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Top Tips for a Successful Taper

By Rebekah Mayer

Race day is nearly here and most of your training is in the bag. What can you do now to ensure a great race day? By paying extra attention to your sleep, nutrition and training, you can set yourself up for a great half marathon.

Training:
A good taper will bring you to race day rested, but not feeling stale. For a half marathon a two-week taper is typically best:

  • Start by doing your longest training run two weeks before race day.
  • The following week should be roughly 60 percent of your peak mileage. Most of the mileage decrease is on the long runs, so your weekday mileage won’t change much during the first week of taper.
  • The final long run is done the weekend before your race day and is typically six to 10 miles long.
  • The final week should be roughly 40 percent of your peak mileage leading up to race day.

Keep your quality workouts (intervals and race pace) on schedule during the last two weeks, up to four days out from your race. The drop in mileage combined with consistent quality will keep you feeling fresh and sharp. Strength training and cross-training should also be tapered off to keep your legs fresh.

Sleep:
In order to fully recover from your training, proper sleep is key. Experts recommend sleeping eight to nine hours per night. While that may be challenging to fit into a busy schedule, here are some tips:

  • Try to build a consistent sleep schedule where you go to bed around the same time each night. Doing so can lead to more consistent sleep.
  • DVR your favorite shows to catch up on after race day. You’ve worked hard to prepare for the race and your body deserves some extra rest and recovery.
  • Two nights before the race is the most important night for sleep. Focus on setting up your week so that you can get a full night’s sleep that night.
  • Don’t worry too much if you don’t sleep well the night before the race. It’s normal to have a short night as pre-race nerves can affect your sleep. One poor night of sleep shouldn’t affect your performance the next day.

Nutrition:
Your nutritional approach in the final weeks depends on your overall eating style. During your peak mileage week your calorie intake needs to be sufficient to keep your energy levels up, but after that you may need to adjust your eating relative to your training. Here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Sometimes weight gain can be a problem during taper as you likely need fewer calories than during heavy training.
  • The benefits of carbohydrate-loading are being called into question for marathoners, and for half marathoners there is little research that supports the benefits of carbohydrate-loading.
  • Many experts (including those at Life Time Run) recommend a more balanced eating approach including moderate carbohydrates from whole food sources, quality protein and healthy fat.

Your eating style does impact your nutrition in the final days before your race.

  • Runners who typically eat a high-carbohydrate diet typically stick with that through race day and are more likely to need to carb-load for longer races.
  • Low-carb and/or Paleo runners have trained their bodies to burn more fat and fewer carbs and can continue that style of eating through race day. Consuming protein, fat and fiber in moderation in the 24 hours before the race is often helpful.

The final month before your race is the perfect opportunity to fine-tune your sleep, nutrition and training. By taking a few extra steps to support your training and recovery this month you’ll be ready for a great race!

Rebekah Mayer is the National Training Manager at Life Time Run. Check out LifeTimeRun.com for more training tips, training programs and social runs at 60+ locations nationwide.

How to Taper for Any Race—and Why You Should

Photo: lzf /

When you’re in the thick of them, grueling, multi-month training plans can seem endless-like there’s no end in sight. But all of the good ones do offer relief. It comes in the form of a taper, a time to cut back your mileage, slow down your legs, and take a (much-deserved) pre-race break.

It may sound counterintuitive, but tapers have their place in every effective training plan, whether you’re gearing up for your first 5K or about to check the latest marathon off your list. (Related: 6 Things a Run Coach Can Teach You About Marathon Training)

Here, why they’re important and how to make sure you’re backing off the right way so that you arrive at the starting line rested and ready.

What is tapering for a race?

If you’re new to running (or even if you’re not) it’s time to iron out a solid definition of what tapering is in the first place.

Simply put: “A taper is a gradual reduction in load so that the body can recover from the accumulated fatigue produced by hard training,” explains Janet Hamilton, C.S.C.S., founder of Atlanta-based Running Strong, a company dedicated to both coaching and rehabbing runners.

However, tapering isn’t lounging on the couch instead of doing your long run. After all, anyone who’s run a marathon knows that one of your taper weeks might very well include a 16-mile run-something that only feels easier because it follows the longest run of your training.

Why do runners need to taper?

As you build your mileage, you’re also building up serious levels of fatigue, says Hamilton. “If you toe the line with this high level of fatigue, you probably won’t be able to perform at your best,” she notes. (Related: Why All Runners Should Practice Yoga and Barre)

That’s where a little R&R comes in. “The taper allows the body to rest, repair, and recover from the intense peak training period where the muscles, ligaments, and joints have been taxed during rigorous training,” says Michael McGrane, the running club coach for the Boston Athletic Association. “For race time improvement, rest is the key element during the final weeks of a training period to hit a peak performance.”

The benefits of the taper aren’t all physical either. When you’re working your body to the max, your mind gets tired, too. The taper offers a much-needed break-perhaps time to spend time with family, friends, or do other activities you might have had to pass over during your peak mileage weeks, says McGrane.

What does a good taper look like?

Every runner is different. So to make sure that a taper works for you, it’s best to work with a run coach who can individualize a plan based on your goals, pace, and overall training strategy.

But generally speaking, a marathon taper usually takes place during the three weeks leading up to race day. More advanced runners often stick with a two-week taper, notes McGrane. (Check out Hamilton’s sample taper plans for both a marathon and half marathon below.)

During this time, you pull back mileage each week, anywhere from 10 to 25 percent. Often, runners cut their long runs. For example, coming off of a 20- to 23-miler, your next two weeks of long runs might be 16 to 18 miles and then 10 to 12 miles, says McGrane.

Often, coaches also suggest taking these runs at slower paces during the taper in order to keep energy levels high. (Hamilton suggests ditching strength training the week of a race for the same reason.)

“Lowering the distance of the recovery runs by one to two miles also gives the body more rest and recovery,” adds McGrane. But if you cut the distance of your speed workouts or tempo runs, try to keep the intensity up. “This can help you maintain a sharpness for both a mental edge to feel good about the training and to keep your muscles firing,” McGrane notes.

As for shorter races? “The longer the race, the more important the taper becomes. But even for short races, a taper will benefit most athletes,” Hamilton says. For 10Ks and 5Ks, you may only need a week or a few days to shake the fatigue linked with training, she notes.

Don’t be anxious about tapering your race training.

A slowdown sounds like it would be music to the ears of anyone logging double-digit mileage every week, week after week, but it doesn’t always come so naturally.” Too many athletes are afraid that if they step back on the miles, they’ll lose their fitness overnight,” she notes. But in fact, stepping back actually helps you gain back energy and doesn’t negatively impact fitness, she says.

Some runners, though, feel the urge to make up missed training workouts or long runs during the taper. “While the peak training is difficult to achieve, the taper can be the most challenging to get right for optimum performance on race day,” McGrane notes.

If you’re feeling anxious about not working out as much, try to trust in your training and tell yourself what Hamilton reminds her clients: “The training you do in the last days leading up to the race will not ‘make’ your performance on race day-but it can ‘break’ it.”

Hamilton’s Sample Half-Marathon Taper Plan

For a novice half marathoner logging 30 to 35 miles a week. (HMP = half marathon pace.)

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Hamilton’s Sample Marathon Taper Plan

For a novice marathoner logging 40 to 50 miles a week. (MP = marathon pace.)

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How to Taper for Your Road Race

Tapering isn’t just for marathoners. In fact, one recent study showed a huge performance benefit when subjects tapered for a 5K.

