Welcome to Taper Town! November 07 2014
WOO! You've spent many months training and your event is just weeks away! Let me officially welcome you to "Taper Town" - a critical time in your training in which you cut your miles down to a minimum. Why? Because, even though it seems counter-intuitive, allowing your body to rest can help you gain speed, strength and stamina for your race. I'm not saying sitting still is easy, but here are a few tips to make your taper time a success.
First, let me say that I do not sit still well; my mother diagnosed me with “ants in my pants” from an early age. But, I have learned, through many years and many races, that energy is too often a limited resource. So now I do my best to conserve power in order to have the maximum amount at the start line. Less activity the week or two leading up to the race reaps greater rewards.
So, how do I taper to the best of my ability?
Listen To Your Body
Even though you are cutting back on miles – and physical activity in general – you do not want to cut back on two critical pastimes: eating and sleeping. Simply put - if you are hungry, eat; if you are tired, sleep. Your body will thank you, as it uses the downtime to recover and repair.
Eat for Maximum Energy
The rule “Food=Fuel” goes for both training and tapering, and throughout both, the healthier the choices, the better. Taper time isn’t a free pass to snack mindlessly on junk (I joke that’s for after the race). Your body will benefit best from eating:
* Lean Proteins contain essential amino acids that aid in the recovering of muscle tissue broken down during training. Aim for 2 – 4 small servings of chicken, fish, beef, or non-meat proteins, such as beans or tempeh, a day.
* Complex Carbohydrates, such as whole grain bread, whole wheat pasta, brown rice and sweet potatoes, which convert into stored energy. That stored energy will be crucial in getting you through your event.
The most important meal before your race is lunch the day before. The traditional “carbo-load” the dinner before can leave you feeling bloated and heavy at the start line. So, eat your bigger meal at lunch and dine lite at dinner.
My racing friends call me “the camel” – I don’t drink a lot before, during or after a race. For the record, I know that’s not a good thing. Being properly hydrated for - and during – your race will help you from cramping up, slowing down and hitting the dreaded wall. Not to be graphic, but you should drink enough to be urinating every 2 to 3 hours. And, pardon the TMI, but your pee color should resemble lemonade.
And, while you may be more at-risk for dehydration in the hotter temperatures, it also can – and does – occur in colder weather. Anytime you sweat, you need to replace the fluids and electrolytes you’ve lost.
However, you need to resist the urge to over-drink. You should not need to go to the bathroom every hour and your urine should not look like water. You want to make sure you are not expelling necessary nutrients. Don’t force liquids if you’re not thirsty.
In the weeks leading up to each marathon I’ve run, I feel every pain, pang and twang in my body. Each one adds to my pre-race anxiety. Turns out, those pains are normal as your muscles repair themselves from months of training.
Lessen your stress by preparing for the race – pack all your event essentials and lay out your race clothes the night or two before. That will help with any morning-of panic. And visualize yourself racing and crossing the finish line – I truly believe that if you believe you can, you will.
Trust In Yourself and Your Training
By race week, you’ve trained and toiled; pounded and persevered. Trust that what you’ve done will get you through to the finish line. I like to tell my Team in Training participants that their race is a “victory lap” – you’ve done the work, now reap the reward.
Smile at every photographer; high-five every kid you see; enjoy every step. You’ve earned it.