Get to race-day fast, fit and fresh with these expert tips
Tapering is the art of gradually reducing your exercise load prior to a major event so you show up ready to race your best. However, the specifics of finding that magic combination of rest and training stress for optimal performance can be tricky. We tapped Purplepatch Fitness coach Michael Olzinski and Kris Swarthout, USA Triathlon Level II coach and owner of Final K Sporting Services, for their expert advice on nailing the pre-race wind-down.
Don’t Cram Workouts
Chances are we all could have used a few more long runs, rides or speedwork in our training. Resist the urge to cram in too many last-minute quality workouts. Swarthout can’t count the number of times he’s seen athletes in Kona headed out for too long a run or ride on race week.
Resist Peer Pressure
Perhaps your fast friend has a special race-week brick that they always swear by. Or you get to the race venue and are amazed by how fast and how far the other athletes are riding and running. “Do the pre-race experiences that everyone talks about, but not in excess,” Swarthout says. In Kona, this can mean swimming out to the coffee boat or participating in the infamous Underpants Run. But he suggests being smart: “Don’t hang around for two hours after the Underpants Run.”
Keep Some Intensity
“It’s easy to just let the last few weeks before racing get very easy, and you risk lulling your body to sleep, forgetting what work can feel like,” Olzinski says. Instead, he recommends keeping some touches of intensity in all disciplines. “When the work comes to you on race day, it won’t be such a shock to your system.”
Olzinski often sees athletes introducing too many new variables close to race day. “They decide it is a great time to fix up their diet, change their routine, play with some new ideas or any number of things that were not a part of their training process.” Instead, he says your final weeks should mirror normal life, just with less training stress.
Use your extra time to rest
Getting plenty of quality sleep is a great way to shed lingering fatigue and soreness. But watch out for those pseudo “injuries” that often crop up in the taper. “It is very common for a niggle or little pains to arise, and getting some quality rest can truly help rid your body of these things,” Olzinski says.
Acclimate if necessary
Swarthout recommends athletes mimic the conditions they’ll face on race day however they can. His Kona-bound athletes have used methods such as a trainer inside a sauna or training in a warm pool.