Tapering is the practise of reducing your training load in the days or weeks before an important cycling, running or triathlon event. It sounds simple, but the nature that tapering takes depends on what kind of sport you’re training for, what level of athlete you are and how important the event is to you.
Vitfor Performance Director, Craig Stevenson, says “tapering needs to be much more personalised than most people assume and it can take some time to find exactly what kind of tapering works for you. There needs to be the right balance between recuperating from any training fatigue you may have built up whilst ensuring that you don’t lose your fitness ahead of the big event.”
Is tapering something I should be considering?
Tapering is an essential element of your training plan and all top athletes will incorporate the very best scientific approach to ensuring that their period of tapering is optimised for their style of event.
Significant studies on tapering indicate that optimal levels of muscle glycogen, enzymes, antioxidants, and hormones, which are significantly depleted by intense endurance training, are achieved during a taper.
When should I be incorporating tapering into my training plan?
You should taper for any event, such as a marathon or 10k run, sportive or crit race, triathlon or Ironman, especially if you’ve chosen it as a target event and you’re aiming for a personal best.
This is all the more important if you’re inexperienced in the distance or terrain that you’re performing over.
“When training with Vitfor, we will generally taper you to different extents for A, B and C level events that you’ve entered into your calendar. These will be the ones that you’ve set your sights on and for which you want to be at your best and tapering is an essential part of the mix,” adds Craig.
What about tapering for multiple events?
If you have a jam-packed calendar of events, you could soon find yourself losing form and fitness as the season continues if you don’t rest and recover fully between events. A build-up of fatigue coupled with a lack of structured training could even cause your fitness to plateau.
“To avoid this plateau, you can effectively use partial tapers, where you still decrease your training load, but to a lesser extent than the full taper as part of a multiple event training program,” says Craig.
When using Vitfor online training, we recommend that you grade your events into those that are your primary targets – the ones where you want to be at your personal best – versus those that you’re using mainly for training, practise or even for social reasons.
“Multi event tapering is an issue that we tend to have with our elite athletes, particularly the cyclists. For example, they may have two mid-week tour series crits and a road race at the weekend.”
“To maintain form through the cycling season, we opt for an extreme polarised approach: maintaining volume and intensity of the top-end work, but really slowing down the long rides to keep the fatigue under control.”
“If you’re planning a multi event calendar, it’s important to beat the residual fatigue that can build up over time. Give yourself a rest week (lighter training) every 4-6 weeks in order to allow the training adaptation to take effect,” says Craig.
How do I taper for an event?
One method of tapering is to start two weeks before your target event depending on your level of fatigue.
In the first week of taper, aim to reduce the volume/distance/intensity/time you train by 20-25%. For example, reducing a four-hour ride to three hours or limiting your intervals to shorter efforts or fewer of them.
In the second week of taper, reduce the volume/distance/intensity/time you train by 30-50%. Your mid-week rides or runs should be half the duration/intensiveness than usual.
“Aim to do one of these sessions two or three days before your event, followed with a day off or even a light 30 minute “prime” (leg loosener) the day before. Then spend time resting, checking your nutrition, preparing your kit and getting mentally ready,” says Craig.
With Vitfor’s intelligent and personalised online training program, your event tapering will be managed for you.
Top Tip For Tapering #FTW
It’s not all about time on the road, cycling or running. Make sure you manage your nutrition strategy so that you are ready for and recovering from every event. Visit OTE’s website for advice and guidance on how to fuel your training plan and Precision Hydration for managing hydration.