We were excited to try the great facilities in the hotel, before Michiels tapering starts so he is rested & ready for the 1/2 marathon. I have eased off running the past few weeks, giving his legs full rest from this discipline.
Tapering is a technique used before a big event, to rest athletes bodies, so they aren’t achy, fatigued, injured or tired before embarking on their event. Before Ironman day, we will start to taper 3-4 weeks beforehand, bringing everything gradually down to a resting state. Great for the mind, as well as the body, to be relaxed.
Some people are afraid to taper, they think they should be training to the end, and that their physical fitness levels will be affected if they do nothing (or a lot less) than usual, when actually, it’s the opposite!
In the last few weeks before a big event, it’s the rest more than the work that makes you strong. You don’t lose fitness in 3-4 weeks of tapering. In fact, studies show that your aerobic capacity (the best way to measure fitness), doesn’t change at all.
The studies behind tapering: 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 (which are all things lessened by high mileage), return to optimal ranges during a taper.
The muscle damage that occurs during sustained training is also repaired. PLUS 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!)
The average performance improvement by the subjects who tapered in these studies was 3%. It doesn’t sound much, but that works out to 5 to 10 minutes in a full marathon, and they all felt stronger and mentally more focussed on the day.