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How do I taper?

Tapering is a critical phase in the training cycle leading up to a race, especially for events like marathons, half-marathons, and long-distance races. Tapering involves reducing the volume and intensity of your training to allow your body to recover and be in peak condition on race day. Here's a guide on how to taper effectively:

Understand the Purpose of Tapering:

  • Tapering is not a time to make significant fitness gains. It's about allowing your body to recover from the accumulated training fatigue while maintaining your fitness and race readiness.

Taper Duration:

  • Tapering usually lasts for 2-3 weeks leading up to your race. The exact duration depends on the race distance and your training program. For a marathon, a 2-3 week taper is common.

Reduce Mileage:

  • Gradually decrease your weekly mileage during the taper phase. Typically, this reduction can be around 20-50% of your peak weekly mileage, depending on your individual needs and preferences.

Maintain Intensity:

  • Keep some intensity in your workouts, such as tempo runs or short intervals. This helps maintain your speed and race pace without adding too much fatigue.

Reduce Long Runs:

  • Reduce the length of your long runs, but include some race-pace efforts. For instance, you might do a few miles at your goal marathon pace.

Rest and Recovery:

  • Prioritize rest and recovery during the taper. Make sure you get adequate sleep, eat well, and avoid strenuous activities that might cause muscle soreness or injury.

Stay Hydrated and Well-Nourished:

  • Continue to maintain a balanced diet and stay well-hydrated. Your body needs nutrients to recover and prepare for the race.

Mental Preparation:

  • Use the taper period to mentally prepare for the race. Visualize your race-day success, focus on your goals, and develop a race-day plan.

Race-Specific Work:

  • Include some race-specific workouts during the taper. This can include practicing your race-day nutrition and hydration strategies.

Avoid the Urge to Overtrain:

  • It's common for runners to feel anxious or worried about losing fitness during the taper. However, trust in the process and avoid the temptation to add extra miles or intensity during this phase.

Listen to Your Body:

  • If you have any lingering aches or pains, address them during the taper. Consult with a physical therapist or healthcare provider if necessary.

Plan the Final Week:

  • The final week leading up to the race is often the most crucial part of the taper. It's where you further reduce volume, focus on staying relaxed, and rest before the big day.

Stay Positive and Relaxed:

  • Use the taper as a time to rest physically and mentally. Stay positive, trust in your training, and avoid stress.

Race-Day Prep:

  • The day before the race, organize your gear, nutrition, and logistics. Make a detailed race-day plan, and get a good night's sleep.

Remember that tapering is individual, and what works best can vary from person to person. It's important to trust your training and listen to your body during this phase. The goal is to arrive at the race feeling refreshed, energetic, and ready to perform at your best.

Matt Fox is the Head Coach at the Sweat Elite Coaching Academy and the Founder of Sweat Elite. Matt is a 2:20 Marathoner with over 18 years of training, racing and coaching experience.


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