Marathon Series: The Final Week and Tapering

In the last couple of weeks before race day, focus needs to shift from increasing mileage and fitness, to maintaining the levels of you have already achieved. Giving your body the TLC it deserves in the final couple of weeks will help get you onto the starting line full of energy and ready to go.

Tapering describes the final phase of  when intensity, duration and frequency of training is reduced in the final weeks before the final endurance event. It allows time for your body to recover from training and ease any stress that you may have been feeling- if done correctly, tapering will lead to an increase in performance and increase in enjoyment levels.

The way in which you taper varies significantly from person to person, as well as being dependent upon the event you are preparing for. Current research suggests that to optimise performance for a marathon, tapering should be done over a period of two to three weeks. Over those 14 – 21 days intensity should be reduced by a total of 60% of that of your most intense week of training.

But what does this mean? What should you be doing in the final phase of your training and preparation, until you’re standing on the start line?

In the final week before your run:

  • Short 30 minute runs in the week leading up to race day will keep your fitness ticking over without unnecessary fatigue. They should be slow and steady, just enough to keep your muscles loose without causing unnecessary fatigue
  • Make sure you rest! Now that less time is being spent out running, don’t replace it with home-projects, or gym classes
  • Slightly increase your intake of carbohydrates- don’t go overboard, but similar levels to those you were consuming during the peak weeks of your training will help optimise your energy stores
  • Ensure you are staying well hydrated throughout the week. Drinking 2-3 litres of fluids per day will allow you to achieve this
  • Don’t try anything different- the final week is not the time to try new kit, stick to what you have tried and tested during training

24 hours before:

  • Make sure that in the day before your run you keep relaxed and stay off your feet as much as possible. Don’t do anything that could lead to any delayed fatigue- this includes gardening and home DIY!
  • It doesn’t work for everyone, but some people find that a very short 15-20 minute light jog the day before helps to settle their nerves and keep their legs feeling loose ad ready. If you’re going to do this, make sure your super short run is done first thing in the morning- you want to give your body as long to rest as possible
  • Hydration is most important in the final 24 hours. Regular sips of water throughout the day will ensure that your body is well hydrated. Avoid caffeine and alcohol, especially into the afternoon and evening

On race day:

  • Have your usual “long run breakfast”- whether this is cereal, fruit or something else, keep it the same as what you were having during your training- stick to what you have tried and tested!
  • Have your breakfast with no less than 2-3 hours before the start of your run. This will allow time for your body to digest it, helping to prevent you feeling bloated or heavy during the race

These are just a few things which will help you to prepare for your organised run. If you would like an extra helping hand getting yourself ready for your upcoming marathon, contact us.

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