Unlike 99% of People, You Can Learn to Love Tapering for Races

533 800 Patrick McCrann

Photo by Andrew Valdivia on Unsplash

Photo by Andrew Valdivia on Unsplash

Unlike 99% of athletes who dread the waiting and uncertainty of tapering, I’ve found a different path.

Tapering, that dreaded phase between training and racing, holds hidden opportunities if you’re willing to do the work.

Instead of being impatient, I’ve turned this time into an invaluable cornerstone of my training strategy. Here’s how you can too.

Why this Matters

Tapering is the most pivotal phase in your training cycle. It’s the moment when training hours crystallize into a single, focused performance.

This doesn’t happen on its own. Attention and skill are key ingredients for a successful taper.

The days of brute forcing your training are gone; that approach won’t work. Extra training or playing catch up with missed sessions will only create more fatigue instead of opportunity.

Repeat after me: How you taper directly influences your ultimate race day performance.

Track the Right Data

Data is a rabbit hole, and training numbers will only go down. So if you are watching training load, mileage, time in zone, etc…they look bad. Your friends on Strava might launch a “HAVE YOU SEEN THIS ATHLETE” campaign in your absence. That compulsive part of you is not happy here, and you need to know: this is perfectly normal.

This is as it should be. You are doing the right things.

Here are some alternative things you can put your attention towards that will give you better results.

1️⃣ Track Your Sleep. You can do this in two ways. Set and follow a “go to bed” time — are you consistent in closing out your day? Additionally, you can track total time sleeping or time in bed, depending on the data you have available.

2️⃣ Monitor Your Body Composition. This isn’t meant to be punitive or restrictive. The goal here is to maintain the state in which you finished your regular training. You can do this by making healthy choices, staying active, and avoiding the temptation(s) to eat like you are still training at a high level.

3️⃣ Create Self-Care Time. Put time on you calendar or reminder list. Your goal here is to add something every day that makes you better and stronger. A flexibility routine. Maybe some functional strength. Meditation is also great. All these things can be restorative and a net positive for you.

Ready to dive deeper? Let’s do it…

I know some % of you will want to go even further. If one is good, two must be better right?!

In most cases, actually, no. But in this situation, it’s a resounding YES.

Adding more positivity into your scheduled training life is great. And maybe, just maybe, some of this will turn over into a habit you continue when you resume “normal” life. My fingers are crossed for you.

Here we goooooo…

#1 – Get the Most Out of Your Extra Time

Hey, have you thought about that extra time we get during tapering? It’s like a little bonus. What if we used it wisely?

You could catch up on sleep, tackle those side projects you’ve been putting off, spend quality time with the family, sort things around the house, or do things you genuinely enjoy.

Action Items:

  1. Plan Ahead: List what you’ve been putting off – personal or work-related. Allocate time during your tapering phase to make some headway.
  2. Quality Family Time: Set aside an evening or weekend for quality family bonding. It could be a movie night or a simple outing – just something everyone enjoys.
  3. Prioritize Rest: Designate a few nights for early bedtime. A bit of extra sleep can make a huge difference in your overall well-being.

#2 – Tune in to What Your Body Says

Instead of pushing through every single day, taper time is an opportunity to listen to your body’s signals.

Push it a bit on those days when it’s raring to go, and take it easy when it’s asking for a break.

This attuned approach, in addition to taking care of your nutrition and staying flexible can make a big difference on race day.

Action Items:

  1. Daily Check-In: Each morning, assess how your body feels. Are you raring to go, or does it seem like a lighter day might be better?
  2. Mindful Nutrition: Pay extra attention to what you eat and drink. Fuel your body with nutritious choices that boost your energy and recovery.
  3. Stretching Routine: Incorporate a regular stretching routine into your tapering phase. It can help maintain flexibility and prevent any stiffness as your muscles repair from training.

#3 – Boost Your Mental Game

Here’s another secret approach we use inside the Team: mental visualization. Turn those pre-race jitters into a secret weapon.

Imagine yourself nailing key race moments, making decisions with confidence, and navigating the race.

Once you’ve done that, you can move to level two: disaster preparation.

Visualize handling all the “pop up” challenges that arise on the day. Flat tire. No computer. Dropped bottle. Cramping. Bad weather.

Engage these elements now, without the urgency, and set the stage for better reactions on the big day!

Action Items:

  1. Quiet Time: Find a quiet spot each day to practice visualization. Close your eyes and imagine yourself acing different scenarios during the race.
  2. Positive Affirmations: Alongside visualization, use positive affirmations. Remind yourself of your strengths and past successes.
  3. Mental Rehearsal: Imagine your race day from start to finish. Mentally navigate through the course, envisioning how you’ll handle different challenges and pacing strategies.

The Final Word

If all of this sounds new to you, it isn’t. We’ve built this process for years inside Endurance Nation for our athletes. It’s part of our DNA; we actually have this in the decision framework: What If We Did the Opposite of Everyone Else?

When everyone else is just doing the same old thing, we totally stand out. Sometimes being like everyone else is, well, just average.

Make the most of this tapering time. It’s a golden opportunity to prep differently and make your race day performance shine.


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