“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” – Benjamin Franklin
Taper is a strange period. After months or even years of hard work it’s, all of a sudden, time to take in some extra rest. However, some can’t stand sitting still and decide that getting in some extra training will probably get rid of those pre-race nerves. Others find that all that waiting makes them feel sluggish and, because they know extra training is not the answer, sit on the couch and get dull while they are waiting for race day to come.
While extra training is certainly not the answer, that doesn’t mean that sitting on the couch for a few weeks is the ideal thing to do. Taper should be about getting you fresh mentally as well as physically. To get fresh on those two levels it’s important that you find activities to do without going for a last-minute Marathon practice run. So, what should you do then? Let me give you a helping hand:
6 Must-Do Things During Taper
1.Refresh that list!
Almost all of us use music to get fired up for training or a race. However, with those busy Ironman training
weeks, we sometimes forget to refresh it which results in our playlist not motivating us as much as it used to do. This is your chance to spice it up again, you have enough time on your hands so start searching the charts for some fresh new beats and you will have no motivation issues in the days leading up to the big event!
2. Develop a morning ritual
With race day approaching you may start to feel a little bit anxious about race morning. Are you going to eat first or listen to music first? Will you do some stretches to wake up or will you just leave that out completely? Now that you don’t have to go for a 7 A.M. run you can still put that time in good use by developing a morning ritual. Rituals give athletes something to hold on to pre- or during the race, it also gives you a chance to filter out mistakes or change the order of the ritual to make you feel more and more comfortable on the morning of race day.
Here is my ritual to give you an idea of what it can look like:
7 A.M.: Wake up
7:15 A.M.: Make and eat breakfast, watch some televison
8 A.M.: Visualise Race Day
8:30 A.M.: Take a shower and get dressed
9 A.M.: Listen to my “Ironman Race Day” playlist
3. See it happen.
If you look at my morning ritual you will see that I ”Visualise Race Day” at 8 A.M.. I can stronly advice you to incorporate this into you own morning ritual or daily routine as well. What visualisation allows you to do is rehearse the race without actually participating in it. This is a very powerful tool that only humans have but the importance of it is underestimated by a wide variety of athletes. This is a shame because the great thing about visualisation is that it allows you to filter out mistakes that you would otherwise make on race day, why would you spend all this time training and then make mistakes on race day which you could have avoided by simply visualising?. Also, it’s a practice widely used in the elite field and has been proven to improve race day performance.
How to visualise:
– Take 15 to 30 minutes and go somewhere where you can concentrate.
– Determine the part you want to visualise. For example, scared of the swim? then start with that.
– Now close your eyes and see yourself executing the swim perfectly. If you make a mistake, then go back to that moment and visualise it again until you do it perfectly.
– Give it some time. It may take a few minutes before you really ”get into it”.
– Now do it daily. Practice makes perfect.
4. Give yourself the attention you deserve!
After all these months of hard training you body has build up a lot of stress, fatigue and soreness. With race day approaching it has never been more important to get rid of all those sore muscles and irritated joints, and what better way to do that then to reward yourself with some extra special attention.
For example, a massage is a great way to make your muscles feel more fresh and it’s also a big mental boost which will help you relax. A visit to the sauna can also be a great way to treat yourself with some extra physical and mental maintenance.
5. Get in early – Get out early.
Since all Ironman races start at 7 A.M. and there’s a lot to do in the moments leading up to the race this (unfortunately) means that you have to get up at 4-5 A.M. If you aren’t used to this and a bit worried, then taper can be the perfect time to adjust your sleeping schedule and get your body ready for waking up early.
For example: I used to wake up at 8 A.M., this week I have changed that to 7 A.M., next week will be 6 A.M. and race week will be 5 A.M..
Keep in mind that if you normally go to bed at 11 P.M. and wake up at 8 A.M. you can’t go to bed at 11 P.M. and wake up at 5 A.M. during race week, this will leave your body sleep deprived and everything but race fit.
Rule of Thumb: If you wake up an hour earlier, you go to bed an hour earlier.
This may seem ridicolous but it’s probably the last sacrifice you have to make and can get you ready for race morning!
6. Check that list.
Finally, there are the last things that ”need to happen”. Has your bike already been checked? No, then get it to the bikestore. Do you already have an extra pair of goggles in case one breaks on race day? No, then get one. This are the tiny little things that don’t seem to be that big of a deal but could make race day a whole lot harder, imagine open water swimming without goggles!
One final thing that you certainly have to do is make a day-by-day plan. This means that you make a plan that starts from the moment you leave to the race site on, for example, wednesday. From wednesday to Sunday you write a total plan for each day stating what you do and when you do it, from waking up to drinking throughout the day and checking in you bike. This will eliminate last-minute stress and makes sure that you can focus on the upcoming race instead of rushing your way to the bike check-in because you forgot to do so.
What do you do to keep yourself entertained during taper?
Do you go out and train extra or do you have another activity that keeps you from getting bored?
Let me know!