Here’s how to taper for four common road-racing distances:

5K

Cut your normal mileage in half the week before your 5K race, but maintain some intensity. Early in the week, run 4 x 400 meters at your 5K goal pace with a 200-meter jog between repeats. Later in the week, jog two miles, then run 6 or 8 x 100-meter strides at 90 percent of maximum speed. Run easy the other days.

10K

Same as 5K taper, except run your 400-meter repeats at your 10K goal pace.

Half-Marathon

Start cutting your mileage two weeks before the race. The first week, run 75 percent of your normal mileage; the final week, run 50 percent. The first week, run 4 x 800 meters at your 10K race pace with a 400-meter jog between repeats.

The final week, run 4 x 400 meters at 5K race pace with a 200-meter jog between repeats. A few days before the race, jog two miles, then run 6 to 8 x 100-meter strides at 90 percent effort.

On track days: 1) Wear the shoes you plan to use in the marathon; 2) jog four laps before and after the workout; 3) walk or jog slowly during the recovery interval.

On “easy” days: 1) Run no faster than marathon goal pace; and 2) add walking breaks if you plan to walk at times during the marathon.

On rest days: Don’t even cross-train. Rest.

Marathon

While you need to stop doing long runs in the final weeks before a marathon, you shouldn’t stop doing fast runs. These will keep you sharp. Some good, basic speed workouts to consider during your taper:

  • 4 x 800 meters at 5K race pace, with a 400-meter jog between repeats
  • 6 x 400 meters at slightly faster than 5K race pace, with a 400-meter jog between repeats
  • 2 x 1 mile at 10K race pace, with an 800-meter jog between repeats

On track days, wear the shoes you plan to use in the marathon, jog four laps before and after the workout, and walk or jog slowly during the recovery interval.

On rest days, don’t even cross-train. Rest.

Eat Smart

“Runners often eat way too much while tapering,” says Liz Applegate, Ph.D., Runner’s World nutrition columnist, “and they end up gaining weight and feeling sluggish on race day. Your body can store only so much glycogen. If you eat more calories than you need, your body stores those extra calories as fat.”

The bottom line is that by simply staying on your normal diet which should contain 60 to 65 percent carbs you’ll be carbo-loading without even trying.

Here are some dietary do’s and don’ts that apply to the last three days and especially the last 24 hours before a marathon:

  • Drink plenty of fluids, especially in warm weather or if you have to catch a flight to the race.
  • Limit your consumption of alcohol, which hampers glycogen storage.
  • Try to avoid foods that are high-fat, high-fiber, spicy, gas-producing, or unfamiliar, especially the night before the race.
  • Don’t gorge yourself the night before the race. Instead, eat a dinner of 800 to 1,000 calories, such as a baked potato topped with stir-fried vegetables and tofu.
  • About three or four hours before the marathon, you may want to have a snack. Studies show that people who eat 500 to 1,000 calories a few hours before a marathon perform better.
  • Consider eating some cereal with nonfat milk, a couple of pancakes, or a big slice of leftover pizza (minus the meat topping and extra cheese). Do this only if you have tried it before a long run in training and know that your digestive system can handle it.

Say the word “taper” to a group of runners and you will receive an array from responses from “I hate the taper” to “I love the taper” to “I don’t taper.” But whether you love it or hate it, the taper works, and not just for the marathon. Tapering can make the difference between running a mediocre half marathon and achieving a PR on race day. But exactly what the taper looks like is different than marathon tapering – so here’s how to taper for a half marathon.

Granted, if you are racing a half marathon as tune-up race during a marathon training cycle, you will not taper as much. But if you are aiming for peak performance and a half marathon PR, tapering will help you reach that goal.

Why Taper for a Half Marathon?

Training is a process of stress-fatigue-adaptation. When you complete a long run or hard workouts such as a tempo run or interval workout, you apply a stimulus to your body. This stimulus stresses your body, thus leading to fatigue. In response to the fatigue, your body adapts positively to become stronger.

Half marathon training is a cumulative and progressive series of positive adaptations from repeated stimuli. For peak performance, you need to reduce your training and allow your body to fully recover and process the cumulative training load.

The taper is effective for multiple reasons. First, the taper allows your muscles to rest and recover, thus increasing muscular strength and power output. Rest also affects your circulatory system, leading to an increase in blood volume and a minor boost in your aerobic capacity (VO2max). Your body stores more glycogen. The combination of these physiological responses can result in a 2-3% improvement in performance – which is why you can hold race pace for so much longer on race day.

Yes, the taper requires rest – more rest than some runners are comfortable with. In the book Peak Performance, Steve Magness and Brad Stulberg frame rest as an active choice made my high-performing athletes: “They win major races not because they train harder than their competitors, but because they rest harder than their competitors.”

Tapering is not a sign of weakness, laziness, or not training hard enough. On the contrary, tapering allows you to show up mentally and physically fresh and ready to race at a maximum effort.

Tapering for the half marathon is an experiment. You will notice in the guidelines below wide ranges for when to do you last hard workout, how many miles to run, and more. Athletes who need more recovery will likely prefer lower mileage during their tapers than runners who might detrain quickly. You may find that how you taper changes throughout the seasons – during stressful periods of life, you may need a longer, sharper taper, while when you are at a high level of fitness, you may prefer a shorter, moderate taper.

How to Taper for a Half Marathon

10-14 Days Before: Your Peak Hard Workout

The exact duration of the taper depends on a variety of individual factors, including recovery rate, intensity of training, stress outside of running, and race goals. Some runners prefer a two-week taper before a half marathon; others thrive on a 10-day taper after their last hard workout.

Physiologically speaking, the full effects of a workout occur about 8-14 days later, depending on the type of workout. VO2max workouts require long recovery due to the intense nature of the workout, while tempo (threshold) runs, marathon or half marathon goal pace workouts, and long run take about 8-10 days to recover from.

Ideally, your peak hard workout before a half marathon is either a long run, threshold run, or a combination of the two. An example of a peak hard workout for an intermediate to experienced half marathoner is 2-4 sets 2-mile repeats at goal pace (based on fitness level) built into a long run of 10-13 miles. For beginner half marathoners, you do want to do your longest long run two weeks out from race day.

The Week Before (7-13 days before):

Remember, tapering isn’t just about reducing mileage. You also want to sharpen for your race, which means maintaining intensity during the first week of the taper. Since you are training for a half marathon, your hard workouts will be within the threshold zone – about 10K pace to half marathon pace – and therefore will not incur so much fatigue that they risk affecting your race day performance. For a goal half marathon, you can do your last tempo run about 8-10 days out from the race.

A majority of runners will find that maintaining a semblance of their normal training routine reduces the taper crazies. Scaled hard workouts will maintain that sense of routine, rather than completely changing up your training right when you are focusing on peak performance.

Meanwhile, your overall mileage will taper this week to about 60-80% of your peak mileage. This is a wide range because of individual variance and it may take a few races to find the optimal range for you. When in doubt, veer on the conservative end – it’s preferable to be slightly detrained than fatigued on race day. The reduction in mileage will affect your long run, reducing the distance from 13+ miles to 8-10 miles the weekend before the race.

During this time, you want to taper off strength training as well. You can cut it out altogether if you wish or stick to lighter weights and fewer reps of what you normally do. This is not the time for challenging strength workouts with heavy weights and plyometrics.

Race Week:

During race week, you will run significantly less mileage than your average weekly training mileage – about 40-50%, not including the race. You want to run enough to keep your legs loose and your mind calm while still receiving the benefits of extra rest.

Strength training should not be done in the days leading up to a half marathon. Mobility work and foam rolling can be done this week, but avoid any plyometrics, weight lifting, or other challenging strength workouts.

