Tapering is a common running term for the final phase of training before a marathon, when you want to bring yourself to peak physical condition. Here’s how to taper off your training effectively and responsibly, so you’ll appear at the starting line in optimal shape.
The tapering phase usually starts a few weeks before your marathon. The general rule is to reduce your running volume and intensity while maintaining your speed work. In other words, you want to spare your body and save all your strength for the race, but at the same time you want to keep up your speed.
If you’re following a marathon training plan, such as on the Runkeeper™ app, you’ll see your training volume gradually decrease in the last four to two weeks before race day.
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How to Taper off Your Training
Keep your energy and muscles in top form with these tips:
- Rest well. Pay particular attention to resting in this phase. Your body needs the time to recover and heighten the training effect of your active sessions. Make sure you get plenty of sleep, too.
- Do what you can. You may feel that high-paced training is difficult in this phase, but don’t be disheartened: your body is tired from all the training. Just do what you can and then rest.
- Work on your focus. During these last sessions, train yourself to stay focused even when you are tired. You will need this skill to race well.
You may also want to use the tapering-off phase to improve your diet. Chances are you’ve already started living healthier during your training plan. But in the last phase before your race, consider taking some extra measures. Giving up junk food and alcohol completely in this phase will really pay off on race day.
Final Training and Carb-Loading
As your race approaches, it’s imperative to save your strength. Two days before the race, try a half-mile fast run to stimulate your legs. But be careful not to strain yourself, you definitely don’t want to risk an injury at this point.
A day or two before your race, it's a good idea to load your body with carbohydrates – popularly called carb-loading among runners. This means eating lots of rice, noodles, pasta or other starches to stock up on the fuel you'll need on race day.
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