As promised, here’s to blogging in the New Year.cake

You know what is the best part of training, and the worst part of training? Well, the training…but really, the taper. It’s so welcome – I love not HAVING to run so much, but I also feel a bit like a slacker.

I mean, yesterday and today, everyone’s celebrating their Fitness Resolutions and I baked a cake with my son. I ate cake, too. I’m going to Disney after all – why vow off sugar now?

Three days until the 5K of the Dopey, so I’m in full-on taper mode. Most of you know – you don’t train up until the last moment, especially for long distance. Instead, you participate in a two or three week “taper” that involves dropping miles, but not intensity. Since I’ve largely held off on tri training lately, this leaves me…well…bored.

The taper lead to notable improvements in performance. A 2010 study in the Journal of Applied Physiology put it at 3 percent.Other articles claim up to 10 percent. Regardless, resting your muscles and mind before a race is a good thing.

The key, however, is not to taper too much, lest you feel like a slug. All the stiffness sets in and the freshness departs your legs.

Generally, the three weeks before the race shouldn’t represent a sudden stop, but a taper – an easing – as the word implies. Usually dropping 20 to 30 percent of your miles week one of taper, and another 10 to 15 percent the second week of taper is a good standard.

The race week, or third week (this implies a 3-week taper,) requires even more reduction. For example – since the runs for me start on Thursday, I plan on just a short 2-3 miles today (Monday), maybe a mile tomorrow and then nothing until the race on Thursday. A conventional marathon would include a few shake out runs on Thursday and Friday. I’ll be running with Mickey for these.

Still run the same days you did during training, just not as far. And, if you were doing speed or tempo work during training, keep it up during the taper. You may feel faster and refreshed – this is the taper working. Don’t leave that power and stamina on the training trail. You’re not going to make significant improvements in speed the last 10 to 14 days before your race, faster drills are designed to keep your legs responsive and springy during taper. Nothing is worse than running a race on dead legs.

This is not the time to fill your bored hours with new workouts. Yes, you have time now to go to that class you’ve been wanting to try at the gym, or to lift more weights or to reacquaint yourself with Cross Fit –swimmer DON’T.

The temptation is real, but you’ll undo all the rest you’re doing. A taper done right has you itching to move that last week – don’t deny it, but don’t overdo it. If you must – go for a swim or a walk to fill time. I might swim later today if I’m twiddling my thumbs too much.

Also, resist the urge to get all those big household chores done. Suddenly, your down time makes you aware of the dust on the ceiling fans, the uncut yard and the clutter that needs to be hauled to the dump. It’ll be there after the race. I promise.

After all this coaching and marathon experience, the uniqueness of Dopey has me a little confuddled with taper. I truly hope I’m not tapering too much, but won’t know until we begin. I do know that the 22.4 miles I’ll do before the marathon will certainly not count as tapering. The plan, especially for the half-marathon, however, is to run and take advantage of the fun on the course – stop for photos and really ham it up. This should leave me fresh enough to still run a marathon in under 5 hours. I expect it to be my slowest race…but I do want to spend some time at Disney on our last day!

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