Taper is a period of time before an event where training load is decreased. This can be a reduction in training volume (time/distance) or intensity or a combination of both.
Goals of taper for an endurance event -
Remove or reduce accumulated fatigue
Maintain & sharpen fitness
A taper for an endurance event will look a little different for each event, athlete and their current training load. For example, someone tapering for an Ironman after a 3-4 month prep will reduce training load over 3 weeks. Compared to someone tapering for a short distance race who may taper for 3-7 days or maybe not at all if the training load is already quite low.
It is important to hit the higher intensity sessions in taper with effort but don’t over cook it. The goal is to feel good without creating any Strava records. If you do, that’s a bonus, but don’t go hunting PBs, leave that for race day.
Due to increased training load, you may feel a bit sluggish and put on a small amount of weight. Monitor your eating patterns but don’t restrict your diet. You want your carbohydrate (CHO) stores in your muscles & liver to be at maximum. This will result in a little extra fluid retention & therefore ‘weight gain’. Don’t worry about this, it is more important to your performance to have CHO stores high.
Race prep and warm up sets are important to prepare your body for the event. If you rest / do nothing in the few days before the event, your body may be tricked into thinking it’s in recovery mode. Race day may feel more difficult as you may struggle to reach the desired effort / intensity.
Self sabotage is a real thing in taper. With a little more time on your hands and a race ahead, it’s easy to over analyse everything. At this point, you need to trust the process and your coach. Now is not the time to change anything - your diet, training or equipment. Anything new should be practised during the prep in the weeks prior NOT race week. Stick to the plan & if you have any concerns chat to your coach.
Use the time to make sure you are organised, read the race notes / maps, get bike serviced, get a massage (2-3 days prior), make a packing list, go over accommodation and travel details.
Finally, taper is highly individual. Over time, you will find what works for you. Let coach know so small changes can be made to your program.