I am currently tapering for my 6th Marathon. Previously I always had a hard time tapering before a race. I knew that a good taper period where you scale back on volume and intensity is essential to reach peak performance level on race day. However I always struggled with a normal tapering strategy because I felt like tapering meant doing less or even nothing and therefore not contributing towards my goal. So for this time, I am tapering not by doing LESS, but by doing things DIFFERENTLY. Starting point is my normal workout (and life) schedule. For the last three weeks before the important race I will gradually replace workouts with other things, but keeping the schedule the same. By doing this, I will feel like working actively towards my goal and not like doing nothing. I call this the “replacement taper” period.
Taper Step 1: Replace hard workouts with easier workouts
Your body needs quite some time to recover from hard workouts and runs. So a hard hill session in the week before your race will not make you faster, but leave your legs sore and tired. Instead try to run easier sessions, that will help towards your overall recovery before the big race. A shake out run before the race is also a good idea.
Taper Step 2: Replace easy runs with foam rolling and stretching
Foam rolling and stretching are great for your muscles. But very likely you have neglected these important sessions during the last few weeks because you were busy getting all your miles in. Taper time is perfect to change this. Give your muscles a good roll or stretch to get them ready for your Marathon. But be careful not to overdo it. The last thing you want is to tear a muscle because you stretched too hard.
Taper Step 3: Replace morning workouts with sleep-ins
If you read my blogpost regurlarly, you know that I transformed myself to a monring person that loves to do early bird workouts. But during taper time I want to catch up on sleep to help your body recover. Getting solid 8 hours of sleep is recommended. So make sure you actually schedule your sleep in, instead of binge watching Netflix. The easiest way to do this is by converting your morning workouts into sleep ins. The only thing you have to do is to set your alarm a bit later.
Taper Step 4: Replace coffee with decaf
If you are a regular coffee drinker you might know that your body adapts to caffeine quite quickly. To then get the extra boost, you have to drink more and more. This can be especially annoying for race day, as coffee is a diuretic and would then make you visit the portapotty more often than planned. So a week before the big race I will start to replace my caffeinated drinks with decaf and go on a coffee detox. This also helps me with step 3, as I will then be more tired than usual. If going cold turkey is too hard for you, you can reduce your coffee consumption to 50% two weeks before and to 0 in the week before the race.
Taper Step 5: Replace fibre with simple, healthy carbs
This is the last step in my tapering protocol. The day before the big race I will replace all fibrous foods with simple carbs. For example: white rice instead of vegetables, fruit juice instead of fruit, white bread instead of whole grain, bananas and rolled oats instead of flax seeds and chia seeds in my muesli. This reduces the amount of fibre in my intestines, and therefore reducing the need to go to the portapotty before and during the race, as well as helping with carb loading. And don’t worry too much if you don’t get the recommended amount if fiber or veggies for one day. This one day will not backfire on your health, but too much fiber before race day can definitely hinder your performance on race day.
In case you are having a hard time with resting in general, check out my blog post on how to rest day for no rest day people!