Since you are sharpening for peak performance, you want to include one race week workout about four or five days prior to your race. For a half marathon, this is ideally a short duration of running at goal pace, such as 2-3 miles either continuous or split up into intervals with short rest.

What does a half marathon taper actually look like in real life? This is a sample from my training log for my most recent half marathon. This is not a prescription of exactly what you should do, since your training, goals, fitness level, and recovery rate will all affect exactly how this week looks.

Peak Long Run, two weeks out: 4 x 2 miles at goal half marathon pace – 13 miles total (during a 41 mile week)
Week One of Taper: 33 miles, two hard workouts: 6 x 1K at 10K pace (11 days out), 10 miles with 4 miles at goal half marathon pace (9 days out)
Race Week: 19 miles (not including the race), one workout: 2 x 10 minutes at race pace (5 days out)

Want to know more about half marathon training? Check out these articles:
How to Pace Your Fastest Half Marathon
13 Ways You May Be Sabotaging Your Half Marathon
How to Run a Sub 1:45 Half Marathon
How to Recover After a Half Marathon

Linking up with Coaches’ Corner and Wild Workout Wednesday!

How do you taper for a half marathon?
What’s the hardest part about tapering for you?

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Tapering before your half marathon is an essential component to your half marathon training.

After all, how hard can tapering be? You’re just running less, right?

Well…though your running volume decreases, the two weeks before your half marathon can be deceptively difficult, even for veteran half marathoners.

So if you’re running a half marathon soon, then this post is for you.

You’ll read key, specific tips on how to taper for a half marathon.

And, you’ll also find a schedule on tapering before a half marathon so you know exactly what to expect and do before your race.

Though you’ll find general physical half marathon tapering tips, we’ll also focus on mentally preparing for your race and the mistakes to avoid. Because your race day should be a fun and enjoyable experience.

Let’s get to it.

YOUR HALF MARATHON TAPER SCHEDULE

HALF MARATHON TAPER: 2 WEEKS BEFORE YOUR RACE

Photo by Stage 7 Photography on Unsplash

MAINTAIN A RUNNING ROUTINE

Tapering is crucial because you must reduce your total running mileage and volume to let your body heal from training.

But a wide range of emotions magically appear during a taper thanks to the decrease in running volume. Excitement, irritability, anxiety, you name it, it’s there.

Here’s what to do.

But first, a quick word on the following advice: this is a broad, general tip because training plans vary.

Go for a run at your normal time but reduce your daily run by about 10-20 minutes. 1

It’s tempting to sneak in some extra running time during your taper. But don’t do it! Remember, the hard work—your training—is done. You can’t cram for a half marathon during your taper.

Instead, counteract the urge to overdo it with this mantra:

I am ready.

Photo by Tyler Nix on Unsplash

DO A DRESS REHEARSAL

“Nothing new on race day.”

You’ve heard this advice before, right?

Nothing new on race day applies to any meals you’ll consume before your race, the fuel and gels you’re using, and to the gear you’ll wear.

Because the only thing you’ll want to focus on before and during your race is running after that personal best.

These last few weeks are the perfect time to pull those puzzle pieces together to do a dress rehearsal.

Practice eating the same food you’ll want to eat on race day. Train with the gels you’ll use. Wear the exact outfit you’ll run in for your half marathon—your shorts, shirt, socks, shoes.

Tested, reliable gear and routines infuses you with calmness on race day.

Photo by Edgar Castrejon on Unsplash

RE-FUEL YOUR MUSCLES

The taper is when your muscles rebuild and get stronger. And to seize and maintain your gains, boost your muscle recovery and performance with quality sleep.

And because you’re running less, you’ll need less food to support your training. But it doesn’t have to be complicated. The key is to eat balanced meals with a focus on nutrients. And if you want a cookie? Eat the cookie.

Need to inject some new, nutritious recipes to fuel your running? Then you’ve got to check out this list of the best cookbooks for runners.

Want even more healthy recipe ideas? Come on over and follow Sheebes on Pinterest and check out the healthy recipe boards.

Photo by Morgan Sarkissian on Unsplash

REINFORCE YOUR CONFIDENCE

Did you keep a half marathon training log?

If you did, you get to review your progress. (And if not, this running planner is a fun and detailed guide that’ll help you stick with your goals.) And you’ve come a long way since the beginning.

Plus, reflecting on your training is a major confidence booster. Especially when you highlight the great runs. The runs where you thought you couldn’t do…but did. Or, the runs where you weren’t feeling motivated but ended up having an awesome time. These runs are proof you can dig deep when it’s tough and that you’re ready to race.

So go ahead, celebrate you. You’ve earned it.

If you haven’t seen this post on the mental imagery exercises to help calm your pre-race anxiety, then head over there to learn more about why and how it will help calm your nerves and improve your race performance.

HALF MARATHON TAPER: THE WEEK BEFORE YOUR RACE

Photo by Matthew LeJune on Unsplash

REDUCE THE LENGTH OF YOUR RUNS

You’ve spent the past several weeks getting ready for your half marathon so you won’t see any fitness gains in this week. The hard work’s already done. So resist the urge to go long even if you’re feeling good.

During this week, you’ll reduce your daily running time by 20-30 minutes. 2 If you’re doing a speed run, keep your intensity high but your overall workout time short.

This again depends on your training plan, but the main goal is to avoid overdoing it.

Photo by Soragrit Wongsa on Unsplash

DON’T FORGET TO CORRAL THE ESSENTIALS

Do you have everything for race day?

  • Cash/ credit cards
  • Chapstick
  • Dry clothes
  • Hat
  • Hair ties
  • Heat blanket (this blanket is typically given to runners after a race, but it’s fantastic to use before racing to stay warm)
  • Identification (this is an excellent wearable one where you can highlight any medications you’re taking or allergies you might have)
  • Phone
  • Rain gear
  • Recovery drinks
  • Safety pins
  • Snacks
  • Socks
  • Sunglasses
  • Sunscreen
  • Warm up/ cool down jacket
  • Watch

Photo by Tom Wheatley on Unsplash

SET MULTIPLE RACE GOALS

If you set one goal you must reach on race day, you’re setting yourself up for massive disappointment.

Your half marathon is the culmination of many variables – your training, the weather on race day, the course, your mood, stress levels, and much more.

So when you set a single goal you must reach, say, a half marathon in 2 hours and 30 minutes but end up with a time of 2 hours and 35 minutes, you’ll feel you’ve fallen short.

But, when you target multiple race goals, you’ll foster a greater sense of satisfaction and accomplishment.

Here are a few examples.

1. Finish the race. This goal is especially important if this is your first half marathon or if you’re coming back from an injury.

2. Reach a time goal. This might be your ideal goal time where everything in training went better than planned, the weather on race day cooperated, and you were feeling strong. But, you must make sure your time goal isn’t unreasonable or you’ll get discouraged.

3. Target a race performance goal. Run a negative split race, where you’ve run the second half faster than the first half.

HALF MARATHON TAPER: THE DAY BEFORE YOUR RACE

Photo by Spencer Davis on Unsplash

LAY OUT PRE-RACE ESSENTIALS

Pin your race number to your shirt and remember extra safety pins, along with the packed essentials you gathered last week.

DON’T: Stress if you can’t sleep. One night won’t affect your race performance. You’ll stay wide awake before your race from your excitement, the energy of the crowds, and your adrenaline.

STAY (MOSTLY) OFF YOUR FEET

Traveling to a race? Save the lengthy strolling and sightseeing for after your race. Go for a short walk or run to wake up your legs and calm your nerves.

