Wimberg Bike Coaching Blog

Tapering article from TP

2021/10/21

Taper time is a stressful time for endurance athletes. After months of pushing their bodies to the limit, it can feel strange to pull back on the training load. Not only do athletes worry about losing fitness, but they also tend to overanalyze everything they do during the taper. 


What should I be eating? Why do I feel worse? Should I do one last long run? These are all questions you may receive from your athletes.


As a coach, your job is to ease your athletes’ minds, ensure they don’t do too much in the final few days before a race, and nail their taper. Consider the following questions which you will inevitably receive from your athletes.


What Is a Taper?


A taper is a gradual reduction in training load ahead of a race. The purpose is to reduce fatigue to ensure that an athlete is mentally and physically optimized on race day.


A good taper will foster improvements in exercise economy, blood plasma volume and enzyme activity. After a taper, athletes typically report feeling stronger, sharper and fit. The result, depending on the athlete, could mean a 1% to 6% improvement in performance (3% to 4% is typical). 


What Should a Taper Look Like?


The precise structure of the taper will depend on the athlete, their training load, and the importance of the race (i.e. whether the race is an A-race, B-race, first in a series of races, etc.). 


Different athletes respond in different ways to tapers. Some athletes benefit from a fairly radical reduction in training load multiple days before an event, while others race better on a less intensive taper.


Experimentation is important to determine exactly how an individual athlete should taper. Over the years, however, I’ve found the following principles to be true:



  • For most, the ideal taper duration is 10-14 days.

  • High-volume athletes can reduce their training load more (as a percentage of peak training load) than low-volume athletes while still performing well. This is also why we often see Ironman athletes performing a longer taper than sprint triathletes.

  • Athletes who “overreached” in training or who are burnt out often benefit from a longer taper of up to three weeks. 

  • During the taper, workout frequency should remain the same, however the duration of each session should be reduced.

  • For most athletes I work with, a ~20% reduction in training stress two weeks out and another 20% reduction in the final week works well. 

  • It is important athletes continue high-intensity work for the neuromuscular benefit and to avoid feeling flat on race day.


Do Different Disciplines Require a Different Tapering Strategy?


Most athletes will benefit from reducing load in all disciplines throughout the taper, though the specific nature of the reduction will vary. 


For triathletes who get by on minimal swimming (for example, two to three 2,000-meter sessions each week), there is no need to significantly decrease the swim training load. There simply isn’t enough fatigue or load from which to reduce.


Similarly, triathletes who perform a consistently low training load (less than eight hours per week) across all disciplines would benefit from a shorter taper of two to three light days rather than two to three weeks.


High-impact disciplines (such as running) benefit from a deeper taper than low-impact sports (such as cycling and swimming). As an example, the longest run for an Ironman athlete should occur approximately three weeks prior to race day whereas the longest bike ride could reasonably occur two weeks prior.


It is beneficial, however, to maintain frequency across disciplines, especially in swimming and running, which are more technique intensive. 


How Should the Ebb and Flow of Training Change?


Athletes should maintain the frequency of their workouts while reducing the duration of the workouts and the intervals therein. For example, if an athlete typically does 8×800 meter repeats in a workout, two weeks before race day they might do five 6×800 and one week prior three 4×800. In this way the overall intensity remains while volume decreases.


Should I Take Full Rest Days During a Taper?


It depends. An off day or two is often a good idea for athletes who are used to taking them, however, it is important to remember that an overall reduction in training volume means a day off would not be as valuable for unloading fatigue as during peak training. It is possible to unload fatigue while still working out each day so long as the sessions are light.


Rather than take complete rest days, it is often better to do very short sessions (as little as 10-20 minutes) in the few days leading into a race. This ensures athletes maintain technique and motor coordination within each discipline without accruing fatigue. 


Should My Day-to-Day Nutrition Change?


With the lower training load, athletes will be burning fewer calories. If they continued to consume the same amount of food during the taper weeks, they would likely gain a bit of weight.


A pound or two is not a big deal, and it may even be a positive addition if an athlete is too lean. However, gorging on bread and pasta for two weeks in an attempt to carbo-load is counterproductive. Instead, athletes should continue to fuel themselves as they did during training but should reduce the number of calories they consume to align with the reduction in training load. 


In the three days leading up to a race, athletes should slightly increase the ratio of carbohydrates to fat/protein they are consuming. This ensures that they are topping off their glycogen stores and will enter the race well-fueled (especially important for long-course racing). 


Are There Other Things I Should Taper Besides Training?


Heavy mental stress negatively impacts training, recovery and racing. Minimizing life stress, if possible, in the days leading into a major race could positively impact performance.


Taking an extra day off work or aiming to accomplish stressful weekly tasks earlier in the week a few days ahead of the race will enable athletes to toe the starting line in a more refreshed and positive state of mind, positioning them for better performance. 


