February 5, 2023

Zipper Team

How to Nail Your Triathlon Taper

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Love them or hate them, tapers are important parts of race preparation. In this guide, we'll start with some of the basics by defining what a taper is and how it benefits athletes. Then we'll go one step further by offering some advice on how to nail your taper and feel your best come race day morning.

What is a Taper?

A taper refers to the gradual pullback in training leading up to & immediately preceding an endurance event. The intent of a taper is to give the athlete's body and mind a chance to recover before race day. A normal training block will consist of a final build phase, which likely includes some of the peak mileage for the athlete. Coming off of this phase, the taper will allow the athlete's body to fully absorb this training and be properly rested before race day. Depending on the distance of the target race and duration of the training block, a taper can last anywhere from a few days to a couple of weeks.

Why is a Taper Important?

As mentioned above, tapers will occur in the week(s) immediately before your event. This close to the race, there are very few fitness gains to be made. Often athletes will worry about losing time or fitness during this period of recovery. These fears stem from a misunderstanding of the purpose of a taper. The intent and benefit of the taper is to allow yourself achieve peak recovery prior to race day. By dropping mileage during the weeks immediately preceding your race, your body will be free of muscle soreness and your body will be reaping less-visible, but possibly noticeable, benefits such as high red blood cell count and proper levels of glycogen stores, enzymes & hormones! From a non physiological standpoint, the taper offers the mind a chance to rest. Training blocks can add great levels of mental fatigue to an athletes life. By lowering mileage and focusing on rest, the athlete can get into a good headspace before the big day by focusing on their race plans and keeping stress to a minimum. All of these things will come together when the athlete crosses the start line to allow for the best possible execution on the months of training completed by the athlete.

How to Crush the Taper.

  1. Stay off your legs as much as possible. The focus of the taper is recovery. When you're not working or exercising, try to do everything in your power to give your body every opportunity to rest. Yes, it can be frustrating, but it's temporary and your legs will thank you on race morning.
  2. Do not stress. The best thing you can do during the taper is to keep your mind at ease. This includes not over-analyzing performance during the milage you have during these weeks. Again, it's important to remember that you're not missing out on any fitness gains this close to the race. It's very common to feel like you're getting antsy to get to that start line.
  3. Finalize logistics. Use the extra hours to get yourself organized for the race. Are you traveling? Make sure all your travel plans and accommodations are set. Get yourself packed up early for the race so you can run through your gear checklist several times before the night before.
  4. Focus on nutrition. Don't change things up, don't try new things. Stick to the diet that has benefitted you all throughout training. Ensure a focus on hydration and electrolytes, especially if your race day is looking like a hot one.

The taper can be a mental battle for many athletes. The decreased mileage can certainly be challenging for athletes who just finished up a long, intense, high mileage training block. Remaining focused on the benefits of the taper and understanding why it's important is the best thing an athlete can do to set themself up for a successful race day!

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