You may have been following our guides over the past few months, getting all geared up for your race and marathon seasons.
We delivered on part 1 of our 12-week race preparation plan – focusing on the base phase – which gets you to the point where you’ve built your endurance and prepared for harder workouts. The second part of the preparation plan walked you through the race phase, to get you used to running at your goal race pace.
This guide focuses on the taper phase, which is a period of running at a reduced distance just before your race but with enough intensity for race day.
A few points to note: if you’ve just joined us on this journey, it’s best to click back to the plan for week 1, then follow through. Also, the guide below is for training for a full marathon. If you’re planning for an ultramarathon (anything more than 50km in distance), then you should schedule yourself a 16 to 24-week training cycle.
It’s also worth noting that each individual’s level of fitness varies, so use this formula just as a guide and tailor it to suit your needs.
Here’s the plan for the last of three stages, the taper phase:
|9||Rest||8km run||15km run||Rest||9km run||25km run||1hr cross-training|
|10||Rest||7km run||13km run||Rest||7km run||23km run||1hr cross-training|
|11||Rest||5km run||11km run||Rest||5km run||15km run||1hr cross-training|
|12||Rest||2.5km run||6km run||Rest||2.5km run||Rest||Race|
Tapering involves running less and resting more. If you think the idea of cutting down on your training just before a big race is counterintuitive, you’re wrong. In the last few weeks, it’s the rest period that makes you stronger – your aerobic capacity doesn’t change during this time.
This is because your muscle glycogen, antioxidants, enzymes, and hormones levels – which have all been depleted as a result of your high mileage runs – returns to prime ranges during a taper.
Muscles that have been damaged during sustained training also get repaired in this time. In addition, immune functions and muscle strength improve, reducing the odds of you getting sick or injured just before a race.
And study results have shown that people who’ve tapered in their training had an average performance improvement of three per cent – that’s about 5 to 10 mins in a marathon!
So, during the tapering phase, you’ll need to start reducing your volume, but maintain the same intensity. Keep up to the routine you’ve built, without decreasing the number of days you run or your speed.
Continue leaving one day for exercise that helps you with recovery (Sundays are best for this), such as cycling, swimming, or circuit training and emphasising exercises that work out your key running muscles such as your calves, glutes, hamstrings and quadriceps.
Rest days in between your training are also absolutely vital – remember, less is more.
In the days leading up to the race, it’s also good practice to prepare and plan for race day (plan your race pacing, gear, music, drinking schedules or whatever else you need to get going); sleep, eat and drink well; and mentally prepare yourselves with a positive visualisation approach.
By race day, you’d have done all you possibly can, so enjoy it and go with the wind!
Click here to read part 1 of the 12-week plan.
Click here to read part 2 of the 12-week plan.