Do not exercise. Repeat. Do not exercise. Repeat. Do not exercise. So goes my mantra today. This is the last week of taper, and I feel like a slug – a good look, huh? “They” – the experts — say sluggishness is normal. I am gaining weight – again, normal “they” say. I start to hallucinate pains everywhere – my knee suddenly hurts, oh, is that the bottom of my foot? my big toe? eek, my hip too? my calf is knotting up? Again, all this crazy fantasy pain? Completely normal. I am also agitated – dismayed by my body and missing the high of a hard workout. I am itching for the workouts after the race so I can get back to feeling good about myself, but for now, my mantra stands: Do not exercise.
Is it really necessary to taper if it causes so much anxiety? Absolutely. The taper helps your body repair after months of high-intensity training. Everyone hits a point during a long race where your body wants to stop – the taper can make that point happen later in the race. During a taper, your body increases its stores of glycogen – the fuel that will keep you going during the race. A marathon taper traditionally lasts 3 weeks, and is a slow gradual decrease in training. According to Larent Bosquet and his colleagues in a 2007 issue of the journal “Medicine & Science in Sports and Exercise,” a two-week taper that involves a 41 to 60 percent reduction in training volume, without a reduction in training intensity or frequency, seems to be the most efficient way to elicit performance gains. In plain English, you should keep exercising at the same times and same effort as you had before, but run fewer miles and cross train for a shorter duration over those weeks. Those shorter durations, however, are not very satisfying, but will pay off on race day. For shorter races, consider a shorter taper. A half marathon requires only a week of reduced training volume, and a 10 K or 5 K a few days.
I also strongly believe in backing off weight training the week before a big race as well – your body can only focus on one thing at a time, so it will either work on building muscle or recovering. You want recovery. Now is not the time to introduce new movement either – if you do not regularly workout on the elliptical or take a cycling class, don’t start now! Consider diet over the taper as well – Bosquet notes that “… a rich carbohydrate diet seems to be an important component of a successful taper.” He also notes, you must pay attention to calorie intake – bummer. Avoid making drastic dietary changes as well – this week is not the one to go gluten-free or eliminate all sugar for the first time. You do not want your body going into detox mode a week before a race. Save all these intentions for post-race. It’ll give you something to think about in all your down time.
April 17 – 23
- All day yoga intensive.
- Cycle: Taught 1 hour class, but only did 45 minutes of it at about 72 percent of maximal heart rate.
- Run: 8 miles, challenging tempo
- Weight Training: 60 minute barbell class at about 60 percent effort.
- Functional Training Class: Used light dumbbells and modest cardio during a 1-hour exercise circuit.
- Interval Training Class: Worked at about 60 percent of my abilities for 60 minutes of intervals and weight training – used light dumbbells.
- Cycling: Took a 60 minute class, but only worked at 60 percent of heart rate max.
- Cycling: Taught off the bike, rested.
- Yoga: Taught two classes and participated in about 50 percent of both
- Pilates: taught a 1-hour class and participated in about 70 percent of it.
- Kickboxing Interval: taught and participated in the 1-hour class. Took it easy on leg work, but all other effort at about 80 percent of my potential.
- Interval Class: Worked at about 70 percent of my ability for one hour alternating strength and cardio. Used 10- and 15-lb. dumbbells.
- Run: Three 1-mile speed intervals with ¼-mile recoveries. Total of 4.5 miles.
- Pilates: Taught and participated in about 50 percent of a 1-hour class.
- Yoga – Taught and participated in about 50 percent of a 1-hour class.
- BodyFit – Taught and did not participate in a 60-minute class. Maybe 20 percent effort.
- Run: 10 miles on the trail, modest pace.
- Ride n’ Stride: Taught mostly off the bike for the 30 minute cycle portion.
- Pilates: Did about 80 percent of a 30 minute express class
My upcoming week will look like this (for my fellow Colorado Marathoners!):
Sunday (today) – taught cycle, but mostly off the bike and taught yoga, but did only about 50 percent of class
Monday: teach cycle, but do just 30 minutes of the 1-hour class
Tuesday: teach 1 hour each of functional training and ultimate conditioning, but mainly coach with some light, low-impact cardio and extra-light weights (maybe 3 lbs.). Run 30 minutes, with some 1-minute speed drills.
Wednesday: teach cycle, but do just 20-30 minutes. Participate very modestly in the 2 yoga and 1 Pilates classes I teach that day.
Thursday: I’ve already secured a sub for my early morning kickboxing class. Will participate very mildly in the other interval class (unless I find a sub) and the Pilates class. Run about 20 minutes, with a few 1-minute speed drills.
Friday: yoga and rest while coaching a 1-hour boot camp class
Saturday: run 2 miles at a very gentle pace.