HALF MARATHON TAPER: THE MORNING OF YOUR HALF MARATHON

Photo by Dani Rendina on Unsplash

EAT A TESTED BREAKFAST

If you can handle it, eat your normal breakfast couple hours before your race. Keep in mind that you should always eat the foods you know will work well for you. If needed, eat a small snack before your race.

Photo by Tom Wheatley on Unsplash

DO YOUR WARMUP ROUTINE (IF YOU NORMALLY DO ONE)

You might see a fellow runner warming up with cool drills and may be tempted to follow their warmup routine. But if you don’t normally do those drills, don’t try them before your race or you’ll risk injury.

STAY WITHIN YOURSELF

Everyone starts fresh and ready to run. In the first few miles, you’ll see runners surging past you. While it’s easy to pick up the pace, remember, the start is when everyone has the most energy. You need to conserve your energy to have enough for the next 13 miles.

When you’re tapering before your half marathon, set your race strategy, aim for more than one goal, and stay on pace.

You’ve got this.

Need even more tips? Hop on over to this post: How to Mentally Prepare to Crush Your Next Half Marathon

Footnotes

  1. Don’t Taper, Peak! McMillan Running ↩
  2. Don’t Taper, Peak! McMillan Running ↩

44shares

After surviving peak week, you’re finally heading in to what is both loved and hated by many runners: taper.

It’s the time where your mind plays tricks. Was that a niggle or nag in your left knee? Did you power through enough long runs? What do you do with this abundant free time?!

OMG, slow down and let’s chat.

First up, here are all the previous steps in the Road to a PR series:

Choosing your race pace >>
Picking the right race for your goal >>
Creating your training plan >>
Why you need a base building phase>>
Safely adding speed work >>
Why you need a peak week >>

2 Weeks?

As discussed in peak week training, traditional training plans used to call for a taper of 3 to sometimes even 4 weeks.

I certainly tested out that style for a few of my races wayyyyy back when (yup like 2002-2007). For my first few races, I had no idea how I should feel and I was so amped up, it probably didn’t matter.

But by the time I got to my second marathon, my legs felt heavy, my brain felt not quite ready and I was all around sluggish. Since transitioning to the 2 week taper plan that’s a thing of the past AND it also means taper madness is less likely!

With 2 weeks, you’re not forced to relax, but allowed to relax. You’re opened up to prepare mentally for the race. Your body is still in training mode rather than reverting to a maintenance mode.

What to Do In Taper?

Taper does not mean plop on the couch and bust out the Cool Ranch Doritos (weren’t those the best?!).
Taper does not meant catch up on 42 overdue work and home projects.
Taper does not meant switch to lots of other workouts because you aren’t running.

14 days.

A two week taper is a blip in your overall training, which means you’ve got to use the time wisely. Here’s a little break down of how that week might look.

Day 1 – Complete recovery from your longest/hardest run.
Day 2 – Get your pre-race massage scheduled, at least 6 days before. Enjoy a short run with some fartleks.
Day 3 – Head out for a medium distance EASY run. Do your hip strength exercises.
Day 4 – Time for another short run with a few speed pick ups. Do the IT Band Lunge Matrix.
Day 5 – Slow it all down with some restorative yoga.
Day 6 – Short easy run and a final test run of what to eat before your race. More hip exercises.
Day 7 – Long run (could be 8 miles for a half marathon or 10-12 for a full)
Day 8 – Complete recovery day. Plan out meals that are anti-inflammatory for the week.
Day 9 – Enjoy a walk, a hike, a yoga flow or bike ride. Keep it easy and fun. Create your race day plan (see below)
Day 10 – Short run with a few speed pick ups. Great day to assess your goals and set your mantra.
Day 11 – Another good day for restorative yoga and fully planning your race outfit and needs (checklist here)
Day 12 – Short run with a few speed pick ups. Focus on a great night of sleep.
Day 13 – Head to the expo, stay off your feet, hydrate with electrolytes, relax!
Day 14 – Race day!!

This is time to de-stress to the max and take care of your body.

Have your best race ever with these taper tips! #bibchat #running

Getting Sick?
It’s very common develop a cold in the days before a race. Science suggests this is because the body is no longer adrenaline focused pushing you through weeks of training and thus the immune system kicks back in to action because it’s no longer being suppressed.

Don’t fret, nearly everyone finds that in these two weeks if they focus on recovery they are ready to rock and roll race morning. I say that these colds are the body’s way of ensuring we actually follow our taper plan!!

And read this about how your mind is actually in control of how you feel >>

Eating too much?
Don’t stress about calories during race taper. Yes you’re running less and technically need less, but hunger pains also decrease after that first week of lower mileage. If you don’t go carbo loading crazy and focus on choosing foods to help your body recover, you’ll be just fine.

You want to show up on race day well fueled, not sluggish from restricting your food. Focus on eating when hungry and getting in lots of vegetables for the nutrients and anti-inflammatory recovery properties.Get tons of green smoothie ideas here >>
Get 20 salad ideas here >>
Get 97 high protein breakfast ideas here >>

What About Taper Madness?

As noted with a short race taper it’s less likely you’ll find yourself craving more runs, but that doesn’t mean you won’t have a little taper madness.

“Taper madness” coined by long time runners refers to the days leading up to the race when your brain starts to play tricks on you and with longer tapers where you feel completely out of whack due to the massive mileage drop.

Suddenly, things that have never once bothered you in training will hurt. Why are you feeling your big toe in your favorite shoes? Why is your knee tingling? Why did you get a Rudolph sized zit on your nose?!

I can’t answer the last one, but I can say it’s all totally normal. Knowing you aren’t alone is the first step in letting go of the stress that’s likely creating all your issues. A few other tips that work well:

  • Find a mantra, like “all is well” and use it all week
  • When something hurts, remind yourself it’s likely stress and will be fine on race day (99% of the time this is true)
  • Get a massage, allow yourself to relax and treat your body well

Deep breathe, the big day is finally just around the corner. As taper finishes, it’s very normal to start feeling nervous and surprise that can actually be a really good thing.

Embracing Nerves
Nerves actually prime your brain and get you focused on the task at hand, so learn to harness them for your benefit.

  • Channel the energy to drive you to hit a brand new distance or pace.
  • Recognize it as adrenaline and know it’s a good thing, that’s what pushes you just a bit harder than in training.
  • Trust that once the race starts you’ll be glad for that extra energy boost of adrenaline.
  • Meditate. Ok I know I said harness the nerves, but if you’re ruminating all week then sitting down for a minute just to breathe is going to help you get a grip on what really matters. You may have trained hard, but it is just a race.

Race Day Pre-Planning
Another way to tackle nerves is to do some planning, give you brain something tangible to think about. Here are a few key things which will also help on race morning:

  • Checkout the parking situation or know where you can be dropped off
  • Plan a specific spot for spectators during and after the race
  • If traveling pack your pre-race food and double check all your must haves (here is a great printable)
  • Lay out all of your gear and pin on the race bib

Taper doesn’t have to be the maddening, horrible time that we often portray on social media. I mean the jokes are still funny and much like being a bridezilla, you’re given a grace period in the week preceding the race. You’re welcome.

How do you handle taper madness?

What’s your trick for race nerves?

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Tapering for a 5K and 10K Race

During this week, start to reduce your volume slightly as well. Shorten your easy runs by approximately 10–20 minutes depending on their typical length.

