Easing down before your run with tapering

The final couple of weeks before your race require you to taper your training so you get to the start line in the best shape possible. Here’s some taper tips from elite level runner and coach, Shaun Dixon.

Although some people tend to look upon 'the taper' as simply a period to put your feet up and relax before race day, it's actually a very important phase of training and can be difficult to get right. 

The one thing you need to bear in mind is that tapering, which is a period of reducing training volume or intensity to allow your body to fully recover so that you start your race in the best condition possible, affects everyone differently. For some runners, a drop in volume can actually leave them feeling more sluggish and tired, whereas others thrive on a couple of weeks of reduced training effort. 

As a result, especially if this is your first race, you need tread a fine line between being fresh, bouncy and full of energy, or feeling a bit flat. 

Turn down the volume

“As a general rule of thumb across all running distances it's a good idea to maintain the frequency of your training runs but decrease the volume of running, which in essence means that if you do three runs per week, still do three runs per week, but reduces the distance you run each outing. Your body loves routine so if you've established a good schedule you'll benefit from maintaining it.” 

Don’t ditch your speed

“While you must ensure you hold yourself back on easy and steady runs as your legs recover, it's important that you don't let them forget what it's like to run hard! A slightly reduced interval session or some race-pace practise seven to 10 days before the race is a good idea, and I love one final short and intense blast during a park run the week before any event. But don’t go all-out in the final few days before your race - it can do more harm than good.” 

Lower the volume

“Ahead of your marathon I would recommend slightly reducing the volume over the final two or three weeks before the race. With a three-week taper I would recommend running 80% of your typical training week volume the third week out; 70% of the volume two weeks out; then 60% of the volume in the final week. Your last ‘hard-effort session’ should be about 10 days before the big day. 

With a two-week taper, do 80% of your typical volume two weeks out, then 60% in the final week.” 

Keep it simple

“A final thought: don’t over-think or over-complicate your taper. Remember, you’ve done all the hard work already by putting in the running hours and miles over the course of your training plan, so it’s important to stay calm and relaxed so that you can enjoy the final week before your race, knowing that you’re going to enjoy a very successful run.” 

Follow Shaun on Twitter @LetsGetRunning or visit letsgetrunning.co.uk  .

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