Tapering and the 3 Rs – An Individual Art by Coach Steve Mackel

Tapering is very individual. The 3 Rs of Tapering – Rest, Rebuild and Re-fuel

You need to start taking notes on what works best for you, from the amount of time you need to build into your program, volume and intensity of your workouts, what you eat, quality and quantity of sleep, and general state of mind. Then you can start to dial in your taper.

Amount of Time to Taper – This could be from 2 – 3 weeks to 2 – 3 days depending on the length of the race and how you feel. I suggest a 2 – 3 week taper for marathoners, 1 – 2 weeks for half marathoners and 2 – 3 days for short races. The goal of finding the proper amount of time to taper is by asking yourself this question, “Have I given my body enough time to Rest, Rebuild and Re-fuel? (The three Rs of Recovery). And, “Do I feel sharp?”

Workout Volume and Intensity – Now is the time to decrease the volume and keep the intensity around race pace and slightly higher. Shorter workouts with a few bouts of higher intensity workouts are in order. This is also a great time to work on form. This is where ChiRunning® really pays off. ChiRunning® is all about form. As a Certified ChiRunning® Instructor it is my job to teach and reinforce form. Add  intensity to this formula and you will sharpen your skills for a strong performance on race day. Some intense workouts include hill repeats, track workouts and fartlek training.

Eating and Sleeping – Food is fuel. You rebuild and heal your body when you sleep. A large part of your taper should be to re-fuel and re-hydrating your body. You want to go into race with your tank topped off. I have learned that every “body” has different requirements. No matter what, you need carbs to convert to glucose to keep those muscles and brain firing. You also need proteins and fat. Eat smart and healthy. Everyone needs sleep. Sometimes you need to plan your sleep the last two weeks before the race because you get nervous, have a busy schedule or maybe you are traveling to a different time zone. It is difficult to get great sleep right before a race. I consider 14 to 5 days before my race as my key sleep nights. Sleep and eat well. Relax. Try not to burn the candle at both ends. Don’t worry if you are restless a couple nights before the race, most of us are and we slept well earlier in our taper, when it really counted.

General State of Mind – You have to stay positive. Keep the ANTS (Automatic Negative Thoughts) away. If you find yourself stuck in a lousy place or it is just one of those times in your life where you have to deal with a lot of junk, be like “a duck in water” and find a way to let the issues roll off your back, Keep the self talk positive. Have a plan and mentally rehearse it.

The Big Payoff – If you walk into race day using the above plan, your mind and body will be itching for a long run. You will know what you are doing, last longer and find “the zone” easier. If you find you are antsy to get out and run days before the race, chance are your taper is good and you’ll be primed for a great race.


Race Focused, Steve Mackel – Head Coach Sole Runners Full and Half Marathon Training Programs

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