again.
Do a short twenty-minute swim, a quick twenty-minute bike, and a short twenty-minute run.
With each of them, make some very slight ten to twenty-second efforts getting yourself up to race pace and moving your heart rate up a little bit.
While you swim, make sure you do some sitting to see if there are some site lines like trees or bright objects that you can look at as you are in the swim. Know where the buoys are. Know where the entrance and exit is and where you are turning towards transition.
Then walk through the transition so you can figure out the right place to put your bike.
A little pro tip for you is to move your bike as close to the bike exit as possible so that your run through transition is not carrying a bike with you.
Map out the entrance, the exit, where your bike is in all the racks, so you know exactly where to go throughout the day.
Do a quick practice of transition one and transition two. Go through that routine and remind your brain of the steps that you take.
If you are doing a longer race where you might have some special needs throughout the race, map out where the best porta-potty is.
Then, finally figure out where the water and nutrition stations are, where you can find shelter if you need to take it and get off the course.
The night before your race, all you should be doing is packing your transition bag, and going through a checklist that you created a few days before when you were not stressed out or worrying about the next morning.
Make sure that everything on that checklist is in the bag. Pack it nicely so that you do not have to worry about that the next morning.
If you have your breakfast figured out for the next morning, get that ready, too, to save yourself some time in the morning of the triathlon.
At this point, you should be fully tapered and ready to kill that triathlon. You should not have to bother concerning anything besides getting a night of good sleep, getting enough nutrition in the morning, and showing up ready to go.
Ace your next race like a pro!