What is Tapering?

When you’re preparing for a long-distance sports event – whether it’s running, cycling or a triathlon – you want to reach peak performance on race day. One way you can do this is through a process called tapering.

Tapering involves decreasing training in the weeks leading up to an event. It helps get rid of the cumulative fatigue of endurance training, while maintaining (or even increasing) your fitness levels. If done right, tapering can improve your race performance by around 3%. 

To many people, tapering may sound counter-intuitive. Surely you’d want to increase your training leading up to an event? And for many elite athletes the taper time can be one of the hardest times of the training cycle.

Athletes may fear losing fitness, gaining weight, feeling sluggish or even getting injured (some people overcompensate while tapering by pushing themselves too hard in the shorter training sessions).

How does tapering work?

If you’re worried about tapering, it’s good to remember that physiological changes during the tapering period can help improve your performance. While tapering, your fitness levels (measured by your VO2 max and lactic threshold) may actually increase. Tapering gives your body a chance to stock up on glycogen, the fuel your muscles need during high intensity exercise. Tapering also allows fatigued muscles a chance to recover, so that they can contract more effectively.

Training for distance events can be exhausting mentally. Tapering can be a helpful way of easing this stress, so that you feel relaxed and well rested when race day comes. 

How do I taper correctly?

According to sports scientist and tapering researcher, Iñigo Mujika, there are 3 elements to your sports training: intensity, volume and frequency. When tapering, you should decrease your training volume (that is, the length of each workout) but try to keep the intensity of your workouts the same.

While you should decrease the distance in your training sessions, it’s usually best to keep the actual number of training sessions consistent. So, stick to your regular session times and train as hard as you usually would during each session, but make the sessions shorter.

For optimal performance on race day, experts suggest that you reduce the volume of your training by around 40 to 60 percent during the taper. The exact tapering plan can be individualised for each athlete.

Tapering may be done over 1 to 4 weeks, but for most athletes in endurance, team or strength sports, a taper of around 2 weeks works best. Current evidence hasn’t proven that ultra-long events need a longer tapering period.

When it comes to nutrition during the tapering period, try to balance your energy intake with your activity level. It’s not usually necessary to change your macronutrient distribution while tapering, except if you plan to increase your carbohydrate intake in the last few days before your race. To maximise the results of the taper, it’s also important to pay attention to your hydration status.

This article was originally published by Bupa Healthlink

Translate Website

Send this to friend