I was recently asked by a patient "should I adjust my training / running schedule in the weeks leading up to a race?". Having nothing to tell him but anecdotal advice based on my experience with collegiate cross country runners I searched out some more concrete information. After scanning some more concrete research I have found some information that can help you adjust your training prior to an activity.
What is Tapering?
The whole notion of altering your training prior to an event is called "tapering". This means that you start to decrease: how long, how often, and / or how hard you train to give yourself sufficient rest for your upcoming event.
Why Should I Be Tapering?
Tapering should give your body sufficient rest (allowing your body to sufficiently heal) without making you stale or ineffective at performing your event.
When Should I Begin Tapering?
It has been found that tapering is most effective when kept between 8 – 14 days prior to your event. Any longer and you run the risk of being stale at your event. Any shorter and you run the risk of being tired at your event.
What Aspect of My Training Should I Taper?
As mentioned above we have the choice of tapering:
- How hard we train (intensity)
- How long we train (duration or volume)
- How often we train (frequency)
In a recent review by Bosquet et al in 2007 it was found that you should taper the duration or volume of each training session while maintaining the same intensity and frequency.
You should NOT change your training intensity during a taper. This will ensure that you keep your heart rate up to relatively the same value that it was at during your regular training. So, if you are used to running at 8.0 MPH on the treadmill or you're used to running a 6 min mile then continue to do so.
You should NOT change the number of times per week you're used to training.
Training Volume / Duration
To achieve optimal tapering effects it has been found that you should taper to a final volume / duration between 40 – 60 % of your original training volume / duration. So, if you're used to running 10 K then the last training day of your taper should be no less than 4 K and no more than 6 K.
To make this easier to understand I will give you the following example:
Mike has been running on a treadmill and is getting ready for his first 10 K race which is 2 weeks away.
Mike usually trains:
- 4 times a week (frequency)
- Runs 12 K each time (duration or volume)
- At a pace of 8.0 miles per hour (4.40 minute Km) (intensity)
Mike should adjust his training for the last 2 weeks before the race as follows:
4 times a week
Training Day 1 = 11.4 km
Day 2 = 10.8 km
Day 3 = 10.2 km
Day 4 = 9.6 km
Training Day 1 = 9.0 km
Day 2 = 8.4 km
Day 3 = 7.8 km
Day 4 = 7.2 km
*The volume / duration of the run dropped by 5% (from Mike's usual 12 K) every training day to an eventual decrease to 60% (7.2 K) of Mike's original 12 K.
All runs should be at the same pace (intensity) of 8.0 miles per hr (MPH)
- Tapering ensures that you have sufficient rest and enough activity to get you prepared for your event.
- Tapering should begin from 8 – 14 days prior to your event
- You should change the volume / duration of your training
*Taper to between 40-60% of your regular training volume
- Train the same number of days per week (do NOT change frequency)
- Train the same pace that your used to (do NOT change intensity)