With just 20 days until the Modesto Marathon, it’s finally time to “taper.” I want to share the following article with you so that you’d understand just exactly what tapering means. (source: www.runnersworld.com)
The final 3 weeks are the most important in any marathon-training program. Here’s everything you need to know and do leading up to race day.
By Bob Cooper Published 12/09/2003
Every good marathon-training plan should “taper” during those final 21 days. That means you run less and rest more. For some people, the idea of backing off on their training just before the big race seems counterintuitive. “So many runners train hard right up to the day of the marathon because they’re desperately afraid of losing fitness if they don’t,” says Patti Finke, who coaches 250 marathoners a year as co-director of the Portland (Oregon) Marathon Clinic. “What they don’t realize is that in those last few weeks it’s the rest more than the work that makes you strong. And you don’t lose fitness in 3 weeks of tapering. In fact, studies show that your aerobic capacity, the best gauge of fitness, doesn’t change at all.”
Research reveals a lot more than that. A review of 50 studies on tapering published in the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise shows that levels of muscle glycogen, enzymes, antioxidants, and hormones–all depleted by high mileage–return to optimal ranges during a taper. The muscle damage that occurs during sustained training is also repaired. And if that isn’t enough, immune function and muscle strength improve, as well, which reduces the odds you’ll catch a cold or get injured just before the race. And get this: The average performance improvement by the subjects who tapered in these studies was 3 percent. That works out to 5 to 10 minutes in a marathon.
The review’s main conclusion: “The primary aim of the taper should be to minimize accumulated fatigue, rather than to attain additional physiological adaptations or fitness gains.” In other words, it’s time to chill.