Much has been written over the past few years on changing ideas around tapering.

Tapering off your training in the final week before a big goal race such as the Totalsports Two Oceans Marathon  will get you to the starting line in optimal shape. But, are you doing this right?

Tapering is a common endurance-racing term for the final phase of 'training' before a race, 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. In short: Smart managed rest/training balance.

When it comes to running, traditionally-held wisdom to do this is to gradually reduce your regular training load and shorten your intensity intervals in a process known as tapering off.  The tapering phase usually starts a few weeks before your race.

The general rule is to reduce running volume and intensity while maintaining speedwork.

Your speedwork repetitions should become shorter and sharper as you near race day; some athletes refer to this aspect of tapering as “sharpening up”. 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 concerned you’re not training enough, keep in mind that in this phase it’s much more important not to overtrain before your race. Remember, it’s always better to be undertrained and rested for your race than to be overtrained and fatigued. Many athletes feel as if they’re being lazy during their taper phase; if you feel this way, remind yourself that tapering is about taking a step back so that you can take two steps forward.

Tips for effective tapering:

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! Many coaches advise that eating less on easier training days is key to greater performance.

Final training: As your race approaches, saving your strength becomes key. Two days before your race you will want to do a short speed training (the length of effort will vary depending on the distance you will be racing) to stimulate your legs. But be careful not to strain yourself, you definitely don’t want to risk an injury at this point.