Tapering 101

What’s Included?

  • What is Tapering?
  • How Long Should you Taper for Each Race?
  • Is It Possible to OVER Taper?

What is Tapering?

Tapering, in the most basic definition, simply means pulling or cutting back on running in preparation for your goal race. The goal of tapering is to help you show up on race day feeling your absolute best & ensure that your body is completely ready, recovered, and able to USE all of your hard training.

Since each runner is unique & each race requires a different effort, distance, and demand from the body – each taper will look a little different depending upon the runner and the race. While tapering can vary, it usually follows the same general guidelines: cutting back on mileage, duration, and intensity of your workouts (both running and cross-training) as you lead up to the race.

During your taper – you will want to get lots of rest, recovery (foam rolling, stretching, yoga), hydration, fuel, and mental preparation. You’ve DONE the work – now it’s time to prepare for the big day.


How Long Should you Taper?

Marathon:

A typical marathon taper should last between 2-4 weeks. During week 1, you can reduce your mileage by about 20-30% of your highest volume week. During week 2, you can aim to reduce your mileage by about 40-60% of your highest volume week. During week 3, you can aim to reduce your mileage by about 60-75% of your highest volume week. If you opt to taper for only 2 weeks, you can adjust accordingly – reducing by about 30-40% the first week & about 50 -75% the second week. In addition, you shouldn’t complete any runs over 5 miles during the week leading up to your race.

Half Marathon:

A typical half marathon taper should last between 1-2 weeks. During week 1, you can reduce your mileage by about 40% of your highest volume week. During week 2, you can aim to reduce your mileage by about 60% of your highest volume week. During week 3, you can aim to reduce your mileage by about 60-75% of your highest volume week. If you opt to taper for only 1 week, you should aim to reduce by about 50%. In addition, you shouldn’t complete any runs over 4 miles during the week leading up to your race.

10K:

A typical 10K taper should last a few days a week, depending upon the intensity you’re planning to run it. As a general rule of thumb, you can reduce mileage by about 30-50% during the week of the race. You can also reduce your intensity during the week of the race & reduce or eliminate any long runs the week before the race (as well as the week of the race). During a 10K or 5K taper it’s important to keep your schedule and training the same – so you don’t feel sluggish or “out of tune” with your body on race day. If you normally run 3 days per week, you can still get out there and run 3 days – just make sure it’s at an easier intensity level & a shorter duration or mileage. A rest day or a “shake out run” the day before can be a helpful way to prepare your body for this race.

5K:

A typical 5K taper should last a few days – a week, depending upon the intensity you’re planning to run it. The 5K taper is similar to the 10K taper in that you should reduce your mileage by about 30-50% & reduce your intensity and the amount of stress placed on your muscles. You can do this by reducing the duration of your runs (the amount of time) or the mileage. You can still run on the days that you typically run, but try to reduce the speed, effort, duration, mileage, and intensity of these runs – you just want to keep your legs fresh. A rest day or a “shake out run” the day before can be a helpful way to prepare your body for this race as well.


Is it Possible to OVER Taper?

Since each of us is unique – it CAN be possible to OVER taper. Each taper should take into account how rested you feel, how experienced you are, the effort level you’re planning to race at, and your normal recovery time (how long or short it typically takes you to recover from hard efforts). If we DON’T take these into consideration, it is possible to UNDER or OVER taper.

As a general rule of thumb, you should not cut back or reduce by more than 90% of your highest mileage week. In addition, you should still aim to include some intensity in your workouts & runs during your taper. These hard efforts should be done in moderation . Repeats & intervals can be a great way to still include some speed and intensity during a taper week (since you can control how many you do). The point of these “harder effort” periods should NOT be to go “all out” to the point of exhaustion or soreness, but rather to keep your legs fresh & your mind alert for race day.

Figuring out what works best for you taper-wise can take some practice and experience, but just remember that your body is extremely intelligent – so trust it as your guide to help you figure out what’s best for YOU leading up to your race.

Amy Haas
Run with Aim, LLC
UESCA Certified Running Coach
NASM Certified Personal Trainer
NASM Certified Nutrition Coach

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