The idea of tapering – decreasing your training load in the week or two leading up to a big running event – might sound counter-intuitive, but in this case less really is more. And just about every running authority out there stresses the importance of tapering as a vital part of your training schedule.
It’s all about striking a delicate balance, though – the goal with tapering is to rest without losing fitness. If you manage it successfully, it’ll help you to avoid injury and maybe even enhance your final performance.
Ready to find out more? Stand by for the science.
Why is tapering important?
To repair muscles. When you run, it takes a toll on your muscles and connective tissues – a toll that’s repaired during sleep time and on rest days. Tapering – reducing the number of miles you’re running in the last two weeks-ish before your half event – gives your body even more opportunity to finish off this repair process and builds your muscles back to full strength.
It can take anywhere from 7-10 days for hard working muscles to heal fully from more intensive training, so ease off the long runs and add in some extra rest days – by this point, you’ve definitely earned it.
To re-energise your body. Running uses up your body’s vital stores of enzymes, hormones, antioxidants and glycogen; however, tapering gives you a chance to rebuild those stores to optimal levels before race day arrives.
Eating a healthy diet – more on that in a moment – can also help, but the biggest factor is a sensible reduction in running miles.
To prevent mental fatigue. Tapering isn’t just about physical preparation: it’s also about doing the mental work. Knowing that you’ve reached a point where further training won’t have an impact on your performance and that rest could actually be more beneficial is a powerful message – and one you need to pay attention to.
Keep your motivation high by reminding yourself that tapering is the most helpful thing you can do for your body right now, and head into your event feeling confident and strong – you’ve got this.
How to taper
If it’s your first time tapering, try our top tips – but remember, every runner is different. Take note of how you feel and adapt if you feel it necessary.
● As a general rule, tapering for a half marathon should take place in the 7-10 days leading up to your event.
● We’d suggest reducing your training load by 25-35% in the first 5-7 days, then cutting it down to 50% over the remaining days. Definitely no more long runs in your final countdown week!
● Cut miles rather than intensity – so in other words, continue at your usual pace.
● Put those weights down! If you’ve been strength training, it’s wise to give it a miss in the final week leading up to your event.
● Some runners report that the change in routine in their pre-event weeks can leave them feeling rundown and even unwell, and some studies have suggested that runners are more susceptible to bugs and colds during their tapering time. Make sure you’re eating a diet rich in antioxidants and aim for five portions of fruit and veg a day to keep viral infections at bay.
Almost ready for race day? Take a look at our ‘Night Before’ tips for a super smooth event here .