Here are my 10 tips for tapering properly:
The first thing to remember is to taper! So many times going into a marathon, half marathon, or triathlon, I’ve been tempted to keep up my normal routine. Sure, my mileage may drop, but I still go all-out. It doesn’t do your body any favors to push yourself 100% until race day. Cutting back the intensity, the length of your running and other workouts, will help your muscles rebuild and be at their peak.
This doesn’t mean you have to be a lean, mean, clean-eating machine all of a sudden if you weren’t one to begin with. I said Eat smart – this means eat how you normally do, don’t change up your diet suddenly during the taper. Don’t introduce fried food if your body isn’t used to it (ahem, me on Sunday evening), cut carbs all of a sudden, or binge on sugary soda. Try to eat a ratio of protein/carb/fat that your body is used to, and maybe up one or two of those areas according to your body’s ideal pre-race needs.
…on junk food, on desserts, on alcohol. Stay steady. Stay in control.
Start hydrating several days prior to race day, not just the morning of the race.
Practice your morning routine and lay out all of your gear so that you have a smooth and easy race morning.
Take a pencil to paper or fingers to keyboard, and think through what you need for fuel on race day. If possible, do your last long run with exactly this strategy.
Spend some time thinking through all the steps of the day and how you will tackle each stage of the game. Make your race day plan.
Rest during the taper is important for your body to perform at its best on race day. This doesn’t just mean sleep – I tend to be on my feet all the time between kids and work, so I have to remember to rest my legs in the days leading up to the race. And getting to bed early is key!
Read up on the course and look at maps to know what to expect on race day. Where are the big hills that you’ll need to tackle? Where is a long stretch that might not have many cheering spectators that you’ll need to get through? The course maps can help you plan. Also, think through your race morning – what time will you leave? Where will you park?
They always say “trust your training” but I think that “trust yourself” is important too. Trust that you are going to carry YOU through to the finish line. You have put in the training; you are prepared – it’s YOUR race. Trust yourself and enjoy it!