On my last post for Base Training part 1 and 2, I have mentioned that the base fitness is the core to get another step in training principle toward the race day. Now, the topic Taper will tell you about what actually goes when you entering last week or maybe 2-3 last week of your training period.
By race day you should be so bored with sitting around that you are bursting at the seams to get out there and be with 500 other people racing!
The final touches to any training program come during the taper. This is the period of your season leading up to a key race when you allow your body to absorb all of the hard work you did during your base building and your speed phases. Doing the right kind of taper is an art unto itself.
A taper is tricky because of what is happening internally when our bodies try to recover. When athletes start to give themselves rest, the system in the body that responds to stress (which is the system that allows you to get up for big workouts) starts to shut down. It is like working on the engine of your car. You cannot have the engine running at the same time that you are giving it an overhaul. You have to shut the engine off.
The same is true for our bodies. You have to shut the "engine" off for it to recover and charge up in the way that it needs to be ready for the big race. And when you do this, you will probably feel like you are out of energy, sluggish, and getting out of shape. THIS IS NORMAL.
Give yourself the luxury of this less-than-stellar feeling. It is just a signal that your body is repairing itself and getting ready for a big effort in a few weeks. We do this naturally each night when we sleep. We get a mini-taper. You sleep and you recover. You are not working out when you are sleeping.
But during the taper, a lot of the recovery is going to happen in the day when you are used to working out. This will require a readjustment of mindset. Allow yourself to feel lousy, out of energy, and sluggish. This is what a taper is for. Resist the temptation to go out and test your fitness just to make sure you are not losing it. As best as you can stick to the planned reduction in volume and overall intensity. This is the toughest part of a taper - the rest.
What to Expect During a Taper
In week one of the taper you will start to feel good. The energy system that raises your energy up for peak workouts will still be working but you will be building up some reserves because of the reduced volume of training. The result is that you will start to feel supercharged.
Then during the second week, all systems start to shut down that are normally active during high training. This is what happens when you start to go into hyper-recovery mode. You will begin to feel absolutely terrible. Your legs will feel heavy, you won't feel motivated, and you will feel like you are losing all of your fitness. This is the worst you will feel. But have faith!
In week three of the taper, your energy will start to come back up and you will start to feel the spark come back. Remember that this is still not the time to test yourself. That will come in the race just over a week away.
In week four, all of the rest pays off. If you thought week three felt good, this will blow your socks off. You will hardly be able to contain yourself. This is exactly what you want. You are now ready for your best race.
All the best in MUDS!