This is part three of a three part series on the training phases/cycles of marathon training. In this episode I share tips on how to train during the tapering and recovery phase as well as how to tie all the phases of marathon training together into a fundamental training plan.
The tapering phase is one of the most important phases of marathon training. It is designed as a period of time in which your body can rest up after weeks and weeks of marathon training through reduced training volume. It is also a period where your energy/fuel stores and enzyme stores are “topped off”.
- The ideal tapering is typically 14-21 days in duration for marathoners, 7-10 days for half marathoners, 3-4 days for 5-10k races.
- The length of taper is individual to each runner. Some marathoners do well with a 21 day taper period, while others do better with 14. Typically the better trained and more experienced a runner you are, the shorter your taper period can be.
- Most people should start with a 21 day taper their first time and adjust from there.
- The key to the taper is reducing training volume, not training intensity. If you do speedwork, continue to do speedwork at the same intensity, just cut back on volume. Reducing volume in most cases, means reducing mileage.
- If tapering for 21 days, your longest, long run will be 21 days out from your race day. Week one of taper, reduce total weekly miles to 70-75% of your peak (pre-taper) miles. Week two of taper, reduce weekly miles to 50-55% of peak, pre-taper mileage, and last week of taper, shoot for 30-35% of peak, pre-taper mileage. Keep in mind though that these are rough estimates only. The key is to reduce mileage and rest. Again, each runner responds differently.
- Speedwork the last several days before a race should be avoided or very minimal (you can practice coming up to race pace, but not full workouts).
- Increase water and carbohydrate intake slowly the last few days before a race. Don’t wait until the night before!
- If using a sports drink during a race, try integrating a few glasses a day for a few days prior to a race to help your stomach adjust. Use what the race uses, as each brand is slightly different. If possible, train with what you will have available on race day.
- Beware that taper can be tough mentally. The reduced mileage often leads runners into a false belief that they will lose their endurance. This is not true. The positive benefits of the taper (rest, recovery, etc) far exceeds any last minute benefits that could be obtained from workouts.
- Rest, relax, use visualization techniques, plan race day logistics, and prepare for rewards in the days leading up to a race.
- Increase the amount of sleep to the best of your ability, during the taper, and leading up to race day.
- Enjoy the reduced workload and extra time. You have earned it. The “hay is in the barn”, so to speak. Trust in your training.
The recovery phase of marathon training occurs after the race. The better you manage this phase, the easier it is to come back effectively and resume running.
- The first 30-60 minutes after a race is the best time to rehydrate and take in carbohydrates and protein.
- Assess any injury or “level of soreness”. Normal soreness may last a few days to a week. If injured, treat and do not resume training until ready.
- Many recommend taking 1-2 days off for every mile you raced hard.
- I think that after taking a few days completely off from running, some benefit can be had by returning to “light, low-intensity, short runs” and not resume full training for a few weeks.
- Take a break and allow your mind to recover as well. It is hard to always be in “training mode”. Too much time in training mode can actually impact your performance and lead to plateau’s in your running if you do not take occasional mental and physical rest periods.
- Set a new goal. Expect a natural let down in your mood (even mild depression is possible) after you finish your goal.
- Don’t dwell on anything negative that may have happened or get caught up in “what-if’s”. Learn from it and move on.
Building a marathon training schedule
Over the last 3 episodes, I have walked you through the various phases. These phases should give you the framework when putting together a marathon training plan. Unfortunately, we did not go into how to plan workouts, length or intensity of runs, etc. as much as cover the higher level phases. More goes into a training plan than what we covered, but it should give you a good framework should you want to attempt one and then you can fill in the details later.
If you want an example of a complete marathon training program, including everything I have previously mentioned already built in for you, be sure to check out my 20 Week Marathon Training Program.