Some Science Behind The Taper
|May 30, 2012||Posted by Katy under Running, Running Tips, Training Tip Tuesday, USATF|
Over the next few weeks, I want to discuss a few topics I learned while at the USATF Level 1 Coaching Clinic. Many of the topics that were discussed relate more to track and field, but some cross over into the longer endurance events (anything over a 10K- this is as classified by the coaches at the clinic, not by my own definition).
The first topic I want to discuss is tapering since I am currently in a “mini-taper” of sorts. Everyone has their own way of tapering based off of what has or has not worked out in the past. There is also a lot of information (true and false) just a quick Google search away.
I know for me personally, I have set rules in the past. There are a few that I am following this week as I prepare for my half-marathon on Saturday:
- Drink 2.5 L of water a day
- Sleep 8-10 hours a night
- Get enough calories in a day
- Start mini-carbo loading on Thursday
- Reduce volume
- Slightly reduce intensity of cross-training, but not running (this is important, see below)
- Watch inspirational movies
Some of these rules I am following better than others. My sleeping patterns are less than desired due to my insomnia, but my other goals are going pretty well.
During the clinic, one of the coaches discussed more of the physiological thoughts and facts behind a successful taper. He brought up a few points:
- The taper should be about two weeks.
- Volume decreases anywhere from 41-60% (50% average)
- Keep in intensity, but do not increase.
- Maintain frequency; do not drop down.
- Fast fade- exponential at end. Drastic taper the last week.
To explain a few of these points:
- The duration of the taper varies for the event, but the most success was seen with a two week taper. This allows the body to actively recover from training, but not too much time for the training to be negated.
- Throughout the taper, the volume should decrease anywhere between 41-60% from peak mileage. It is also important WHEN the decrease occurs which I will explain in a minute.
- It is important to keep the intensity of the workouts. Too many people cut intensity during a taper, opting to do all of their remaining runs at an easy pace in order to save their legs. This is something that I have experimented with in the past and I find that I perform better if I keep my intensity up. I will reduce the distance I run, but I try to keep the same paces. Speed is one of the first things to go and the body needs that constant reminder of what it can do.
- It is also important to maintain the frequency of your workouts, especially runs (if for a running event). If you need an extra rest day because of soreness or pain, take it, but otherwise, maintain your schedule. If you run four days a week, do not jump to six during the taper and vice versa.
- This goes back to point two. When tapering, the beginning should be more steady with a drastic drop the final week. The idea behind this is to really get the legs fresh for race day. It also helps an athlete from peaking too early and not performing well at the event.
With these facts and rules in place, the typical athlete saw a jump of .5%-6% in performance on race day.
This is just an average and not everyone will get the same results, but this is what has been found in numerous studies and observations. Every body responds differently to a taper so, as always, it is important to figure out what works for you and has given you success in the past. However, also be open to new ideas. Unfortunately I did not write down the specific studies these results were found, but if I find it, I will update this post to include it.
I have not done a marathon (yet), nor have I truly tapered down for a big race in awhile, but I plan to implement these rules for my next big running race.
What are your thoughts on tapering? Do you have any “tried and true” taper rules you abide to?
Disclaimer: I am not a USATF Certified Track Coach (in progress), Certified Personal Trainer (CPT), or Certified Running Coach. These facts were presented to me at a USATF Level 1 Coaching Clinic and I have discussed them above. As always, for specific exercise counseling, see your doctor, a CPT, or certified coach.