Mastering the Art of Tapering

Preparing for Race Day Success

The Nomad Athlete
3 min readFeb 3, 2024
Photo by LittPro Inc on Unsplash

The weeks leading up to a race are filled with anticipation and excitement. You’ve been following your training schedule diligently, clocking in the hours, and pounding the pavement. Now, it’s time to rest your muscles and gather your strength for the big day. This phase is called tapering, an essential component of race preparation that often goes overlooked. This article is dedicated to help you master the art of tapering and set you up for race day success.

Understanding Tapering

In simple terms, tapering is the intentional reduction of training volume to allow your body to recover and adapt from the rigorous training you’ve been through. The practice helps to eliminate chronic fatigue, repair muscle damage, and replenish glycogen stores, all of which contribute to improved performance on race day.

It’s a delicate balancing act. Reduce your training too much or too soon, and you risk losing the fitness gains you’ve worked so hard for. But taper too little, and you may arrive on race day feeling fatigued and underprepared.

The Art of Tapering

To effectively taper, you should gradually decrease your training volume, approximately two to three weeks before the race. While the exact duration and degree of tapering can vary from person to person, the common consensus among sports scientists is a reduction of 40–60% of your peak training volume.

One mistake many athletes make is to drastically cut down their training intensity during the taper period. This could result in deconditioning. Maintain your training intensity while reducing volume. For instance, if you’re a runner, keep up with the speed work but reduce the total distance.

Managing Tapering Syndrome

Tapering can also lead to psychological stress, often termed as the “tapering syndrome.” Symptoms can include restlessness, irritability, and a feeling of being “out of shape.” It’s important to understand that these feelings are normal and temporary. Keep a positive mindset, focusing on your race day goal and the fact that tapering is an integral part of reaching that goal.

Nutrition During Taper

Nutrition plays a crucial role during the tapering phase. During this period, you should focus on consuming a carbohydrate-rich diet to maximize glycogen stores, especially a few days before the race. Stay well hydrated and continue to eat a balanced diet rich in proteins, vitamins, and minerals to aid in muscle recovery.

Sleep is Your Secret Weapon

During the taper phase, quality sleep becomes more important than ever. It aids in recovery and rejuvenation, and can significantly impact your performance on race day. Aim to get at least seven to nine hours of sleep each night. If possible, try to incorporate daytime naps or additional rest periods into your schedule as well.

Recovery Activities

Incorporating recovery activities into your taper phase can help manage stress and promote muscle recovery. Light activities such as yoga, swimming, or walking can help keep the body active without straining the muscles. Massages can also aid in muscle recovery, and meditation or mindfulness exercises can help manage any stress or anxiety leading up to the race.

Listening to Your Body

Throughout the tapering process, it’s critical to listen to your body. If you’re feeling overly fatigued or have persistent muscle soreness, it may be a sign that you need to further reduce your training volume or intensity. Remember, the goal of tapering is to arrive at race day feeling refreshed, recharged, and ready to perform at your best.

In Conclusion

Mastering the art of tapering is not an easy task. It requires discipline, self-awareness, and the ability to strike a delicate balance between rest and maintaining fitness. However, with the right approach, it can significantly boost your race day performance. Remember, every athlete is unique, and what works best for one person may not work for another. Therefore, it’s crucial to find a tapering strategy that works best for you, helps you meet your race day goals, and ultimately leads you to success. So, trust the process, stay positive, and enjoy the journey to race day.



The Nomad Athlete

Endurance athlete, digital nomad, nerd. Just a normal guy trying to figure out fitness, business, and life.