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The Three Most Common Tapering Mistakes

  • By Jeff Gaudette
  • Published Oct. 22, 2013
  • Updated Oct. 23, 2013 at 7:22 PM UTC

Race Week: Weight-Gain Worries

The last week of marathon training is definitely the most difficult from a mental perspective. No matter how hard you’ve trained or how many miles you’ve run, you’re going to fear that you can’t run 26.2 miles, never mind 26.2 miles at your goal marathon pace. Trust me, even elites who average close to 150 miles per week and put in some crazy workouts have this fear. I know, because I was one of them.

However, a less obvious fear that almost all runners encounter is that of putting on weight during the final week of tapering.

RELATED — Race-Week Workouts: The Final Countdown

All runners have been told that they need to load up on carbohydrates and build their glycogen stores as race day approaches; however, because you’re also significantly cutting your training volume and intensity, this increased calorie intake is bound to pack on an extra pound or two.

It’s a conundrum, especially if you’ve been trying to lose weight the entire training cycle and because this is the time you want to feel light and nimble. As a result, it’s a battle to get the glycogen you need without feeling like the marshmallow man. Typically, the desire to avoid weight gain wins the battle and glycogen stores don’t get maxed out.

How to avoid this mistake:

First, remember that a little weight gain is OK, since you’re storing extra fluids. A full gas tank is much more important than a couple extra pounds on race day.

My recommendation is to augment your eating habits so that you’re getting in the energy and calories you need without feeling stuffed. Graze on healthy snacks, such as vegetables and high-quality carbohydrates throughout the day. Also, keep each of your meals to between 600 to 700 calories, especially in the last two days before the race. Grazing and keeping your main meals small will help ensure that the calories are stored as glycogen, not fat.

As race day approaches, consider these three tapering mistakes and make sure you don’t fall victim to the same pitfalls in the last three weeks of your training plan.

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Jeff Gaudette

Jeff Gaudette

Jeff has been running for 13 years, at all levels of the sport. He was a two time Division-I All-American in Cross Country while at Brown University and competed professionally for 4 years after college for the Hansons-Brooks Distance Project. Jeff's writing has been featured in Running Times magazine, Endurance Magazine, as well as numerous local magazine fitness columns.

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