Most runners struggle during their taper.
It seems strange. Leading into a race you ease off on the training. You are no longer trying to push the boundaries of what your body can handle. More sleep. A little down time. Time to chill. Should feel great. Yet, most runners have trouble handling this.
Instead of relaxation we have too much time to think about the race. We doubt if we are ready. Not enough long runs. Should have done more intervals. What if I’m just not good enough?
Instead of feeling good our body signals problems. We become hyper aware of everything. Every little ache stands out. Is it a race limiting injury? Every muscle feels heavy. We lose our snap. All the speed has been sucked out.
Not just the first timer, but as an experienced runner we wonder if this is normal.
It is normal!
How to handle a race taper better
The body will feel flat. You’ve been training hard for some time. Pushing the body puts it on the edge. It has been in survival mode. Now you are giving it the opportunity to recover and rebuild into a stronger and faster you. This is a significant process. It takes the body a lot of resources.
What to do:
Give the body what it needs. Good food and appropriate rest. Racing and training hard put you in the fight or flight mode (sympathetic). Rebuilding puts you in the rest and digest mode (parasympathetic). Everything feels slowed down when here. Let the body stay in this state. You only need to feel good on race day. Trust the body, it is surprisingly good at getting this right.
Train the mind. There will always be doubts leading into a big event. It’s okay. Not only should we accept this, but we can use it to our advantage. Set aside some time (that time you used to be running).
Write a list of your doubts and negative thoughts. Put it on paper. Then split the lists into 2 categories.
- Things you can’t control: training completed or not done – can’t change it now. Weather. Terrain. Other competitors. Now you’ve identified this, it is easier to push it aside and focus on part
- Things you can control: race kit, race plan, contingency plans, nutrition. This is where you can focus your efforts. Make a plan for a good race, and not so good race. What will you do if things go wrong. If you’ve considered situations ahead of time it will be easier on the day to just do it.
Meditate. This isn’t the time to learn completely new techniques. If you have a practice already then put some more time into it. If you don’t meditate find some time to sit still and breath slowly or follow a simple guided meditation. Personally I use Insight Timer whenever I feel like using a guided mediation rather than my own practice.
After 20 years of racing I still have to remind myself it is normal to feel bad, crazy good or just crazy during the taper. I’ve come to enjoy the process and see it as part of training and racing. Getting those feelings many dread indicate you are on track for race day.
Comment below and share how you handle your taper.