Every runner loves to talk about the taper but there are very few who know how to do it properly. It seems that the longer the race is, the less running people feel like they need to do leading up to it. This is, in a word, wrong!
More often than not, tapering your training too much heading into a peak race will do more harm than good. Why? Over the course of a given training cycle, especially for a marathon, you’re putting in a lot of work. Your body has gotten used to high-volume training and lots of running on tired legs. All of a sudden, three weeks out from your peak race, the long run mysteriously disappears from the training schedule. Then you start taking days off to “rest” but can’t figure out for the life of you why you can’t fall asleep at night.
Quite simply, your body isn’t used to these drastic changes and instead of feeling fresh you find yourself in a funk with the most important race of your life right around the corner. How do you prevent this from happening the next time around?
The answer is by not tapering your training too much. In the final few weeks leading up to the peak race, you want to reduce your overall weekly volume, but by no more than 25-30 percent. You likely never did that at any stage of the training cycle, so it’s senseless to start doing so right before your big race. Instead of running your last long run three weeks out from your peak race, do it just 14-15 days prior, which still leaves your legs plenty of time to freshen up for the big day. And lastly, don’t take unnecessary days off. Of course, if injury, travel or some other factor necessitates it, fine. If you were regularly running almost every day during your big buildup, however, it will do more harm than good to start taking days off before your race for the sake of rest. Don’t taper too much – your body won’t rest, it will rebel.