I have hit my favourite time of marathon training – the taper. And given I work for House of Running I am also surrounded by others who are just two or three weeks away from their marathons. Personally I am quite shattered so it is important I do this well.
What is the taper and why do we do it?
If all has gone well, you have been training hard over the last few months to your goal – a marathon. You have probably run around 30kms once or twice now in the last weeks and might be feeling a bit tired. Leading up to the taper I personally feel that there is no way I can hold my marathon pace for a whole 42km as it is tough to hold it for a few minutes. But now it is important to recover from this period of hard work so that you are fresh to run on marathon day. Your muscles will repair during this period making you stronger .
Tips for your taper?
It is important during this time to take care of yourself, to ensure that you recover well from your big efforts. This is what I am going to do during my taper:
- Sports massage – As well as helping with injury, sports massage is great for recovery. It also aids the lymphatic system in the removal of waste from the muscles.
- Attention to sleep – During my marathon training I spoke to a nutrition coach and he explained about the importance of getting out of bed at the same time every morning. For me that could only be 6am, to ensure I can make client appointments. I was initially a bit reluctant as 6am on Sunday is quite a strange time to get up but I can see that it is helping. Having an hour and a half away from electrical screens before sleep and keeping the room cool and dark is also important. This is also going to aid my recovery.
- Keep the quality of nutrition high – I also received some recipes from the nutrition coach (who works with athletes). I noticed in the recipes that my intake of protein has increased. I know that protein is important, it being important for muscle, but I didn’t notice that I should be eating more. Protein aids the increase of muscle protein synthesis and recovery of muscles after strenuous training as part of the recovery process. I am curious how this is going to help my recovery during taper.
- Hydration – I think this one goes without saying. Drinking water throughout the day is important for both recovery and performance.
- Relax – This is always my weakness but I need to take more time for meditation, sitting reading a book, chilling, etc.
- A little bit of foam rolling – In my opinion foam rolling can be overdone by some athletes. It has it’s place to help release some of your muscles but there is no need to over do it.
- Biomechanics exercises – I do these anyway but after my last run at the Zandvoort Circuit Run 12km I had a bit of discomfort in my hamstring. Probably it is due to perhaps one of the highest mileage in a week that I have ever done with a race after it. The next day it hadn’t eased so I just spent a bit more time doing some biomechanics exercises and within a day or two it eased off. It is great to have these exercises in your tool box to use – not just as before and after exercise but also when your body is just a bit off. If you are interested to try one of these exercises you can sign up for a free video here.
And, well I have another two. I asked my fellow runners and triathletes on my Facebook group (you can join us here) and they reminded me to also use the time to focus on two things related to race day planning. I have quoted them directly:
- “Visualize the day of the marathon, and recall runs/training sessions that felt good – some brain training.”
- “What’s your race plan. And what will you do if something unexpected happens, how will you adapt?“
Which of these are a challenge to you? Have you got other things you do during this period?