You've put in the training time, refined your diet, done the core and strength work and now your big event, the first 'A' race of the season is creeping closer. Excitement bubbles, the nerves may rattle a little too, but it's all part of the process. Some would argue what you do with the next two to three weeks of training (i.e. tapering) are as important as the months of training you put it. So, what's the best way to taper? There is no simple answer, as we all handle training loads and stress differently, but there are some tried and true tips that can help guide you into race day feeling mentally sharp and physically ready for a huge effort.
1. Do a few harder workouts, but keep them short - You don't want all your fast twitch, race-day muscles falling into a deep hibernation. It's important to keep your muscles firing on all cylinders by incorporating some of the same interval routines that you've been using in your training, albeit a little shorter and lower quantity. This will keep your engine primed and ready to go all out when the time comes, while still keeping your muscles fresh.
2. Get enough sleep - As the nerves start to kick in, it's easy to stay up late at night over thinking race strategy, gear choices, nutrition and more. This can not only cut into your regular sleeping schedule that you worked so hard to maintain while training hard, but lead to late night snacking, groggy early mornings and decreased energy and motivation. You want to keep both of those up as the event day gets closer so that you can perform at your best.
3. Don't change your diet - Whatever you've been putting into your body has gotten you to this point, so the last thing you want to do is start throwing your digestive system curveballs. Now is not the time to add in unfamiliar foods, even if your friends swear it will give you an extra few watts or increase your red blood cell count. The time to introduce new foods into your diet is well in advance of important races. Keep it simple, stick with what you know works best for you, not someone else.
4. Get a little "squishy" - It's only natural that when you slow down your training in preparation for a big race that you'll start to feel a little squishy, but that's fine! Storing extra fuel ahead of a big endurance event will come in handy on race day. We're not talking about over eating, but rather keeping your caloric intake steady. Since you are not training as hard during the taper, you won't be burning quite as many calories so your body's fat reserves will be topped up for when you pin the number on.
5. Do dial it back, a bit - If you've been riding 300-mile or running 100-mile weeks, the taper is the time to slowly dial it back. You want to go into your race feeling well rested and ready to absolutely rip, not fatigued and sore. Don't completely let your training drop of the map, but bringing it down slowly over the course of a couple weeks and then keeping it really light in the final week before the race is a perfect plan.
6. Load up on PR Lotion pre-race - Keep using our Performance & Recovery Lotion after and before training sessions, even when you're not going that hard. On race day, double the application. Apply it two hours before the race while you're eating your breakfast and then do a second application 30 minutes before the gun goes off. Bicarbonate is regulated by the body and any excess is excreted by the kidneys. There is no documentation of long-term adverse effects of chronic bicarbonate loading in scientific literature. PR Lotion has been part of your routine for the past few months, so there's no reason to change it now.
7. Keep it in perspective - Even if it's your most important race of the season, it's vital for your own mental health to keep it in perspective no matter the result. All the hours spent training with friends, learning what works for your body (and what doesn't) and dialing in your process is what matters most in the long run. Each race is a learning experience - a chance to test yourself, make mistakes and come back stronger, with a more refined plan the next time to help you better your best!