Tapering into Insanity


I started my taper on Sunday with a 6 mile run and rested yesterday. Today’s run was 2.25 miles and I will probably run about 3 tomorrow. My body seems to respond pretty well to tapers, if I do them correctly (i.e. rest and not get crazy during my short runs). The problem is…

I. am. going. stir. crazy.

Running allows me to work out all of the restless energy and anxiety that life throws at me on a regular basis. When I am tapering, I don’t have the ability to do that so all of my nervous energy inside of me and makes me nuts-o! This is why I run people, because I am crazy and running makes me not-so-crazy.

I have accidentally done my last two runs at race pace (whoops) because I am just so antsy and nervous for my race this weekend. My legs feel really great though, which is pretty awesome. I have been pouring all of my energy into my blog, which I am sure is evident because I have a new look and a new URL. We are pretty legit over here now, at Rather Be Runnin’! Whoop whoop!

I have been reminding myself over the last few days about the importance of a good taper. It has caused me to do a lot of research on the topic and here is an article I found from Runner’s World that laid it all out there….

(from Runner’s World)

Most performance oriented runners will do pretty much what they’re told in training. Run 8 x 800 meters at the track? Sure. Do a 40-minute tempo run? No problem. It’s when we’re instructed to scale back, run less and conserve our energies, that we balk.

Training provides long-term fitness improvements but produces short-term fatigue. Leading up to an important race, the challenge is to find the optimal balance between maintaining the best possible racing fitness and resting to reduce the fatigue of training. This is referred to as a well-planned taper.

To achieve your best when it counts, you can only afford to do a full taper before a few key races each year. If you race often and were to taper thoroughly for each race, you would have little time left for hard training. So you learn to “train through” some races. But for the big ones, you will want to go all out to achieve your best.

A recent paper published in the International Journal of Sports Medicine reviewed more than 50 scientific studies on tapering to find out whether tapering betters performance, and how to go about it. The review showed that there is no question tapering works. Most studies found an improvement of about 3% when athletes reduced their training before competition. This translates to more than five minutes for a three-hour marathoner or more than a minute for those racing 10K in 40 minutes.

How Long Should You Taper?

Several of the studies concluded that the optimal length of taper is from seven days to three weeks, depending on the distance of the race and how hard you’ve trained. Too short a taper will leave you tired on race day, while tapering for too long will lead to a loss of fitness. How do you find the right balance? Consider than any one workout can give you far less than a 1% improvement in fitness, but a well-designed taper can provide a much larger improvement in race performance. Therefore, it is probably wiser to err on the side of tapering too much than not enough. The optimal number of days to taper for the most popular race distances are as follows: marathon, 19 to 22 days; 15K to 30K, 11 to 14 days; 5K to 10K, 7 to 10 days.

Amount to Reduce Mileage Before Race
Race Distance 3rd week before race 2nd week before race Race Week
Marathon 20% 40% 60%
15K to 30K 0% 30% 50%
5K to 10K 0% 20% 50%

The Best Way to Reduce Training

The scientific evidence clearly indicates that the key to effective tapering is to substantially cut back your mileage, but to maintain training intensity. Reducing overall mileage has the greatest impact on lessening accumulated fatigue.

The best way to reduce your mileage is to reduce the distance of your workouts substantially, but to cut back only moderately on the number of runs per week. How much you reduce your mileage depends on your current training volume and the distance you will race. Guidelines, based on both research and anecdotal evidence, appear in the table.

I hope this has helped you, as much as it has helped me. Do you enjoy tapering? Do you loathe it as much as I do? Share your experiences with me by commenting below.



11 thoughts on “Tapering into Insanity

  1. silkandtofu says:

    I hate tapering too! I always want to run more but I know it will benefit me when it comes race time! Good luck in your race and thanks for stopping by my blog! 🙂


  2. Jenereesa says:

    Tapering right now because I’ve got a half this weekend. And I’ve got my kids home on their spring break so my running time is somewhat limited to only when I’m at the gym. I’m cross training but it’s hard to NOT run. I understand the logic but the brain isn’t always logical when it comes to running. 😉


    • ratherberunnin says:

      I completely agree Jenereesa! I can’t begin to tell you how many people are running this weekend… it’s like wedding season, only for running AND I LOVE IT! Good luck this weekend!!! 🙂


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