You have trained hard, prepared well, and are now as fit as you have been all year. Your event is just a short time away. So what happens next is what we call Tapering.
What is a taper?
A taper is considered to be a period of time where the volume of training is reduced in the days or weeks leading up to a key event, to prevent training-induced fatigue from impacting your performance on race day. Remember this need not be done for every event, just the one or two that you have selected to be your key objectives for the year.
A structured taper will allow the body to recover from the accumulated fatigue of hard training without reversing the positive effects of the quality training that you have put in. Your fitness can be wasted with an ineffective taper period as you will get to the start line fatigued. Get it right and you’ll fly on the day, get it wrong and you’ll not be competing to your full potential.
Remember that tapering is where only the volume of training is reduced, not the intensity. Some people lose the full advantage of a taper period because they reduce both volume and intensity. Ensure you differentiate between the two and success is at least a step closer. You can’t get any fitter in the last week before a key event; it’s a fact!
A taper is a cross between a rest period and an activity period. You still stress your body before a key event, you just do it for a shorter activity period, which gives you a longer recovery period. You get to “rest”, after the event! To make the point absolutely clear; tapering isn’t resting! So don’t confuse the two.
How long should a taper be?
Well, it depends.
If you’re training for an Iron Man event you might need to take up to a three week taper.
For a half Ironman or equivalent, a 14 day taper
For an Olympic distance triathlon or a marathon, you would be looking for an 10-12 day taper.
For a sprint distance triathlon or half marathon a 7 day taper.
The benefits of tapering
Research suggests that a well planned and executed taper can lead to:
- an increase in oxygen uptake
- an increase in muscle glycogen levels
- an increase in an athlete’s strength and power.
Each individual reacts differently to the same training stimulus, the same is found for tapering.
- Frequency has to remain around 80% of previous training patterns.
- Intensity has to remain at or above that of competition level.
- Time (volume) has to decrease by at least 50-60%.
So, if you’re training five times a week, you don’t cut back to two sessions, you drop to four. If you have a power meter you know exactly, from previous race data, where you need your power levels to be. So your intervals need to be at race pace, plus some! And as for time, if your endurance training session is four hours, you cut it back to two to two and a half hours. These are all starting points for you to work from.
There is no fixed template, and these figures aren’t prescriptive. But they do make excellent starting points against which to prove your theories when you taper for one of your less-important objectives.
Remember, as we said earlier. Tapering isn’t resting and you can’t get fitter in the last week prior to an event. Think smart and experiment with the taper times as everyone is different.
Also think about the importance or sports massage, nutrition and sleep.
If you require any help with your tapering, feel free to contact one of the team.