How to taper like a pro
Essential tapering tips
Getting your taper right can often be the difference between a great run and running well below your expectations. Scott Overall advises how to get your taper spot on so you can reel in that PB.
All the training you have been doing is probably focused all on one race and that burning desire to run faster than you have run before, you want to run a PB. In order to do that you need to be on the start line in the best shape possible, but also not to be too tired from the training you have done before. This is why before all big races elite athletes will have a phase in their training known as the taper. This is the 'rest' period between finishing your last hard session and the race itself, however you don't want to get this wrong having worked so hard in training.
Here are four mistakes you need to avoid during your taper.
1) Not resting enough
There is a fine line between doing too much, and not doing enough the week before the race. You want to be on the start line feeling pretty fresh and ready to run, but you don't want to have overdone it during the week. The worst thing you can do is start to panic that you have not done enough training and you start smashing in the sessions, and running quicker during your steady runs in an effort to get fitter.
There is a piece of advice I was given at a young age, and I still remember it to this day. I was told that nothing you do in training the week before the race is going to make you fitter, all you can do is make yourself more tired. Don't leave your race in the training leading up to it. Be fresh, be sensible and above all don't you dare do anything you haven't done before... Like a 30 mile run!
2) Resting too much
You want to keep "ticking over" the week of the race, you want to put a little work into the legs but nothing you can't recover quickly from. This might even be just a couple of easy runs with some strides at the end. This means you won't get to race day and feel lethargic because you've been sat on the sofa all week.
If you are unsure of how much or how little to run, the general rule of thumb is to do about 20-30 per cent of your usual mileage. If you're still not sure, ask someone that has done it before. Just have that little voice in your head saying "nothing you do this week will make me fitter for the race".
Try to do things that take your mind off the race and don't waste energy getting nervous for the race, especially the whole week before the race! Stick to your normal routine and if possible stay off your feet as much as possible.
Drink a lot the week of the race and make sure you're doing everything to be ready. You can also take on board carbs in drinks, so not only will this help you hydrate it will also mean you are carbo loading.
4) Have a race day plan
You want things to go as smoothly as possible on the actual race day, and to do this you need to make sure you know where you need to be, and what time you need to be there. Get everything ready the week before, you won't be running as much so use that extra time to make sure you have your vest, shorts and number ready to go.
Pin the number on your vest, know which start you have to get to, and also work out how long it takes to get there. Make sure you stick to your plan, and you know what you are doing. Control the controllables.
Written by Scott Overall
Scott is a British long distance athlete who represented Team GB at the 2012 Olympics. His marathon PB is currently 2:10:55.