The main aim of the taper then is to reduce the negative physiological and psychological impact of daily training. In other words, a taper should eliminate accumulated or residual fatigue, which will translate into additional fitness gains leaving both body and mind in optimal condition to perform at your best.
It is sometimes quite difficult for athletes to reduce their training volume as they approach a race. A commonly held misconception, especially amongst novice athletes, is that they will lose fitness as a result. This is not true and a reduction in training volume is vital if you are to perform at your best on race day.
How one athlete tapers for a race will differ from how another athlete tapers for a number of reasons. Race distance and priorty, your level of experience, your training load (high versus low) amongst other individual characteristics will effect how you taper for a race. Here are some general principles about tapering:
- With a taper you should decrease the volume of training – but you must maintain your intensity levels. How does this work in practice? Your training volume might go down to 75% two-three weeks out, 50% the week before and maybe 30-40% in race week. If you normally run for 90 minutes, you might reduce that to 75 minutes with two weeks to go, an hour the week before and 30 minutes during race week.
- Maintain the frequency of your workouts. If you train five times per week on average you should continue to do this during your taper. Too much of a disruption to your regular routines can disturb things like eating and sleeping patterns and leave you feeling sluggish rather than fresh to go!
- Make your sessions race specific. Short brick sessions at race intensity are ideal and give you a chance to practise your tranistion skills. Even simple things like practising slipping your shoes on and off between running and cycling intervals can help prepare you for race day.
- Should you do anything the day before a race? This is where individuality comes into play again. Some people prefer to have a day of complete rest two days before the race and 'train' the day before with short sessions at race intensity (and no more!). Others will prefer to do things in the opposite order and have complete rest the day before the race. You must discover what works best for you.
All the best to those competing this weekend at the London Triathlon! Tim (LFTC Coach)