Shorten your long run this week by approximately 25%. If you usually run 12 miles, cut it back to 9. This cutback may vary slightly depending on your experience level, but you don’t need to run any longer than about 10 miles a week before your goal race.

RACE WEEK

To maintain some intensity, you’ll want to complete a workout this week about 5 days prior to your race. This should be a shortened version of what you did last week. Those 10K runners could do 4 x 1000m repeats or 3 x 1 mile, while 5K runners could do 4 x 800m or 8 x 400m at race pace.

Maintaining specificity is key. Run your workout at your goal pace, not slower or faster, no matter how good you may feel. Now is the time to dial in your pace.

Shorten your easy runs by about 50% this week and finish two of them with a set of 4–6 strides to help keep muscle tension high.

Other ways to help feel fresh this week could include less time on your feet, more sleep, going even slower on your easy days and focusing on nutrition and hydration.

READ MORE > 6 SURPRISES ABOUT 5KS NO ONE EVER TELLS YOU ABOUT

RACE DAY

It’s finally here! Know that you have set yourself up for a great race with a smart, well-executed taper strategy.

On race day, allow yourself plenty of time to arrive and warm up so you’re not stressed. After a short, dynamic warmup routine, run some easy laps to loosen up and finish with a few strides.

Allow yourself enough time that you don’t have to rush to the start line, but don’t allow so much that you start to cool down. Once you head to the starting line, it’s time to focus, execute your strategy and nail that PR!

The Hay’s in the Barn! How to Taper for Your Next Race

“The hay’s in the barn!” Distance runners say the funniest things.

What does it even mean?

When a runner says that the hay is in the barn, they’re referring to the fact that at a certain point you can’t gain any more fitness before a race. It’s time to taper.

The reduction in training at the end of a season to maximize performance is what we mean by tapering.

To really understand tapering and the weird hay/barn saying, you need to know a little about the stress-adaptation cycle.

It sounds intimidating but it’s actually easy – and you probably already know what it means. It takes about two weeks for your body to “absorb” a hard workout. You have to recover from the stress of running hard, then your body adapts to become stronger, more efficient, and faster.

When your goal race is two weeks away or less, you don’t want to run any workouts that are too difficult. If you do then you’re just going to get overly fatigued without the benefit of fully adapting from the workout.

The stress-adaptation process is outlined in the exquisite drawing below (by my lovely wife Meaghan).

After a hard long run or a fast workout, you’re going to be tired. You know this. The dip in fitness from the baseline is when you’re fatigued – you actually lose fitness right after a hard effort. Your body needs time to rest and recover from that training stimulus to absorb it and ultimately get faster.

The time to race is when you’re fully recovered. You’ll have extra energy and your legs will feel sharp and responsive. But like the graph shows, if you rest too much then your fitness will start to decline – and so will your race performance.

How to Taper Effectively

My thoughts on tapering have evolved in the last 5 years or so. I used to think that you should shut down the engines completely in the few weeks before your goal race to rest. But through experience and following the advice of coaches like Brad Hudson (author of Run Faster) and elite runners Bernard Lagat, I now think a more moderate approach is the most beneficial.

Tapering the way many runners practice it is overrated in my opinion. Drastically decreasing overall volume and intensity can actually erode your aerobic fitness and leave you feeling flat on race day. Your legs need to remember how to run far and fast.

My approach has you pick your taper battles: reducing mileage on strategic days while maintaining volume and intensity on others. Being smart about what days to take off or run easy, while still putting in a moderate volume with hard workouts, will get you to the starting line feeling refreshed and ready to run a personal best.

If you’ve received a custom training plan from me, you know exactly what I mean. My tapers aren’t too long – but they’re effective at making you ready to race and feeling great.

When trying to reach your peak on a given day, a moderate 10-20% reduction in mileage is best during the two weeks before your race. You’ll be surprised at how good you feel after cutting short only a few key runs. Your body will recover quickly and you’ll finish runs with a lot left in the tank.

Decreasing the distance of 2-3 runs by about half during the week before your race is best. You should also cut your long run significantly, especially since it’s only 7 or 8 days before your goal race. An example taper (volume only) is below for a 10k race:

Workouts to Help You Reach Your Peak

While dropping your overall volume, maintaining and slightly increasing the intensity in your workouts can help you feel fast without compromising your recovery.

Workouts during the taper period should be at race pace with some faster running to prepare you for your upcoming race. If you’re training for a 10k, your main workout two weeks before your race might look like:

  • 10 x 1,000m at 10k pace with 1-2 minutes recovery
  • 6 x mile at 10k pace with 1-2 minutes recovery
  • 3 x 2-mile at 10k pace with 2 minutes recovery

These workouts are highly specific to the race you’re preparing for (in this example, a 10k). When you can complete a workout like this successfully, you’re ready to race and hit your goal time. But remember that this workout is almost as challenging as the race itself so it shouldn’t be done the week of your goal race. Do it during the first taper week.

The week of your race should include 1-2 workouts that are at a similar intensity but with less overall volume. Following our 10k analogy, you might run:

  • 4 x 1,000m at 10k pace with 1-2 minutes recovery + 4 x 400m at mile – 5k pace with 1 minute recovery
  • 3 x mile at 10k pace with 1-2 minutes recovery + 2 x 400m at 3k pace with 1 minute recovery

All recovery periods after an interval should be active recovery meaning that you are walking or (preferably) jogging slowly. If you walk too slow or just stand around, you’ll be too stiff to start the next repetition and your performance will suffer. You’ll probably also feel like garbage.

Your weekly training should gradually progress to these types of workouts. In other words, from the week you start training to the week of your race, your workouts should become increasingly more specific to your goal race. Don’t start rocking these interval workouts if you haven’t built up to them!

Enhancing Recovery and Preparing to Race

As you get ready to race, you want to make sure your body is as ready as possible. You do this in two ways: by resting and recovering as much as possible and by sharpening your fitness.

Decreasing your volume will make you feel the most rested. But you can enhance recovery even more during your taper weeks by:

  • Running even slower on your easy days
  • Taking ice baths more frequently
  • Sleeping an extra 1/2 to full hour every night
  • Spending a little less time on your feet every day

Also see my post on running recovery for more strategies on how to bounce back from hard workouts.

Resting isn’t enough to perform well in a race. You also want to make sure you’re sharp – or in other words, peaked and ready to run to your potential. Race-specific workouts like I outlined above will help you get there.

An interesting concept that I have been experimenting with in my training is actively trying to increase muscle tension before fast workouts and races. The idea is that your muscles hold a certain amount of tension. Increase that tension and they can contract more quickly and generate more force. Just what you want on race day!

When your muscles have low tension you’ll typically perform worse because you feel flat. The “pop” in your legs that’s missing is because you have low muscle tension.

You should increase muscle tension before fast workouts and races and reduce it for enhanced recovery during your easy days. Below are the most practical ways that you can increase muscle tension:

  1. Sprinting – strides, hill sprints, short surges at the end of your run
  2. Weight lifting – squats, dead lifts, lunges
  3. Faster paced intervals – 200’s or 400’s at mile race pace
  4. Ice baths
  5. Salt or creatine (they alter fluid levels in your muscles)
  6. Running on hard surfaces

When you can successfully manipulate your muscle tension to be high on race day, while sharpening with the right speed workouts and resting with a slight reduction in volume, then you’re going to race really fast! It’s a balancing act but something you could experiment with as you approach your next race.

Announcing the Rebel Running Guide

If you’ve been diligently reading Strength Running recently (who doesn’t?), you might have noticed I’m writing more articles on the theme of racing.

