A COMMON QUESTION: DO I HAVE TO TAPER?
By Joanna Chodorowska USA Triathlon Level I Certified Coach
recover. You may notice your athletes are really tired during the taper — that is normal and expected. Usually athletes feel drained coming into the taper, but nearing the end of it they feel antsy and have almost too much energy. There is another element that most
any athletes, both new to tri- athlon and those who have been racing for years, all won-
der how long do I taper for my race? Do I have to taper? The answer is yes; they do need to taper. The point of the taper is to allow the recovery process to hap- pen. There is a point where the body breaks down after training, and fatigue sets in. Unless you slow down to recover the fitness gains are actually lost due to excessive fatigue. Athletes will feel tired and unable to move quickly. It is better to be 10 percent under-trained than 1 percent over-trained. Don’t overlook the taper as something of a waste of time. everyone needs it, even the pros. for every athlete, the taper will be
different depending on the number of years they have been racing, the dis- tance of the race and how well their body responds to their training stimuli. In general, for a sprint triathlon race as a newbie, you may need one week before the race to be easy and may include two full days off. for the olympic-distance take two weeks taper, three weeks for a half Ironman and four weeks for a full Ironman. for the seasoned or elite ath- lete, you might take a 3-4 easy days for the sprint, an easy week to 10 days for olympic, 10 days to two weeks for a half Ironman and only three weeks for the full Ironman.
The taper is not a do-nothing plan for
2-4 weeks. for most people, the taper means keeping the same intensity for key workouts, but decreasing the dis- tance significantly in weeks leading up to the race. for instance, for an olympic- distance race, athletes may have their biggest-volume week two weekends be- fore the race (i.e. 35-40 mile bike/four mile run with 6-8 mile run the next day). Then a rest day, followed by gradually shorter sessions. The weekend before the race may only be a 25-30 mile bike but no brick, and a four-mile run Sun- day at race pace or maybe a local 5k. The second week may include two days off, but shorter and higher-intensity sets only on key workouts (4x400s for run or 4x2:00 hill repeats or 4x3:00 TT efforts on bike) and only the last swim is shorter in distance, but not intensity (5x50 fast, 5x100 fast, 5x50 fast). for an Ironman distance where you
have 3-4 weeks of taper, each week should cover slightly less distance than the week before, and the fourth week usually includes 2-3 days off and short swims (1 mile), short bikes (10-15 miles) and short runs (30 minutes) with some tempo pick-ups in each — nothing to tire the body; just keep it snappy and ready for what is to come on race day. The body needs time off so it can be ready for the big race ahead. Let it relax and
don’t realize that needs to be consid- ered in a taper. You do not need to taper all disciplines at the same time. You can keep the training distance and intensity up on the swim the longest. Why? Swim- ming is not as taxing on the body as bik- ing or running. With Ironman racers, sometimes that swim taper is not re- ally until 10 days before, where the run needs 3-4 weeks, and biking 2-3 weeks respectively for the taper. Looking at an overall plan, four weeks before the race, swim stays the same, bike is same, run is shorter. Two to three weeks out, swim is same, run is even shorter, and the bike is shorter. The fourth week everything will be shorter with some pick-up efforts and 2-3 full days off. In order for your athletes to have their
best race, they will need to taper. even the pros need to taper. Take time to map out the taper plan just as you did with an athlete’s training plan. keep in mind that if the taper is too long, an athlete might end up flat on race day, but if the taper isn’t long enough, athletes may not have the rest they need to finish at their full potential. The taper is almost as impor- tant as the training; take it as seriously as the athlete’s training.
Joanna Chodorowska is a sports nutritionist, swim stroke coach and triathlon coach. She works with athletes of all levels to optimize their nutrition so they perform their best at optimal weight. She works with athletes to help them train to their fullest potential and race with confidence and ability. Her company is Nutrition in Motion and can be found at www.n-im.net
and on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.
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