How to Survive Taper Week

by Becky Willis
We’re here. It is time to taper, which is an extremely important part of your training. And I have a little secret – this is the toughest part of it all. Yup. Even for you marathoners who have checked that 20-miler off your to-do list. The tapering period is the toughest because it is where your mental game comes into play. 

But enough of that negative self-talk. Let’s focus on the positives and talk about how to survive taper week! 
Understand Why Tapering Matters
Hopefully you’ve started to taper properly, and you’ve had a chance to check out Karl Gruber’s blog about the reason behind tapering. Marathon runners, your plans typically taper the last three weekends before the full — starting April 14 — and half marathon runners will taper the last 2 weeks — starting April 21. When you understand that this is an important part of your training, it will go so much smoother. 

So, why does it matter? Tapering matters because rest can make you strong. If this is your first big running event, that might be hard to imagine, but the science behind tapering is undeniable. Your performance is likely to improve, your immune system has time to fight stronger, and you won’t be exhausted come race day. 
Tips to Survive Taper Week
You get it that tapering is important but try telling your brain that — particularly after running 20 miles — you can rest and still pull off that extra 6.1 miles. Now is the time to push those thoughts aside and do some things that are beneficial to your mental and physical strength through the resting gift of taper week. Here’s what I suggest you incorporate in your taper week: 

Commit to shorter, slower runs. Don’t stop running completely! Run at a slower pace and shorter distance. If you’ve been following a training plan, it will suggest the appropriate distances. It is up to you to slow it down. Take a few minutes and enjoy the flowers that have started to bloom. You still can do some race pace runs, just at a shorter distance. Your body will thank you! 

Avoid heavy lifting. My cross training typically involves CrossFit, but not in the last month. It is a big risk to lift heavy on your non-running days so close to the starting line. If you’re a parent, take your kid to the park and lift them up to the monkey bars a few times instead. You’ll get the benefit of muscle strength through play and the mental benefit of catching up with your family who will be cheering you on. 

Eat. This isn’t the time to cut back on calories. You still need to eat, but don’t fill up with empty calories or splurge just because your body might tell you it wants that ice cream. If you cut way back and then start your carb load, your body will be in shock. 

Catch up. Maybe your friends or family have mentioned they’ve missed you. Grab a cup of coffee with them or do something else together. But ladies, this isn’t the time for that overdue pedicure… trust me, I learned the hard way that your feet need those callouses and rough spots. Check in on your household tasks – for me, making sure my bank account is in check is always a struggle when I’m training, so taper week is when I sit down and focus on that again. 

Mentally prepare for race day. I like to drive through the city, along the course to visualize how race day is going to look. Think about where your fans will be stationed and where you might need motivation. Imagine yourself in your race day gear crossing the finish line. 

These last few weeks before we pick up our bibs, do some shopping at the Expo, and get into our starting corrals might seem to drag on forever, but you’ve got this. When race day arrives, you’ll be thankful you tapered smart and gave your body exactly what it needed. Enjoy it, and most of all, see taper week in a positive light so you’ll not only survive but thrive. Happy tapering! 

Visit the ‘Burgh Blog each month for more training tips and tricks from Becky Willis and the other 2019 Official Bloggers! You can also follow along as Becky trains for the UPMC Health Plan Pittsburgh Half Marathon on her blogs Mrs. Greg Willis and 'Lil Burghers

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