That’s because fall is rapidly approaching – and with it, the fall racing season. To help you reach your goals, I partnered with Steve Kamb of Nerd Fitness to help him with the Rebel Running Guide.

This comprehensive book will be a beginner’s guide to racing a 5k. You’ll learn:

  • Proper foot strike and running form
  • Barefoot running technique (plus shoe reviews!)
  • How to prevent and treat running injuries
  • How to train specifically for adventure 5k’s like Warrior Dash
  • The process of signing up, what to expect, and how to start your race
  • What to eat during training, the night before your race, the morning of your race, and post-race for recovery

The guide is a Nerd Fitness product and accordingly, will have a heavy strength training and paleo diet focus. I’m providing most of the technical running content to help get you to the starting line in the best shape of your life.

If you decide it’s right for you then you’ll run a faster 5k, stay healthy and actually enjoy your training!

We’ll be working like dogs to get this thing ready in about a month. Until then, you can have a direct impact on what’s in the book: What would you like to see? Do you have specific content ideas? What would help you to improve your 5k? Help us help you!

Leave a comment with what you’d love in the guide or email me with your idea at [email protected] Thank you.

EDIT: The Rebel Running Guide is no longer available. Click this link to see more resources on 5k training.

Tapering For a Race: How to Do it Right

What is tapering for a race mean? To taper means to have a gradual decrease in training during the final few weeks leading up to a race. Typically, the longer the race, the longer the taper period.

There is an incorrect assumption out there that tapering means reducing the intensity of your workout. Tapering isn’t reducing the intensity of your workout but is rather reducing the mileage of your runs during the week and especially prior to a race.

Why taper? Tapering allows runners to fully recover from hard prior workouts. Tapering also relieves dehydration problems and allows you to feel the most rested for your big upcoming race. See “Struggling on Every Run? Are You Overtrained?”

Why is tapering difficult for some runners? Well, for some runners (I’ll include myself in this) it can be very difficult to back off of training right before a race. There is this constant thought going on in your brain: If I let up know, I’ll let up during the race. I know it! Don’t let this thought take you away from your much-needed rest. Just like rest day, tapering contributes to a strong race-day performance.

How long should the taper period be for a marathon? Typically, when training for a marathon, the taper period should be three weeks. How about a half marathon? Typically, the taper periods for half marathons should be two weeks.

All runners react differently to tapering. Some runners can’t wait for the taper period, others become restless and think they’ll be “losing something” by tapering. Nevertheless, a well planned taper period will assist you as a runner in your race goal.

3 Most Common Mistakes Associated With Tapering

1) Don’t Rest Too Much!
There is such a thing as over-tapering? Yes- most runners don’t fall into this category, but a few do. Over-tapering (too much rest/lack of movement) can lead to feeling flat and sluggish on race day. Also, your body needs to still know what activity feels like- it needs to perspire, release energy, and still be strong especially for your immune system.
2. Don’t Run Fast to Feel Fast
Keep the workouts specific to the race you are running. Often runners try to do short, speed-oriented workouts to build confidence and make them feel faster. Don’t go over the top and fall completely out of the pace you plan on hitting for your half or full marathon! You also run the risk of pulling a muscle or getting injuries if you are not specially used to speed runs


3. Don’t Worry About Gaining Weight!
Some runners fear that they might put on weight during tapering. (See article on “How to Lose Weight: What You Need to Know”) All runners have been told that they need to load up on those carbs- pasta, pasta, pasta! There is a good reason for this. As runners, we should be storing extra fluids. It is much better to be on a full tank than a completely empty one! Don’t sacrifice your glycogen levels in fear that you’ll be putting on pounds. You’ll use and lose all these on race day! Trust me!Check out “5 Must-dos the Night Before a Race”.

When Should I Start Tapering?

When does tapering start for a marathon? Typically tapering for a marathon starts after the longest training run. The first week of taper mileage (3 weeks prior to the race) should be reduced to 30% of your average weekly training mileage. The following week, mileage should be reduced 50%, and the final week (race week!), mileage should be 70% of your training mileage. When training for a half marathon, the same taper logic can apply but for a shorter time span- two weeks versus three weeks.

Now don’t let these taper number define you as a runner. Find what works for you- maybe it is a little more mileage or a little less mileage. This is not the concrete guidebook to tapering; it is a recommended plan that many runners gravitate around.

Tapering typically does include ending speed work a week and a half to two weeks prior to the race day for both half marathon and full marathons. For me as a runner, I still like to get in quick tempo runs, especially near the course, to make sure I know that feeling of my heart beating fast and having to control my breathing. These tempo runs are very quick, and don’t last for longer than 45 seconds to a minute, and I don’t do many of them at all.

Do you taper differently than what is mentioned here? By all means, share your thoughts. How did you first learn about tapering? Was it from your high school or college running coach, or a running club? We want to know! Share away.

If you’re training for a half marathon, you probably have noticed that your plan scales back your mileage a couple of weeks before your race. This is what’s known as the taper, or in this case, the half marathon taper. In order to get to the starting line of your race feeling ready to run, you reduce the volume and intensity of your workouts so your legs—and mind—feel fresh.

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But after so much training, some runners find it hard to scale back. However, others find it hard to even get off the couch. But doing too much (or too little) during this critical period can compromise the recovery you need to complement all your hard work.

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Here’s how to strike the right balance between running and resting, whether you’re training for your first or fastest 13.1.

Two weeks out from race day:

This stretch is preceded by your final long effort (10 to 14 miles) on Sunday. Keep weekday workouts to 30 minutes. It’s fine to do some easy cross-training on non-running days, as long as the activity doesn’t make your muscles sore or have the potential to cause injury. If you don’t want to exercise on days you don’t run, that’s okay, too. End this week with a 45-minute run on Sunday.

One week out from race day:

Run for 30 minutes on Tuesday and Thursday. Chill out or walk on Monday and Wednesday.

Two days out from race day:

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Rest, or run very easy for one to two miles. Check the forecast, make a list, then pack your race bag. Include a garbage bag or rain jacket for bad weather, the clothing and fuel you’ve tested on your long runs, race information, and a pacing chart or your run/walk/run timer. Plan to get eight hours of sleep.

The day before your race:

Walk around the race expo or the staging area to get your bearings. Try to get decent rest, but don’t fret if you toss and turn and feel almost unrested. That’s normal.

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The day of your race:

Arrive at least 90 minutes before the start. Walk around as a light warmup, then find your starting corral. Avoid crowding by staying near the back. During the race, run a little slower than the pace you ran during your last two long runs. Pick it up a little in the last third of the race if you’re feeling good. Enjoy that final mile—you did it!

DON’T TAPER. PEAK!

Over the last few years, I think I’ve finally figured this peaking thing out. It took a while because, like many coaches, I fell into the standard “tapering” model we’ve all been taught. Problem was, tapering didn’t work consistently. The results were just as hit-or-miss as not tapering at all.

So, I threw “tapering” out of my vocabulary. I replaced it with “peaking.” Semantics? Maybe. But by studying peak performance research — both physiological as well as psychological — as opposed to just the tapering research, I’ve been able to dial in how to truly peak on race day. It works for all athletes no matter where you find yourself in the pack come race day.

Here are my secrets for your peaking phase — the last 14 days before your race:

1. Secret: Don’t change your weekly running routine

Our bodies and minds like routine. If you run four days per week, then run four days per week during your peaking phase. If you run six, then run six. You’ll feel flat if you suddenly run less frequently than normal. Exception: Runners who are nursing a sore muscle or niggling injury may take an extra day off each week during the peaking phase. But, don’t take it the day before the last long run or the race if you don’t normally rest the day before your long runs. This risks feeling flat on race morning.

