The Taper

Today I ran the last long run of the marathon training schedule.  The ten miles went by really fast and my 9 minute pace got me home in just over 1.5 hours.  It’s really funny to think that only a few months ago running that far would’ve put me in a coma.  I’m now on what training schedules call The Taper.  Basically, reducing my mileage so I do not show up next Sunday fatigued.  This started at the beginning of last week.  I’d run one day then be down the next and the mileage is reduced so I’ve been finding myself with extra energy these days but Runner’s World warns not to be tempted to run further than the schedule suggests.

Runner’s World

2003, by Bob Cooper:

Every good marathon-training plan should “taper” during those final 21 days. That means you run less and rest more. For some people, the idea of backing off on their training just before the big race seems counterintuitive. “So many runners train hard right up to the day of the marathon because they’re desperately afraid of losing fitness if they don’t,” says Patti Finke, who coaches 250 marathoners a year as co-director of the Portland (Oregon) Marathon Clinic. “What they don’t realize is that in those last few weeks it’s the rest more than the work that makes you strong. And you don’t lose fitness in 3 weeks of tapering. In fact, studies show that your aerobic capacity, the best gauge of fitness, doesn’t change at all.”

Research reveals a lot more than that. A review of 50 studies on tapering published in the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise shows that levels of muscle glycogen, enzymes, antioxidants, and hormones–all depleted by high mileage–return to optimal ranges during a taper. The muscle damage that occurs during sustained training is also repaired. And if that isn’t enough, immune function and muscle strength improve, as well, which reduces the odds you’ll catch a cold or get injured just before the race. And get this: The average performance improvement by the subjects who tapered in these studies was 3 percent. That works out to 5 to 10 minutes in a marathon.

The review’s main conclusion: “The primary aim of the taper should be to minimize accumulated fatigue, rather than to attain additional physiological adaptations or fitness gains.” In other words, it’s time to chill.

So, I’m forcing myself to take it easy, especially this week!  My legs keep saying, run, run but my head is saying sit, sit!

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