Rest is an essential part of training, but can sometimes be the hardest part in your running journey. Many athletes do not realize that rest and recovery actually improves performance, which is why tapering is an important part of training for a marathon or any type of competition.
Tapering can be a challenge for many athletes. After weeks of hard training, slowing down before a race is a mental game. Reducing the miles and adding more rest time builds glycogen stores which helps the muscles heal. Tapering also reduces damage to the muscles, increases strength and even improves the nervous system which leads to more efficient running.
Some athletes make the mistake of thinking since they are reducing the miles, they need to increase the intensity of those shorter runs. This is harmful because your muscles are not used to short high intensity workouts and it will fatigue your muscles. It is also important to remember that you may not feel great during the beginning of your taper. Many athletes feel sluggish and winded on workouts they thought should be easy, some also feel phantom pains. This is a common part of tapering and resisting the temptation to resume regular workouts can be a challenge. This feeling does not last forever though, most athletes begin to feel back to normal one or two days before the race.
It is important to find a balance that works for you because everyone’s tapering length is different. Some runners taper only a week before a race and others taper 3 weeks before. Experiment to find what works for you, and your body will thank you.
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