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Workouts, along with running mileage, are stressors on the body. As such, a sound tapering regimen reduces both the frequency of the workouts, along with their duration, in order to maximize rest and recovery leading up to the race day. During the taper phase Mahon has his runners completing the same type of workouts they’ve been doing all along in training–mile repeats for example–but gives them more time for recovery. He calls this element the “density” of training. “We try to put some extra space in our workouts during the taper,” he says. Specifically, Mahon may give runners more time to recover between repetitions in a workout, or he may give them fewer workouts to complete during the week.
As opposed to increasing recovery time both during and between workouts, Hunt has her athletes completing shorter, faster speed sessions during the taper. “For the final two weeks I gradually cut the mileage but maintain speed with strides and short intervals,” she says. “The focus is on recovery and goal pace for muscle memory and short bursts of speed.” Some examples of Hunt’s taper surges are 20 x 15 seconds or 10 x 30-45 seconds mostly at 3K to 5K effort.