I have heard numerous conversations recently about what is understood to be the final touch that will turn all your months of hard training into a personal best on race day.
The general proven approach is pretty much the same, cut back volume while maintaining frequency and include some high intensity to keep the mitochondria happy.
The questions arise when the magic does not happen. I took a bit of a broader look around the and throw out a few additional questions that the runner needs to ask him or herself.
1. How tired were you at the start of your taper?
The goal of tapering is to create the optimal conditions for an already healthy, fit and strong body to get that last extra recovery and adaptation to “raise the bar” so to speak, that one last notch that will result in what we call, Peak Performance.
I often encounter runners who are very relieved to start their taper and get some downtime. Chances are, these runners are already long over fatigued from too much overload and/or poor fatigue management. Their bodies are just trying to get back to par, never mind thinking of peak performance. Depending on how far down the valley of fatigue you have gone, come race day, you might still be down there or only just reaching ground zero.
2. What did you do between your taper runs?
After months of going from run to kitchen to couch to run plus kids, work, shopping, cleaning…you suddenly have all this extra time and energy on hand. This could result in you getting so busy with other neglected tasks and engagements that you are actually running around more than when you running never resting!
Another challenge is to not start stressing about gaining weight. True you will be burning less calories per day, but restricting your intake too much out of fear of weight gain could end up depriving your body of the nutrients and energy it needs to recover, repair and rebuild.
3. How much training have you actually done?
Lets get real, the best taper in the world cannot make up for lack of training. If you have not put in the hard yards, then you need to rely on luck. In fact, if your training has been very low, then it is better to keep training normally and only rest up the last 3 days before the race.
Finally, magical performances are few and far beween, but they do exist, and are so worth the hard training. Most of our joy as runners however comes from the everyday journey with like minded crazy people, running, laughing and living together, everyone on their own personal limit pushing journey!
Keep on going for it! Because you can!