Tips to Finding the Perfect Taper

Training for a marathon is hard work. You put in countless miles with high intensity to prep your body for the challenge ahead. While it can take months to train for a marathon, you need to use the few weeks before the race to rest yourself and heal. This process, known to runners as tapering, involves lowering your running mileage leading up to the big day.

Although many newer runners may find it a bit unsettling to lower your running quota each day, it’s a process that the best runners go through before every big race. Pushing yourself too hard before the race can cause injuries or hold you back during the actual run. You definitely need to schedule your taper in to your training regime, so make sure that the taper follows the most intense part of your training.


How Long to Make your Taper

The length of your race dictates how long you should taper. Generally, the longer the race, the longer your taper should take. 5K or 10K races only need five to seven days for tapering, but a full marathon should have a three-week taper period. Do not skimp on the taper duration, since this is the essential time for your body to recover.


Cut down the Mileage

Reducing your mileage is one of the most important parts of the taper. It might be tempting to keep upping your numbers, but you should absolutely avoid doing that as it will leave you fatigues for the race. You should reduce your mileage by at least 25 percent, though it’s preferable to reduce your runs by 50 percent. For example, if you run 20 miles a day leading up to your taper, you should reduce that number to at most 16 miles — though it’s actually better if you reduce it more that that. If you’re doing a marathon taper, cut down your mileage about 15 to 20 percent each week.


Keep Up the Intensity

Even though you’re cutting back on your miles, you should still see the rest of your training with high levels of intensity. While your body needs to rest and recuperate for your race, you need to keep up the intensity so you don’t lose your fitness. Keep doing tempo runs and interval workouts with the same intensity you’ve been doing them. If you really feel you need to give yourself more rest, you should reduce your workouts by 20 percent at most.


Set Aside Time for Wellness

Tapers are not just about physical rest — you need to make sure you’re mentally prepared for your race as well. Treat yourself to a spa day, get a massage or get some acupuncture — stick with activities that will relax while helping your body recuperate. Aquatic therapy pools are an option for you to exercise without putting excessive strain on your body. You should also use these prep days to ensure you get a full night’s rest — at least eight hours — and a healthy diet to get your body and mind in the best shape.


The Importance of Tapering (and What to Avoid)

Tapers are essential to anyone running a big race. You’re putting your body through great stress during the run, so you want to make sure you’re prepared for it. If you’ve never done a taper before, watch out for these mistakes:

  • Running too much before the race
  • Overeating, particularly carbs
  • Trying a new exercise or using new shoes
  • Focusing only on the race

Have confidence in yourself as you’re doing this taper. You’ve been training for months and the taper is the final step in the process. Keep your body and your mind in a low-stress state and you’ll be ready to run your best race yet.


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