What is Taper Stress & How to Reduce It
For endurance races, most people, particularly during their first journey, tend to get anxious about building up their mileage, managing proper fueling, and figuring out race accommodations. If you search on the internet, you are more than likely going to find numerous articles on getting yourself physically and mentally ready. This is so important because a healthy body and mind will be the two essential efforts to ultimately get you across the finish line.
But what is rarely discussed is the point after you reach your highest training mileage, also known as peak week, are the effects of the taper weeks that follow and lead up to the big race. A marathon training program, depending on the plan, typically progresses the long runs each week by 10% with a couple cut back weeks thrown in, but with most peaking the highest mileage at 2 to 3 weeks prior to the big day. The following few weeks are called the taper and can cause anxiousness, concern, and worry. However, the taper should not be a cause for distress. If you are finding yourself feeling overwhelmed with all that an endurance run entails, rest your worries as we have some sure-fire ways for you to beat the stress of the taper.
First off, what is the taper?
The taper is a predetermined amount of time, ranging from days to weeks, prior to race day when the training program begins to decrease in mileage and intensity. This typically occurs after reaching the highest amount of mileage within the training cycle.
Why is the taper important?
This process of tapering is meant to help repair worked muscles and joints, prevent the onset of injury, and restore energy that will eventually to be exerted on race day.
What causes the taper stress?
The process of the taper can cause fear and angst due to the fact that one has reached their highest point of mileage in training and he or she feels most ready for the race to be next. To have an additional 2 to 3 weeks of less intense and less distance runs for the runner, this can seem annoyingly insignificant and prolongs the moments to race day.
What can you do to reduce the taper stress?
Journal your emotions.
Better out than in they say. Putting your thoughts on paper and out from the voices in your head can decrease the negative impact on your mental well-being. Clearing your mind of the negative emotions will give you mental space to see, think and act with happiness and a rejuvenated outlook.
Visualize and set a mantra for race day.
By setting an intention for race day is another way to clear your mind from turning to negative thoughts. Running long distances is hard, no way around the amount of physicality it involves. However, looking forward and imaging the positive moments and knowing that when the struggle approaches, you can give yourself a mantra to cue yourself to get over the hump. They say running a marathon is 20% physical and 80% mental. Now is time to put your mind to work.
Rejoice in all the work you have already achieved.
For most, the distances that have already been achieved up to the point of taper may never have been thought imaginable. You have learned to listen to your body and are becoming astonished by its capabilities. This is something to celebrate, so…
Reward your hard working muscles with a massage.
Deep tissue and sports massages are essential in the recovery process due to the amount of high amount of impact and pounding you have placed on your muscles and joints. Although the massage itself if slightly unpleasant, the pain is worth it for the gain to flush out toxins, reduce tightness, improve blood flow and muscle efficiency.
With the extra time on your hands from having to run fewer distances, you can start to get your creative juices flowing by…
Start to look ahead at the weather forecast and focus your attention on your race outfit.
Picking the right race outfit or kit can often eliminate a small portion of pre-marathon stress. By practicing in your gear during these taper weeks leading up to race day, you can then prepare yourself by testing the best functional wear that can minimize chaffing, blisters, and ongoing weather changes. And by working out in your race day gear, you can continue the process of visualization and setting your intent on race day by knowing how you will look and feel from a superficial perspective.
Start to enjoy the all the carbs.
Getting your body ready for proper fueling will be essential for race day energy and output. The few days leading up to the marathon, you will have very little miles and just some shakeout runs to keep your body loose and agile. With your mind off the physical effort, it is time to consume all the foods, healthy of course. But go ahead and have the oatmeal, toast, potatoes, and pasta because your body will thank you on race day.