Full or Half Marathon Taper Strategy Guide (Coaches Corner)

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Ah, the infamous marathon taper. The only time when doing less requires doing more, huh? Don’t worry, I’ve got you covered! Link up with me for Running Coaches Corner and Figure out how to handle your taper!

Today, you once again get double Suz for the price of… well, your internet provider fees. I am over on Ange’s blog Cowgirl Runs talking about ways to rekindle your love for running–something that I know many of you are dealing with based on yesterday’s post on current running challenges and Monday’s post on mental ruts.

Don’t forget that today is also the last day of the RXBAR giveaway!

Today, I am reviving a post of mine from last year, but the information is still just as important and relevant–how to deal with marathon taper, or as I call it my marathon taper strategy guide. Enjoy and link up at the bottom!

(Previously Published Post)

As I mentioned yesterday, tis marathon season, and, being marathon season, many of us are in taper. I’ve written about taper a few times, but this time I wanted to be a little bit more informational with regards to how I approach taper strategy. 

Full and Half Marathon Taper Strategy Guide

Taper Mental Strategy

As discussed on Friday as well as in my previous post on Taper in the final days, TRUST YOUR TRAINING. Seriously. It’s too late to change the past however many months. It has taken you that long to create such change. MONTHS. Negative change can occur much more quickly, unfortunately.

So, no matter where you are, you are there. Put everything you have into getting ready for the actual race to give yourself the best possible foot forward, as it were. 

A great metaphor for taper is that is the last few hours before a big test. You can’t cram all of your studying into that amount of time. The best strategy would have been to study consistently all the way through. You can at best refresh your mind and studies just prior to the test so that it is fresh at the top of your mind. Thus, while it is not advisable to do major speed workouts, drills like strides and caterpillar runs that work on leg turnover are great just prior to the marathon (even the day before). 

Taper Fitness Strategy

Hand in hand with trusting your training is DO NOT TEST YOUR TRAINING. This is not the time to see if you’ve gotten speedier or if you can best your peak week of miles. If you race, treat it as miles–go with friends, take pictures, and see the sights.

Do not try anything new and exciting–now is not the time to try to join Cirque du Soliel. If you are a practitioner of yoga, pilates, or barre, by all means, go for it! But I wouldn’t suggest the harder classes unless they are part of your regular practice. 

The best thing that you can do is to lighten your running, but don’t stop running all together. You need to maintain some sort of impact to keep those muscles and tendons primed (so don’t just do spin class, though it is great for leg turn over!). I’m a big fan of walking throughout your taper–stay moving, keep the fluid and blood circulating, and get any kinks out.

And you are likely to feel kinks. This is the time when phantom pains come out of the wood work. Believe me, you will think that your foot is broken and that your hair is falling out. It is likely not (unless, of course, that is the case, in which case, get to a doctor), but it is also not the time to push through pain. Rest if you think you need to; if you think that you are making it up, go forth at your own risk. But know that it might not be as big a deal as you think!

Taper Rest and Recovery Strategy

As I just mentioned, this is the time to build reserves, but not sloth about. You absolutely can over-rest. And workout inertia is a very real thing–running or otherwise! This is a time to rebuild your reserves, but don’t stop running all together–we all know how crappy we feel on our first run back after a hiatus. What I like to do is keep the same schedule as before, but to decrease the intensity and or duration of the workouts. So my usual 8 miles at tempo might be 6 miles with tempos or 8 miles easy. 

Go and get a massage or get checked by the chiropractor, if that is your thing, but do so at least 2 weeks out, and the massage therapist only in the days before. Also, make sure to tell them that you have a race and when it is! That way they can prep the proper muscles.

Sleep, but don’t over sleep. And if you don’t sleep the night before the big race? Don’t worry about it–you can still PR that sucker on 3 hours.

Taper Gear Strategy

But while you are going for your walks, do not wear your race shoes! Even if you had to buy another pair of shoes late in the season, you will still get enough miles in through your running to mean that you don’t need to wear them otherwise. But make sure to rest those shoes the last few days before the marathon so that they have optimal “pop” in them (yes, shoes need rest, too!).

I’m a fan of compression gear on and off during the last week, but really? If it makes you feel better, do it, if not, don’t. Try out your race day outfit and make sure that things fit properly, you can stand it for long amounts of time, and that it looks goooooooood. Which is obviously most important. Note where things chafe, what temps the clothing work well in, and if the headphones stay in. 

Also, accumulate all of the things you might need for race day–no, I am not telling you to obsess about the weather, but make sure that you have a light rain jacket (I bought a few before Phoenix with the intention of sending them back if I didn’t need them), running hat, bodyglide, sunglasses, fuel belt/way to hold your effects, gloves, arm warmers, throwaway clothes, sunscreen that you like, your nutrition, Garmin, bag for your things. Remember: you can just about always send things back, but you can’t necessarily get them in time.

Taper Nutrition Strategy

Taper nutrition is simple: stay the course. Don’t decrease what you are eating, but don’t eat like you still are running 20 milers on the weekend. Continue to refuel after your runs, cement your fueling strategy during, and practice the cup pinch and sip while running (as if you are at an aid station). Figure out what is offered on the course–have you trained with it? Are these the flavors that you like? If they are out of your flavor, are you ok with another? 

The way I like to approach the week before my big race is that I “front load” the week, eating larger meals, more fiber, whole grains, and hydration in during the first half of the week. As the week progresses, I will gradually transition to less bulky meals, less fiber, more cooked veggies, and more white flours (basically, more easily digestible foods). So instead of my high fiber, whole grain English Muffin, I go for traditional. I decrease fruit consumption as well (high in fruit and sugar).

And the night before? Something simple, but still satisfying: a salad (but with romaine, not kale or spinach), lean protein, carb, and yup, a beer.

Taper is a finicky dog you know what. But, if handled properly, it can make a huge difference in your race day performance. 

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