Tapering Your Training as You Approach Race Day

As you see the race day get closer you will natural want to put in more and more training, fill in every moment with training?

But like school, cramming as much training as you can into a few short weeks really won’t help improve your fitness, it will actual wear you out.  In reality you want to start tapering down your training.  Tapering is pulling back not only on the amount of training, but the intensity of your workouts, and will prove to be harder than you may think.

Go ahead and follow the training plan, but you will see that you will be exercising less the days before, even than you probably did when you first started your training.  The workouts will even seem easy compared to your workouts in the weeks before.  It is OK to take a day off and rest, sleep late, or even skip a long ride.

If you are following the plan you have set up it will seem that the lighter load is cheating.  You could even be feeling like you are going to be losing the hard-earned fitness in just a few days as your event gets closer.  But that isn’t the case.

You really won’t be ready for your event if you don’t take the time to cut back.  If you taper according to the plan, you should feel full of energy the day before your event and be ready to unleash that energy when it is time.

The amount of time you taper will be determined by the how long your race is.  For those training for something like a sprinting event, your course will be about 1 – 2 hours, so having a few days of rest will help you to store up plenty of energy.

For those planning on doing an Ironman will be going for 17 – 18 hours, so you will need to get your energy stored up for a longer period of time.

Tapering does not mean that you need to become a coach potato.  It is important that you are still moving your body, but do it in moderation.  The week before the event is not the time to push yourself or even to try and test your limits.

It is important to save your energy for the event.  How you taper will be as personal as you and your training.  Some of the triathletes find they really need more time to recover from an intense workout.  If this happens to you, then focus on the outside range of your tapering schedules.

If you find that you are not ready for your event the week before a sprint or four weeks before the ironman, then nothing you do in the week or weeks leading up to the race will help make the race much easier.  If anything, going out and training hard right before the race will only hurt you because of the fact you will wear yourself out, which will have you feeling less prepared for your event.

While you are tapering, especially that week before your event, you it may seem sluggish and heavy.  But this doesn’t mean you have lost all the work you have been doing.  It is just the way your body is storing the fuel needed and rebuilding.

Here are some guidelines or suggestions for tapering times depending on each type of race and distance:

Sprint or Super Sprint

For the Sprint or Super Sprint event you will want to take it easy for just about a week, not much more than that.  For those of you who are using the training schedule in Chapter 10 you will notice that your training peaks at about 270 minutes during week 11.  From there you will want to really start cutting back pretty sharply, making sure you are not doing any long workouts and being doing about ½ the amount of time of week 11 during your week 12 in the days before your event.


For the Olympic-distance events that are longer you will want to start slowing down your efforts about two weeks out from the race day.  During week 18 you will probably log only about 8 hours or a little more on the road or water.  Then during week 19 you should cut back to about 7 hours with nothing longer than about a 2 hour bike ride.  During week 20 you will cut your time down to about ½, so no more than about 3 ½ hours or so of training time total.


You will gradually begin to ease the duration and intensity of your workouts for a Half-Iron about three to four weeks before the event.  Week 20 will be about 13 hours of training time.  Then week 21 you are looking fewer than 10 hours and then by week 24 you are going to probably going stir crazy with all of your free time as you will be spending only approximately 4 hours of swimming, cycling or running.


The Ironman triathletes really do need to rest, but rest is really relative compared to what you have grown accustomed when you have been training for 20 hours a week.  The Ironman to be will start to think about slowing down about five weeks before your event.  This will be a time to focus on your final long run and bike rides and then cutting the time and distance around three weeks before your race.

The easiest week of Ironman training is equivalent to the toughest week in your Sprint training.  During week 26 you will still be racking in the miles spending up to 20 hours training.  The weeks 27 and 28 you will be going down to about 17 hours of training a week.

Then the next 2 weeks are logging about 8 hours of training.  Then the last week before the event you will only be training about 4 hours of training.  To put this into perspective, it is the same time as your peak training during the week of a Sprint.

Maintaining your nutrition

Just because you are cutting back on the training during your tapering you doesn’t mean that the calories and nutrition need to be cut back.  You still need to make sure you eat sensibly and include the carbohydrates, fats and proteins in your diet.

While preparing for the triathlon you need to make sure you stay hydrated, but make sure you aren’t over drinking so much water that you get over-hydrated which can potentially deplete the potassium or sodium that you have stored up.  Drink not only water, but sports drinks that provide electrolyes and sodium.

Make sure to not step on a scale.  You are more than likely going to be putting on a few pounds while you are tapering your training because you will not be burning as many calories as you were during the peak of your training.  You need to make sure you have the necessary calories for the race.  Make sure not to skimp on the nutrition.

Just because you are tapering does not mean that you are to cram in more errands or work.  It is a time to relax and make sure you are focusing positively on the race and make sure you get plenty of rest.

When you are not putting laps in at the pool or make loops on the road, you should make sure you get some extra practice time in on the transitions.  Set up your transition area and just make sure that you have everything is in order that works just right for you.

The more practice you put into the transition, the better they become a routine and will leave you stressing less about it.

It is a good idea to make sure you are staying positive and focused on what and can be one of the greatest challenges during the taper period.  It can be easy to second guess how ready you will really be for the triathlon without having your regular workouts to help reassure that your muscles and body will perform like they should.

Don’t succumb to the temptation to try and squeeze in a final test at a fast pace just to make sure you can do it.  Just trust your training.  You have been stocking up on fitness over the past several weeks.

The ultimate goal of your taper is to ensure that you’re ready for your event —in mind and body.


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