If I haven’t told you already, tapering is hard for me. Not only do I get off track with my schedule, but I also just don’t like that I can’t run as much (or as hard) as I would like to. However, tapering is necessary for many reasons, so I put up with it. And by “put up with it,” I mean I constantly apologize to everyone I freak out on because I’m not able to get as much of an endorphin high as usual.
I won’t get into detail about why tapering is so important (you likely already know that), but allow me to give you some key commandments to follow during the dreaded taper.
Commandment 1: Thou shalt not run hard. Super important. Your body is recovering from a grueling training season, and continuing to put your muscles through the ringer is a terrible idea leading up to race day. Keep running, but run at a conversational pace and do not make every run into a tempo run. Two weeks without speed training won’t make a difference at this point.
Commandment 2: Thou shalt not be a bitch to everyone. This is probably one of the most difficult (and most important) to follow. I am like a snapping turtle during taper weeks. But…it isn’t my husband or daughter’s fault that I’m not able to release all the pent up energy I have from both of them driving me nuts. Remember that your family and friends (hopefully) supported you through a training season, and that support likely came with sacrifices on their part. Respect that. Try to be nice.
Commandment 3: Thou shalt eat carbs, but thou shalt watch calories. Weight gain around taper is extremely common. Most of us go for the carbs without watching the calorie intake. The goal here is to eat more carbs (GO FOR IT), but if you’re worried about gaining weight, watch the calories and try not to over do it. The goal here is replacing some foods with more carbs, not adding the carbs on top of what you usually eat.
Commandment 4: Thou shalt not make major life decisions. If you are anything like me, you realize that running has just as many mental benefits as it does physical benefits. When we stop exercising as much, we may feel a bit…off (see “Commandment 2”). Try to hold off on major decisions during taper time. I know this may sound ridiculous, but your best bet is to wait until your schedule and running is back on track to see how you feel. Write down the big change you want to make, and if it’s still a thing two weeks after the race (provided you aren’t injured!), consider taking it seriously.
Commandment 5: Thou shalt not replace running with new, ridiculous, or dangerous types of exercise. Yeaaaah…all that yoga you planned to do? Don’t pull a muscle. Rollerblading through the park? Probably not the best idea. In fact, just don’t do any exercise if it’s a type of exercise you haven’t tried before. You do not want to take the chance of injuring yourself. It’s so easy to think “I’ll try spinning to give me something to do” or “Maybe I’ll start doing yoga to give my muscles a nice stretch.” If you haven’t done what you are about to do through training or during other tapers, DON’T DO IT.
Commandment 6: Thou shalt SLEEP at night as much as possible. I realize that several of us are parents and that many work as well. On top of that, there are household responsibilities and other orders of business to take care of. I understand. Sleep is essential, though. Sleep helps your body, mind, and muscles recharge. Remember that time your mother in law made rude comments at your Thanksgiving dinner about how the wine was cheap? This is the perfect time to use it to guilt her into watching the kids for a few nights in the weeks leading up to your big race.
Commandment 7: Thou shalt not begin taking supplements or vitamins that thou has not taken before. Again – it’s super easy to think that taper time is the best time to aid your body in its healing and strengthening process leading up to your race. Perhaps you stayed up late Googling “pain in left leg” and ended up diagnosing yourself with a B12 deficiency that would be fatal if not treated with a B12 supplement immediately. Let me be clear: If you’re in pain, you should see a doctor, not take random supplements. You don’t know how your body will react to things like this, and the last thing you want to do is create a problem that doesn’t need to exist.
Commandment 8: Thou shalt not disregard the importance of tapering. We all want to keep on running and seeing what our pace per mile is. We all want to run 8 miles instead of 4. The truth is that your body needs rest. Tapering is the perfect time to catch up on books, start a project, or get your Netflix marathon in. The race will be here before you know it, so take it easy!