The taper is one of the most important parts of the whole training cycle, but often not well planned.
Do it right and you will be peaking for your ‘A’ race, jumping out of your skin and ready both physically and mentally. Do it wrong and you can either be left still fatigued from the training cycle or just as bad, sick, flat and lacking the real hunger to nail your race.
From a lot of research over the years, both anecdotally and from reading widely, there are a number of flaws in the traditional exponential taper for triathletes. This is the type of taper where volume is simply cut down as the race gets closer. Many find that they then arrive at race day heavy and tired and without the vest they had while they were training consistently. The major reason for this believe it or not is actually hormonal balance. While we are training, our glands, particularly our adrenals, are quite active in the production of hormones that make us motivated and ready to train or race. When our training is reduced, so is their production, therefore if we don’t do enough, we can actually feel flat and demotivated. It is very common for people to pick up colds or viruses in this time as our immune system drops as a result.
However, if we continue to push too hard and too long with our training, we can go into a race with a backpack of fatigue. Thus limiting our race performance also.
Considering these two examples, it is vital that you plan your last phase of training well, your taper! A couple of key elements to remember while planning your next taper;
- Make sure you plan how and when you are going to off load that backpack of fatigue
- Reduce your overall load, but keep the frequency and intensity up
- Make sure the last phase of training prior to the taper is race specific in both volume and intensity. As the race gets closer, overall weekly volume has less significance, while race specific sessions have more
- Don’t over eat
- Sleep plenty
- Don’t be scared to keep the swimming up, this doesn’t provide the peripheral fatigue that the other two sports do
- Spend your extra time working on getting your mental aspect of your prep and race right!!!
If you aren’t sure how to correctly plan, think back to when you have done your best key sessions or races, then analyse what you had done before them, the results may surprise you!