Top Tips for a Successful Taper
By Rebekah Mayer
Race day is nearly here and most of your training is in the bag. What can you do now to ensure a great race day? By paying extra attention to your sleep, nutrition and training, you can set yourself up for a great half marathon.
A good taper will bring you to race day rested, but not feeling stale. For a half marathon a two-week taper is typically best:
- Start by doing your longest training run two weeks before race day.
- The following week should be roughly 60 percent of your peak mileage. Most of the mileage decrease is on the long runs, so your weekday mileage won’t change much during the first week of taper.
- The final long run is done the weekend before your race day and is typically six to 10 miles long.
- The final week should be roughly 40 percent of your peak mileage leading up to race day.
Keep your quality workouts (intervals and race pace) on schedule during the last two weeks, up to four days out from your race. The drop in mileage combined with consistent quality will keep you feeling fresh and sharp. Strength training and cross-training should also be tapered off to keep your legs fresh.
In order to fully recover from your training, proper sleep is key. Experts recommend sleeping eight to nine hours per night. While that may be challenging to fit into a busy schedule, here are some tips:
- Try to build a consistent sleep schedule where you go to bed around the same time each night. Doing so can lead to more consistent sleep.
- DVR your favorite shows to catch up on after race day. You’ve worked hard to prepare for the race and your body deserves some extra rest and recovery.
- Two nights before the race is the most important night for sleep. Focus on setting up your week so that you can get a full night’s sleep that night.
- Don’t worry too much if you don’t sleep well the night before the race. It’s normal to have a short night as pre-race nerves can affect your sleep. One poor night of sleep shouldn’t affect your performance the next day.
Your nutritional approach in the final weeks depends on your overall eating style. During your peak mileage week your calorie intake needs to be sufficient to keep your energy levels up, but after that you may need to adjust your eating relative to your training. Here are a few things to keep in mind:
- Sometimes weight gain can be a problem during taper as you likely need fewer calories than during heavy training.
- The benefits of carbohydrate-loading are being called into question for marathoners, and for half marathoners there is little research that supports the benefits of carbohydrate-loading.
- Many experts (including those at Life Time Run) recommend a more balanced eating approach including moderate carbohydrates from whole food sources, quality protein and healthy fat.
Your eating style does impact your nutrition in the final days before your race.
- Runners who typically eat a high-carbohydrate diet typically stick with that through race day and are more likely to need to carb-load for longer races.
- Low-carb and/or Paleo runners have trained their bodies to burn more fat and fewer carbs and can continue that style of eating through race day. Consuming protein, fat and fiber in moderation in the 24 hours before the race is often helpful.
The final month before your race is the perfect opportunity to fine-tune your sleep, nutrition and training. By taking a few extra steps to support your training and recovery this month you’ll be ready for a great race!
Rebekah Mayer is the National Training Manager at Life Time Run. Check out LifeTimeRun.com for more training tips, training programs and social runs at 60+ locations nationwide.