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JOURNEY 21 – Don’t Tamper with the Taper

Posted on by in Category: Journey

Dr Carolyn (Crazy Doc) Bosak

With Cairns IM/70.3 coming up, we’ve finally reached taper. You’d think that this would be the easiest phase of training, with its reduced loads and more time on your hands, but it usually presents a few issues to deal with…as I first found when I coached myself to my first marathon in 2008…

No penance training!!

Stick with the program: resist the urge to do longer/extra sessions as initially you find you have more time, and sometimes even guilt about not training enough.

For example, in race week don’t run to the gym, do a 1 hour HIIT class, and run home…just saying

You’re a pain in the @$$…

As your training load reduces and your body and mind go through exercise withdrawal, you may be grumpy and irritable and damn hard to live with…potentially made worse by spending extra time with people you may not necessarily like (did I say that?)

Feel free to use the counter-argument “it’s physiological”.  (But don’t quote me, I’m not getting involved.)

…and you’re in pain

Recovery and adaptation can be associated with phantom aches and pains, some which you’ve never experienced before – even in your heaviest training weeks

Don’t panic!! Trust that these are part of the process, and let them work their way out. Manage them without much fuss, because focusing on your pain only serves to worsen them – which causes more anxiety – which worsens your pain, and so on.

Don’t comfort eat

Be mindful to counteract the reduced activity with a reduced calorie intake, reducing carbs/increasing your protein somewhat, though you still may put on some weight as your body replenishes chronically depleted muscle glycogen stores (each gram of carb is stored with 3g water).

But I’m not feeling the love…

Towards the end you’ll feel sluggish, heavy and lethargic – even until the day before -again, a normal part of the taper experience. Don’t be tempted do test workouts to check you’ve still ‘got it’. Trust that if you’ve done the work, it’ll all come together race day.

Taper Styles 

The science definitely supports tapering – whether your race takes 4 minutes or 4 hours, and there are different taper styles, differing  by how much volume and intensity are reduced, and over how long.  According to Prof. Inigo Mujika, who has researched tapering extensively, the optimal taper is individual, depending on your adaptation and recovery profile, and has nothing to do with age/experience/event distance.  You can make assumptions from your responses to training – which your coach will have an idea of, but it ultimately comes down to trial and error.  This is strategic taper tampering (say that quickly 10 times).

Happy Tapering, and good luck!!                                                                                                                        

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