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Is tapering an effective training technique for runners?

Is tapering an effective training technique for runners?


Firstly, what is tapering? It refers to a reduction in exercise before a competition or race. It is essential for your performance to include a tapering period. Research has shown that correct tapering can improve competitive performance by 0.5%-11%.

Benefits of tapering:

Tapering on the weeks leading up to your race allows muscle glycogen stores to replenish and return to peak levels. During your tapering period, antioxidants, metabolic enzymes, and various hormones can replenish themselves in your body. It also allows for muscle and connective tissues to repair and strengthening. The body’s immune system also improves significantly during a taper. Overall, tapering lets your body prepare for peak performance.

When to start tapering:

An optimal period varies from seven days to three weeks. It depends on the distance of your race and how hard you have trained. Too short a taper will leave you tired on your race day. However, tapering for too long may lead to a loss of fitness. For example, the correct number of days to taper for a marathon is thought to be between 19 and 22 days and for a 5-10 km race anywhere between 7 and 10 days is considered optimal.

How to add tapering:

Currently it is thought that the key to effective it is to substantially cut back your mileage.  It is also important to maintain training intensity. Reducing overall mileage has the greatest impact on lessening accumulated fatigue. How much you reduce your mileage depends on your current training volume and the distance of the race you are preparing for. With regards frequency of training cut back only moderately on the number of runs per week. If you are using an online training programme or guidance from a coach continue to follow these instructions as the majority will incorporate a tapering period. You should also cut out cross-training during the final two weeks before your marathon.

Throughout your tapering period, you will notice you have more time on your hands. You should take this period to stretch rest and get organised for your race. Plan your travel to and from the event, decide on comfortable clothing for the race that you have worn during your training. During the period it is important to aim for 8-9 hours’ sleep per night. This also aids muscle repair and reduces the chances of you getting run down and catching a cold in the run up to the event.


Please contact the Ballsbridge Physiotherapy Clinic if you require any assistance in preparing for your up and coming event whether that is a 5k or marathon. Our physiotherapist can help manage any injuries that may be impacting on your training.

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