2. Secret: Reduce weekly training volume, but not too much

Over the last 10-14 days before your race, you should progressively reduce the volume of your running. Two weeks out from the race, I like to reduce the daily volume by 10-20 minutes or so. The week of the race, reduce approximately 20-30 minutes. This, along with the normal reduction in your long run length as the race nears, will drop your overall running volume in line with what we know from research (and, more importantly, from practical experience) to the level that allows the body to get prepared for a peak performance. Don’t make the common mistake of dropping your volume too much. This takes your body out of its routine and can leave you stale on race day. My opinion is that more runners fail because of tapering too much rather than not enough.

3. Secret: Keep the engine revved

While we may want to reduce the volume of running, we do not want to reduce the intensity of our workouts. In fact, we may want the intensity to increase. You want to keep your engine revved, the pumps primed. Never race your workouts, but during the peaking phase, don’t back off in them either. I’ve found that some fast running in the peaking phase helps bring the body and the mind to tiptop condition on race day.

4. Secret: Plan your strategy and stick with it

Most distance runners have the same race strategy — start conservative, build into race pace, run as efficiently as possible and get as deep in the race as possible before you have to pull out your superman or superwoman powers to get you to the finish line. Yours may vary, depending on your strength and preferences. No matter what your strategy, however, stick with it. For most runners, their pre-race strategy is the best strategy. Be open to change if the conditions change, but for the most part, you know what you need to do so, just get out of your own way and let the race unfold as planned.

5. Secret: Reflect on training to build confidence

I like athletes to reflect on training in two ways. First, think back on a particularly tough workout, something where you didn’t feel great but you gutted it out. You were tough. This shows that you can do it. You are tough. You can handle the ups and downs of running and get to the finish line. After this retrospection, think back to your best workouts or races. Really re-live them in your mind. Bolster your confidence knowing that you are fit, fast and ready. Bring on the race! Get excited to go out there and perform like you know you can! Your training successes should build your confidence.

6. Secret: Have fun and smile

Let’s face it. Most of us aren’t going for an Olympic gold medal here. We are simply enjoying the challenge of doing our best. There is no real pressure, so quit putting so much on yourself. We run for fun, and you should remember that. Have fun! I encourage runners to smile a lot in the final days before a race. Smiling puts you in a better mood, and that can play a big role on race day.

It’s only through having a positive, happy mindset focused on doing your best, combined with a well-trained body that is rested but revved, fueled and hydrated that helps you race at your best.

RECOMMENDED READ: Surviving the Marathon Freak-Out by Greg McMillan Get Started on a Faster YOU:

It happens every time. The marathon seems weeks and weeks away then suddenly, it’s here! This begins “the great marathon freak out”. You worry you aren’t ready. You worry you can’t possibly run your goal pace for 26.2 miles. You wonder what to eat and drink. You trained hard (and long) to get ready for your marathon and just want to know that race day will go well. Surviving the Marathon Freak Out walks you through the time-proven marathon preparation system of world-renowned Coach Greg McMillan. No matter whether this is your first or fifteenth marathon, Coach Greg’s strategies provide comfort and direction as race day approaches. It’s like having a world-class coach in your corner. You’ll enjoy practical training advice to bring your body and mind to a peak so you can deliver your best in the marathon. Most importantly, you’ll love knowing you are doing everything correctly to get ready for the big day, leaving no stone unturned in your quest to run your best.

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You’ve worked hard. You’ve followed your training plan, did all those long runs, that speed work, and now you’re about two weeks out from your race. You’re not done yet, though. The final part of your training starts now. It’s time for your half marathon taper.

Many runners fear that they will lose fitness by reducing their training for two weeks before their race. On the contrary, the half marathon taper is just the recovery and rest that your body needs to be able to perform at your best in your event.

Make the Most of Your Half Marathon Taper

A half marathon taper is more complex than just cutting down your mileage, though that is a part of it. Think of the taper as the final act of preparation for your race. Done correctly, you will hit the starting line of your event well rested, well fueled, and well hydrated.

Half Marathon Taper Week 1

Running

Your last long training run should be about two weeks out from your half marathon. That will probably also be your peak week, the week that has the most mileage, of your training program.

During the first week of your half marathon taper, you should cut your overall mileage by about one-third. That will come mostly from the reduction of your long run distance, so there won’t be a lot of other changes.

For example, if you ran 32 miles the previous week with a long run of 12 miles, during the first week of your half marathon taper, you will cut your total mileage to about 20-22 miles, and reduce your long run to around six-10 miles.

Intensity

During the last part of your half marathon training, your speed work should be focused on race pace training. During the first week of your half marathon taper, you can do one or two higher intensity workouts, keeping the volume of each workout in line with the overall reduction in mileage.

Nutrition/Hydration

Hopefully, you’ve been eating like an athlete during your training, and you won’t have to make many changes during this first week of your half marathon taper. Focus on whole grains and complex carbohydrates, lean proteins, and healthy fats. Remember that you’ve cut your mileage, so you may want to cut back the total quantity that you eat as well.

Keep an eye on your hydration. Because you are running less you may be inclined to not stay as hydrated. Continue to drink an adequate amount of fluids and electrolytes during this time.

Half Marathon Taper Week 2

During the final week of your half marathon taper, plan to reduce your mileage by another third (not counting your race). So, based on the first example, you would run 10-14 miles in the week leading up to your race.

Try to fit your higher mileage in toward the beginning of the week, gradually tapering off as you get closer to your race. Running the day before the race is optional. Some runners like to do a “shake out” run, to loosen up their legs and stretch them out a bit. If you do such a run be sure to keep it short and easy, two to three miles at most.

Most of your running this week should be pretty easy, but adding in a “race pace” tempo run during the early part of the week will be a good way to keep your legs fresh and mobile.

Strength Training

Taper off any strength training that you do during this week too. Keep it light in the beginning of the week, then allow your body to rest the last several days before your race.

Sleep

Hopefully, you have been resting and sleeping well during your training cycle. It is a very important part of your training. Many runners don’t sleep as well during the half marathon taper due to the reduction in training, so be aware that you want to get the best quality sleep that you can this last week.

Try to go to bed at your regular time the night before your race, or even a little earlier if you must get up earlier than normal. Don’t worry too much if you don’t sleep very well. Your excitement and adrenaline will see you through.

Generally speaking, continue to follow the same nutrition plan that has served you well during training. Again, since you will be reducing your mileage, you should eat a little less. Be sure to continue to stay hydrated throughout the week.

On race morning, follow one of the main rules of training and don’t try anything new! Eat a light breakfast and continue to hydrate all the way up to race time. Make sure that your Race Day Plan includes your nutrition and hydration for your half marathon!

Many runners find it difficult to reduce their running distance and intensity during their half marathon taper. It can feel counter-intuitive to decrease training. Believe me, though, your body will perform much better during your race when you follow this taper plan and arrive at the starting line with fresh legs. Trust the process. Good luck!

Are you training for a marathon? See the Art (and some Science) of the Marathon Taper!

Are you a taper-lover or a taper-hater?

And Now It’s Time for the Running Coaches’ Corner!

Weekly Linkups

My weekly linkups! Please stop by and check out all of the great recipes, workouts, and information that all these awesome bloggers share every week!

