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Coaching Tips And Tricks For A Successful Marathon Taper

Turning Taper Energy Into Marathon Gold ~

By Coach Denise Sauriol

My peri-endo-maximus hurts!

If you haven’t heard of that muscle or bone, that is because I made it up. Which is what our body and mind do to us when we’re in the marathon taper zone. They play tricks on us.

All of the sudden we start having a weird ache in our hamstrings, knees, elbow (insert body part here) that we never felt throughout our training. Not even during our 20+ miler.  We start diagnosing ourselves on WebMD and bam, we incorrectly decide we’re going to be too injured to get to the finish line.

The problem originates from the fact that we now have more time to spend in our heads than out logging miles on our feet.  And most of our heads are not playing the Bob Marley-Three Little Birds lyric of “Every little thing is going to be alright,” which happens to be my ringtone — but I ramble, since I am in tapering mode as I write this.

Tapering: What Is It And Why Do We Need To Do It?

It’s during this much needed marathon taper time that we give our bodies time to heal and prepare for the big M.

On the other end of the spectrum, we also want to keep our legs loose and ready to rock and roll. We still keep up our running. We just bring down the intensity (distance and speed) of our runs.

Most tapers start 3 weeks before your goal marathon. The last key workout before your taper is the 20+ miler. That is where we push ourselves the furthest that we are going to throughout the whole training season.  And remember, we are pushing our body through this workout on tired legs.

So we need a rest.

It’s ironic that the time when we most want the rest is when the distance of our weekly mileage and long runs starts getting longer and longer.  That’s the time we want a “get out of long run card(s).”  But now that the training plan and/or coach is reducing and lightening our workouts, we want to do more than the plan. This is a normal experience.

But just use the tips and tricks below and you’ll end up rested and ready for your race.

Tip #1: You’ve Done All You Can Do At This Point

It’s important to know that nothing we do workout-wise during this time is going to improve our performance. Ironically, it may take away from our performance. The hay is in the barn, so to speak.

Tip #2: Stick With The Familiar

It’s also important not to do anything new during your taper that you haven’t routinely done throughout your training. So save Mile 26.2123456789 for making friends with skydiving, High Intensity Interval Training (“HIIT”), bowling, rock climbing, fencing, skate boarding, etc. You have come too far to get an injury whether it’s running or non-running related. You might have the energy and the interest, but just hold off until your race is over.

Tip #3: Resist The Urge

One other mind game you might experience during the taper is wanting more time to train or questioning the training you did. You may tell yourself, “if only I had ‘x’ more weeks to train, I would race a better marathon.”  Your race is right around the corner and, just like with a final exam, you feel like you need more time to study/race so you can have the success you want. But cramming for this final exam will only hurt you. We need to save our legs for race day and trust your training.

Coach’s Tricks For Turning Your Pre-Race Energy Into Race Success

Here are a handful of non-running exercises to do with all that free taper time and energy

  • Spend some time visualizing your race. From how you will feel, what you will see and what you will achieve. Review the course layout. Review race writes ups on Bib Rave.
  • Catch up with someone you haven’t seen since you hit “process/confirm” on the marathon registration page.
  • Volunteer for your race’s packet stuffing. You more than likely will be around fellow taperers and you can all help each other get through this trying time and you just might get to see the race shirt ahead of time.
  • Get a massage to help relieve tension in your muscles and stir crazy in your mind (but no closer than 4 days before your marathon)
  • Watch either a comedy or an inspiring movie. This will move your mind to a less anxious state.
  • Find your mantra, if you don’t already have one. On race day you will spend a lot of time in your head and there will be times that you want to quit. Have your mental mp3 all ready to go when that happens. Some of my mantras are “Fight/Fly,” “Stay in the Game/Don’t Quit,” “It’s supposed to hurt,” etc.  Make up one that fits you.
  • Sign up for your next race, so you can start this crazy cycle all over again.

Running Coach Denise Sauriol coaches runners of all levels, both in person and virtually. She has raced everything from a 5K to an Ironman. The running bug caught Denise in 4th grade and the coaching bug caught her in 2007. She can be reached at denise@run-for-change.com.  Follow her and her clients on facebook at at www.facebook.com/runforchangechicago.

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