Taper Is Not The End Of The World, Its The Beginning

Taper seems to get a bad rap from our endurance sports community.  When a race is coming up I see tweets and Facebook posts about how heading into taper is the worst thing to happen and how will they every survive.  I will admit when I first got serious about this endurance lifestyle journey that tapering for a race was down right insanity.  I always questioned if I had done enough and would always want to do more.  I thought taper was going to cause such a drop in fitness that I pushed to keep doing more and more.  Taper was creating this illusion that I was not capable of completing the race. Three years later and I fully embrace taper and all the awesome it brings.  I have discovered that as long as I stick to what got me through the base building and overload weeks that I can manage to get through taper as well.  It is not the need for working out but the habit of having to change my eating habits.....just a bit!  When you are going through overload weeks you essentially become a human garbage can and put anything you can get your hands on onto a plate and eventually down your throat. With the decrease in volume (not intensity) that comes with taper there is a much-needed adjustment to calories consumed as well.  This is where meal planning and the MyFitnessPal.com website come into play for me.  Reviewing my training schedule and putting meals into MFP so that they connect with each other allows me to maximize my calorie intake around my training and not go overboard.  As a Type-A person if I have a list I will follow it and that is what the meal planning does for me.  Going through taper for the third time in 12 months for an Ironman race has given me a little bit of insight on how to get through these weeks as painlessly as possible and I'll share them with you here.

Tips To Getting Through Your Taper Period

  • Keep The Intensity - your workouts are about to get shorter in duration but that does not mean that you should back off on the intensity so much that it feels like you are doing absolutely nothing.  You are putting your body back together again after a few long weeks but you also want to stay mentally sharp and keeping the intensity where it needs to be does just that.
  • Distract Yourself - Remember that book you wanted to read?  How about that recipe you pinned 8 weeks ago?  That movie that just came out?  Do them and distract yourself so that you are not so focused on the race.  The race alone can cause anxiety, but sitting around waiting for race day to show up will only heighten that anxiety.  By doing things other than endurance sports related the time will pass by quickly and before you know it the gun is going off for the start of the race.
  • Study And Memorize - Study the course maps and know where to turn during the swim, bike and run.  Taper affords you the time to truly sit down and understand the course so no silly mistakes are made. In addition to that you can envision yourself on the course and make mental notes of where and when certain things will be.  Being mentally strong goes a long way in having a successful race.  Taper provides you the opportunity to do such things.
  • Trust In Your Training - This may be the hardest part about taper for most athletes.  They question if they did enough and want to pour more volume on.  The thing about this is that this isn't a test you can cram for.  You either did the work or your didn't and there is no rushing physical fitness at this point.  Trust that you have done what you can to give you the race that you will have.  If you did 50% of the work and want to qualify for Kona or Boston you should re-think your goals.  If you have put everything you can into your training leading up to taper then go ahead and create those goals that once seemed lofty.
  • Be Smart - If you are not feeling a workout during taper then back off. Getting sick or injured now does nothing but throw all those long hard days into the garbage.  You are not going to lose fitness in the 2 or 3 weeks of taper if you back off on one scheduled training session and you may actually get stronger because your body needs that rest.
  • Sleep as much as possible - Sleeping and napping are another benefit to taper for a variety of reasons.  You allow your body to heal by sleeping and napping, but you also pass time.  If you are sleeping there is a very good chance that you are not stressing about the race for those 7 to 8 hours.  Take advantage of every moment you can to sleep/nap or just plan rest.
  • Drink Water - Again, getting hydrated and staying hydrated is not something you want to rush.  If you are consistent with your H2O intake then you will be perfectly hydrated for the race.  Include electrolytes in your water as well so that you are not diluting the sodium needed to perform on race day.
These are a few of the tips that I will be employing during the next few weeks of taper in the lead up to Ironman Texas 2013.  This training block has gone amazingly well but after Sunday's long ride taper could not have come soon enough.  I was wiped out to the point that I could not think straight and moving wasn't really an option for me.  I know that my body was pushed to the brink and now I get to enjoy taper and reel it back in. My body will heal itself, I will watch my diet like a hawk and enjoy the extra hours I get to spend with Karen and Chico.  The stress that training can put on the body, mind and outside relationships will now provide me the time to rebuild all three during these taper weeks and I plan to fully enjoy each day of taper. [caption id="attachment_7979" align="aligncenter" width="553"]taper - tips - triathlon - marathon Keep Taper Weeks As Simple As Possible[/caption]

What Are Your Taper Tips?

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Jason Bahamundi

About the Author:

I grew up in New York and lived there for 34 years until I got divorced and moved 1600 miles to my new home in Texas.  I love New York and miss it but that does not mean that Texas hasn’t been great to me because it has.  It was here that I discovered endurance sports and specifically the sport of triathlon.  Triathlon has given me new life through all the challenges it presents.  I no longer look at life the same way and I can say that is in part due to my endeavor into this sport.