From Running tips for everyone from beginners to racing marathons and ultramarathons
1 General tapering tips
- Read up on tapering. See Practical Tapering and The Science of Tapering for extra information.
- Don't be stupid. Correct tapering can help you recover from your hard training and do your best. It is not an alternative to hard training, and any attempt to compensate for poor preparation in the taper period will only make matters worse.
- Avoid injury. Don't do hard intervals or start doing an alternative workout to 'make up' for the reduction in tapering. Be careful to avoid injury through 'accidental exercise', such as chasing the dog, lifting furniture, etc.
- Stay off your feet as much as possible the week before the race. This can be tough if you are traveling for a race and want to sight see.
- Reduce Caffeine intake if you are a regular user. This is true if you are intending to use caffeine in the race or not. Reduced caffeine will make you tired and cranky, but it may be worth it. (I find reduced caffeine also makes me hungry - YMMV)
- Limit stress as much as possible. The taper period tends to involve a lot of stress due to the change in training pattern and because of the looming race. Stress is catabolic (breaks down the body), and needs to be avoided as much as possible.
- Ensure you get plenty of sleep, especially the week before the race. The night before the race is not critical, but the few nights before that are important.
- Avoid infection by washing your hands and being careful around sick people.
- Spend time visualizing the race. Visualize your preparation, race start, the mid miles, the late miles, how to use aid stations, how the finish will feel, etc.
- Make lists of things you need to take with you or you need to do on the night before the race and on race day. This will make sure you are prepared and help deal with the stress. Use the same list for every race, building and changing it based on experience.
- Reduce your calorie intake to balance the reduced training load. Tapering is not the time to gain weight.
- For the bulk of the taper period, reduce carbohydrate intake and favor protein and fat. Protein and fat are critical for healing and repair. Protein should be taken several times a day; protein drinks and skimmed milk are good choices. Fats must be low in saturated fats and high in essential fatty acids. Fish oil, fatty fish, nuts, flax or flax oil are good choices.
- For the last few days, favor carbohydrate and/or fat depending on what you learned from your long runs. (You did learn this, didn't you!) I find that fat is better for me than carbohydrate for ultras.
- Store 'creative energy'. Any race should involve suffering, and that suffering requires fortitude. Spending time in visualization, meditation, prayer, yoga, or similar activities will help create the needed mental strength.
- Use 'the stick' to massage muscles and verify that there are no sore spots or problems. A massage can also help. The massage should be more gentle as the taper progresses.
- Be very careful with stretching. Stretching may help, but it can also cause damage.
- If you feel crappy in the taper period, you're suffering from Taper Psychosis. Most runners hate the taper period, often feeling guilty, lethargic, stiff and generally out of sorts. This is normal; just accept that you'll be okay on the day.