Meatless Monday with Sarah and Deborah
Meatless Monday with Annmarie and Dixya
Tuesdays on the Run with Marcia, Erika, and Patty
Inspire Me Monday with Janice
Wild Workout Wednesday with Annmarie, Michelle, Jen, and Nicole
The Plant-Based Potluck Party with Deborah
The Running Coaches’ Corner with Rachel, Suz, Lora Marie, and Me!
Giveaway Roundup and Try Out Thursdays with Smitha
The Blogger’s Pit Stop with Kathleen, Janice, Julie, and Menaka
Friday 5 2.0 with Rachel and Lacey and Meranda

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Nick and running legend Daley Thompson talked to runners at the Laureus training day

A few weeks back we met running coach Nick Anderson at the Vitality Brighton Half Marathon training day organised by our headline charity Laureus. With race day on the horizon, read Nick’s tips for the final few weeks of training to make sure you stand on the start line on 22 February in peak fitness.

4 Weeks out

  • This is when the gremlins starting talking to you – ‘have you done enough training?’, ‘should you squeeze in one more 2 hour run?’, ‘do I need to make up for that week I missed when I had a cold?’. These are common worries in the final weeks but eventually less becomes more. It’s time to let the body start to recover and build its strength for race day.
  • The training you do today takes 2-3 weeks to have a real long-term effect on fitness so you can see immediately that 2 weeks out from a half marathon we can reach a point of diminishing returns if you are not careful.
  • Focus now on protecting your fitness and feeling great on race day. You can use the final weeks to sharpen up slightly with a couple of shorter faster sessions and even a 5k parkrun.
  • Your longest half marathon training run should be 3 or 4 weeks out from race day. A top session could be 90 minutes – 2 hours with the last 30 mins at your target race pace.
  • Two weekends before, reduce this long run to 75-90 minutes.
  • One week before it’s time to run just 60-70 minutes easy and enjoy the Sunday papers!
  • All your other training needs to remain the same 3 weeks out, though do have a couple of easy or rest days after that longest run.
  • Your last key harder session should be about 10 days before race day. For example: 45-60 minutes with 6 x 5 mins @ threshold off a 60s jog recovery; 15 minutes half marathon pace + 5 x 2 mins @ 5k pace + 15 mins half marathon pace all with a 2 min jog recovery; 45 minutes with 8 x 3 mins @ with the odd numbers at threshold, even at 5km pace off a 90 second jog recovery.

One week away

  • The final week is a crucial time. All those tough weeks of training need to count so look after yourself and your body.
  • Our big tip is don’t taper too much… yes, you can have too many rest days and then feel sluggish by race day.
  • Your body loves routine so try for a 30 minute easy and relaxed run on the same days you would normally run, chatting with mates or along a favourite route.
  • Don’t chase time or worry about the GPS stats, just run easy and keep relaxed.
  • If you feel strong then consider a light session on the Tuesday; for example 30 minutes including 3 x 5 mins at threshold or your marathon pace with a 2 minute jog as recovery. You are just keeping your legs used to a little pace and feeling faster.
  • We often advise runners to jog for 10-20 mins the day before the race and stretch. It helps you to feel loose on race day and can calm the nerves a little. However, always practise what you are used to in race week and the day before. If you usually rest then definitely do this.
  • Let’s be totally honest here, the nerves will kick in at some point – this is a good thing. It’s totally normal but we need to get things in perspective. Take time out in the week at some point and review your training over a coffee. Remember your best long runs, sessions and maybe a 10k that went well.
  • It’s time to remember the positives and you can draw on these on race day. Surround yourself with positive, supportive people and those that enjoy the challenge and are excited by the thought of race day.
  • Sleep and rest – you always need to respect this key element as a runner if you want to improve. Try to get a few early nights in race week and definitely protect that immune system in the final weeks, as late nights and picking up a cold will wreck race day.
  • Avoid heavy strength and conditioning or gym work this week and don’t fall into the trap of using all that extra time to start DIY projects or go sightseeing in town and tiring your legs out!
  • Plan your travel on race day with a few days to spare.

Nutrition – getting it right in the last week

  • We see so many runners getting this wrong during the taper and ruining months of hard work. It’s all actually really simple – just eat normally and gradually reduce the volume and intensity of your training – this is a natural carb load.
  • Your body needs the quality calories to keep your glycogen (carbohydrate stores) topped up so you feel great in training and on race day.
  • Our simple catch phrase is ‘never hungry, never over full’ and grazing throughout the day with snacks and sensible main meals will work well.
  • Eat your normal pre-race or pre- long run breakfast. Don’t suddenly change what has worked so well for you in training.
  • You want your body to feel normal and comfortable on the start line so now is not the time to suddenly try porridge or some wonder meal if you are not used to it.
  • Don’t stuff yourself silly on the night before the race; it will only leave you feeling sluggish on race day.

The final 24 hours

  • Consider a light 15-20 minute jog in the morning the day before the race to help ease tension and to warm up before stretching.
  • Take a look at the weather forecast for race day and wear whatever is going to keep you cool and comfortable.
  • Pack your kit bag with all that you will need on race day – safety pins for your race number, warm clothes, toilet paper, Vaseline, snacks, fluids and iPod and ensure your number is pinned to your vest.
  • Avoid spending ages on your feet walking with family and friends sightseeing around the city.
  • Snack on small meals throughout the day and stay well hydrated.
  • Eat your last main meal at 6-7pm and snack on easily digested carbohydrate snacks afterwards if needed.
  • Get to bed early. If you find it hard to sleep, don’t worry – this is normal but stay in bed and rest, read and relax.

Race day

  • Wow it’s finally here – now it really is time to keep your head. Now’s the time to remember those three runs that went well in training or the cause and reason for which you are racing.
  • Wake early, shower, and take a few moments to breathe deeply, relax and stay calm.
  • Eat the race day breakfast you have practised in training 1.5 – 2 hours before the race start.
  • Keep your kit simple and wear the shoes you ran your last few long runs or half marathons in and make sure any clothing has been worn and washed a few times before you race in it – don’t try anything new.
  • Take a carbohydrate-based snack (for example a banana or energy bar) and sports drink to snack on between breakfast and the race start and be prepared with fuel in case of a delayed start.
  • Look around you and focus in on the target you have set. Remember your pace, split times and don’t rely on your GPS – they often fail with so many signals in the same area. Have your splits per mile written on your hand, arm in permanent ink or on a wristband.
  • Sip your final mouthfuls of water/sports drink but don’t take on more than normal, you don’t need it.
  • Don’t run to warm up or do any high intensity drills – save your energy and use the first few miles to warm up.
  • Hand your kit in and perhaps have an old tracksuit and bin liner or previous race foil blanket on to stay warm, and head to your pen 20-30 minutes before the start. In the final minutes take your old kit off.

Your race strategy

  • As the gun goes, count to 10 and slow down if you are on a faster start…. you really need to ease into your race day pace in the first few kms rather than running too quickly.
  • Run at the pace you have practised. After building into your target pace you should then look to lock into the km or mile splits that became familiar to you in the marathon pace sessions and longer runs.
  • Definitely don’t try to bank faster miles and get ahead of the schedule. This is a sure way to guarantee hitting the wall in the final third of the race and you are using up those carbohydrate stores too quickly.
  • Perhaps try running a touch under your half marathon pace in the first 5k, then at your planned mp for the middle 10k and then throw the kitchen sink at it over the last 6k.
  • Sip on a sports drink and/or water occasionally in the race. You don’t need too much and be sure to not over-drink on the way round.
  • Remember to smile, take time to relax and draw in the atmosphere – half marathon memories last a lifetime.

Taper well and remember… less can be more!

Good luck everybody!

You can keep in touch with Nick and RunningWithUs at:

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @nickandersonrun

Taper for half marathon

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