Tapering Off

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It’s been a week since I ran my last long run (22.5 miles) in preparation for the Rotterdam Marathon. I took 5 days off and ran again yesterday for the first time – a slow 6.5 miles. This afternoon I went out for an 8 mile progression run (it was fast and felt great).

I’ve entered into what is known as the taper period, where after weeks of increased distance running you suddenly cut back and let the body rest before the marathon. It’s not that I’m not going to run at all before the marathon but there will be no more long 20+ mile runs. The longest run will be 11 miles this Sunday.

I was on a total high last Friday after completing 22.5 miles. I felt good after the run and Guy, my middle son, had his 7th birthday party. It was incredibly difficult not running on the Sunday following, but by the time Thursday came around and it was time to take a short run, I didn’t feel like doing it. It felt a bit like post-marathon blues just without the marathon.

This is a strange period. Slowing down three weeks before race day is counterintuitive and frustrating. I’ve been enjoying the feeling of improved speed and blood sugar control during and after runs. I also can’t help thinking that maybe if I just keep increasing my mileage the way I have been until race day, I would get there in perfect form.

But it seems science has proven otherwise. Bob Cooper, published an article in Runners World, where he explains the importance of tapering off.

“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.”

I guess the best thing I can do for myself is to continue following my plan and hope I get to race day with fresh pair of legs.

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