Monday, April 27, 2009

Reason #42: Tapering: After All That Running, the Rest is Easy

This upcoming Sunday is the Long Branch half marathon! It will be my first real half marathon race. Last year I had injured my knee, took three weeks off from running, and had all intention to just walk the race. However, with the crowd cheering and an adrenaline rush, my walk turned into a slow jog, which eventually turned into a steady run. This year I am injury free, and I am shooting, hoping, praying for a time under two hours. I have been following a running plan for the past two months – a combination of shorter runs and cross training during the week, with a long run 10-12 mile on Sunday. I ran ten miles on Saturday (in the 80 degree weather), and I felt good throughout the run. However, this week my plan is to taper!

The goal of tapering is to balance continued training and resting to allow for the best possible half marathon experience. Tapering allows the body to be sufficiently fueled, hydrated, refreshed, and recovered. The International Journal of Sports Medicine examined over 50 scientific studies and concluded that tapering improves performance. Studies have found improvements in performance of up to 16% with most studies showing 3-5% improvement.

Apparently, for a marathon, one should taper for a minimum of 2 weeks with 3 weeks being optimal. For a half marathon one should taper for a minimum of 10 days (oops!) Considering last year my preparation for the race was 3 weeks of zero physical activity, a prenight meal of Chinese food, and morning breakfast of a handful of Cheerios, I decided to prepare this time around. After reading various articles, here is the information I picked up:

How to Train One Week Before the Race
MONDAY: Beginning on Monday, do not run longer than 4 miles.
TUESDAY: All running should be 2 minutes slower than marathon goal pace – except Tuesday run a 1 mile at goal pace, jog one 1 mile, run 1 mile at goal pace, and then jog 1 mile.
WEDNESDAY/THURSDAY: Three and four days before the race, run just 2 to 3 miles easy.
FRIDAY: Two days before the race, don’t run at all.
SATURDAY: Day before the race, jog 2 miles if you are a nervous wreck like me to sleep better that night.
- Emphasize carbohydrates more than usual in the last 3 days before the race. About 65% of calories should come from carb sources, 15% from protein, and 20% from fat - the carbs turn into muscle glycogen.

- Drink enough water that your urine is clear or pale yellow in color.

- Do not restrict salt in your diet. Low salt intake combined with excessive hydration can lead to hyponatremia. Snack on salted popcorn and pretzels.

What to avoid:
The sudden urge to cram extra miles and more long runs and speedwork during the final week. While cramming the night before midterms may have helped you ace the test, additional and excessive training will only leave your drained and tired at race time. Realize that extra mileage and harder training during the last week will hurt your race, not help it.

My favorite advice was such: During the final week, you can’t under-do. You can only overdo.

So here goes to a week of tapering…Taper Post Part II will come later this week regarding pre-race tips.

1 comment:

  1. I wish you the best of luck! You are going to do awesome! Have so much fun!!!