Tapering and the Three Week Countdown

Three weeks from Sunday I will be running the Chicago Marathon with Michael. October 9, 2011. I am beyond excited and already making a list of things that I need to do and get before the big day. The most important thing that needs to be done before Marathon Day is TAPERING.

My 3 Week Taper

Tapering is often overlooked by runners.  Some runners just don’t bother to stick to their plans in these final three weeks before the marathon.  A 2 mile run, some may skip it and others may think it is not enough and head out for 4 or 5 miles instead.  This is wrong. Tapering is a key part of any marathon training plan.  It keeps your body moving and muscles familiar with running without overdoing it and stressing out your body.  It’s a chance to rest and recover so you can perform your best for 26.2 miles.  As always, Runner’ World says it best:

Training is about progressive adaptation to stress. Tapering enables your musculoskeletal and neurological systems to recover from that stress and be in prime condition for competition.

So how do you ensure that your tapering is doing what it should? Follow these tips…

Stick to the plan!  You have been following your plan day by day and week by week for months now, why would you “freestyle” now? Keep doing what you’ve been doing and following the plan.   In three weeks you’re not likely to make any significant improvements in pace or time if you keep training without a taper.  In fact, you’ll probably race better if you rest and recover and start your 26.2 miles feeling fresh.

Recover, recover, recover!  Remember monster month? Or the first few weeks of marathon training? You probably rearranged weeknight plans and activities to get all your runs in and likely skipped a Saturday night out with friends in order to get some extra rest for Sunday’s long run.  I sure did! Post run you were diligent to stretch, ice, get a good night’s sleep and eat well.  It’s your job to keep doing all of those things, except this time you won’t have time-consuming runs to worry about too.  Since you won’t be using so much time for runs, plan extra time to lay on the couch, stretch and rest. Don’t go run errands or make more plans.

Use Caution!  You have spent a lot of time training and preparing for Marathon Day. Now would not be the time to pick up waterskiing, or go for a long hike or try cycling if you haven’t been doing it the entire time you’ve been training.  You don’t want to do anything that will cause you to be extra sore or give you an opportunity to injure yourself.  Stick to things you have been doing all along.  I’ve been doing yoga regularly throughout my training.  If I’m feeling motivated I may try to do some extra yoga classes, likely a gentle or restorative class so it is easy on my body.  If you have cross-trained on the elliptical then you could do some of that.

Rest!  This is simple. Plan to get lots of rest, sleep in on the weekends since you won’t be doing really long runs. Get to bed early during the week.  Take naps. Marathon training is stressful and exhausting.  Use these three weeks to let your body catch up on sleep and rest so that you will feel awake, fresh and energetic for race day!

Speaking of marathons, completing your taper and accomplishing your goals I’d like to share with you another blog in the running world.  Angela at mypinkytoes.wordpress.com writes about her experiences as a runner and new marathoner.  She encourages all women to have a positive body-image and a “I can do anything attitude!’ She wrote one of the best marathon re-caps I’ve read in a long time!  I’d encourage you all to read it!  It will make you want to run a marathon if you never have, run another one if you already have and it will certainly make you excited and encouraged for your upcoming marathon if your currently training!

What do you look forward to during the taper? Shorter runs? More rest? Do you have any tips to help your get the most out of your taper so you’ll perform your best on race day?

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