Is It Normal to Feel Worse During a Taper?


It is not uncommon for athletes to feel down during a taper. A lower training load does unique things to the body. Less training means fewer endorphins and a possibility of feeling morose or grouchy.


A lack of activity and inward focus might also lead athletes to discover new aches and pains, leading to additional anxiousness. Especially at the beginning of a taper, many athletes report feeling heavy, slow and less fit. As a coach, you should convey that these feelings are normal and will pass. 


Throughout the taper, encourage your athletes to stick to the plan and trust the process.


After a few days, when your athletes begin to feel good, it is your job to hold them back and discourage last-minute fitness tests. You want them to light the match at just the right time: On race day. 

Recent Posts

Last Week
2021/10/12
Todays Intervals
2021/09/25
Last ten days
2021/09/23
Graphs
2021/09/23
TN 5k
2021/09/12
Some dFRC charts
2021/08/20
Tuesday Intervals
2021/06/23
More TN files
2021/06/20
Sunday Intervals
2021/05/30
Cleves Time Trial
2021/05/30
Weekend Intervals
2021/05/24
TN Intervals
2021/05/07
Indoor 10k and 5k
2021/05/04
Some TN Training
2021/05/04
Day Two in TN
2021/05/04
TN Ride
2021/04/12
TN Ride #2
2021/04/12
TN Ride #3
2021/04/12
Field Test
2021/03/16
Catching Up!
2021/03/14
5k WSO course
2021/03/14
This past week
2021/02/14
Friday intervals
2021/01/31
Florida 5 and 10k
2020/12/17
Tuesday intervals
2020/12/01
Updates
2020/11/12
Monday Workouts
2020/10/05
Blue Streak
2020/09/09
Training Updates
2020/09/03
Last Two Weeks
2020/08/08
ride map
2020/08/08
ride map
2020/08/08
one more map
2020/08/08
Cleves Time Trial
2020/07/22
Ramp Intervals
2020/06/30
Ramp Intervals
2020/06/24
Monday Sessions
2020/06/22
June 16-19
2020/06/19
Friday to Monday
2020/06/15
Steady State
2020/06/04
Monday
2020/06/01
Wednesday May 27
2020/05/27
Holiday weekend
2020/05/25
222 Segment
2020/05/22
Heekin Intervals
2020/05/10
Wrapping Up In TN
2020/05/01
2 x 5k time trial
2020/04/13
Cleves Again
2020/04/04
Some Intervals
2020/03/16
Hill Repeats
2020/03/09
Last Indoor 10k
2020/03/08
Last Few Days
2020/03/07
Todays Classes
2020/03/04
Ride in GSMNP
2020/03/04
Class HR Data
2020/02/12
Back at It
2020/02/10
5-1-2 x 6
2020/01/27
5-2-2 efforts X 6
2020/01/25
20 minute effort
2020/01/03
Indoor Time Trial
2019/12/17
Friday Intervals
2019/12/13
Florida 5k
2019/12/08
TN Ride
2019/11/28
More Steady State
2019/10/21
More steady state
2019/10/18
Saturday October 12
2019/10/12
Clingmans Dome
2019/10/04
Smoky Mtn Century
2019/09/13
Saturday Century
2019/09/07
KY 5 and 10k
2019/09/01
Wednesday 8-21-19
2019/08/21
Michigan Century
2019/08/17
Last Few Days
2019/08/07
Michigan Century
2019/07/13
Clingmans Dome
2019/06/28
NSG Course Recon
2019/06/12
Ride in Oklahoma
2019/06/10
3 x 5k time trials
2019/06/06
Cleves May 28
2019/05/28
Indiana 5k and 10k
2019/05/21
Cleves May 21
2019/05/21
Blue Streak
2019/05/14
Busy Wednesday
2019/04/24
First Blue Streak
2019/04/09
Todays Classes
2019/04/03
Todays intervals
2019/03/04
Carbo Loading?
2019/02/14
session 2 of 2
2019/01/29
Indoor Time Trial
2019/01/27
session 1 of 2
2019/01/24
session 2 of 2
2019/01/24
session #2
2019/01/21
One Hour Effort
2019/01/18
One hour effort
2019/01/17
Classes today
2019/01/16
3x20 minute tempo
2019/01/05
2019 Objectives
2019/01/04
Tempo Images
2018/12/24
tempo images
2018/12/24
tempo images
2018/12/24
Today Classes
2018/12/19
Classes today
2018/12/12
FL ride
2018/12/04
Todays Classes
2018/11/28
Indoor time trial
2018/11/18
Todays Efforts
2018/11/16
Todays Efforts
2018/11/08
1x20 tempo
2018/11/05
Saturday Ride
2018/11/03
Todays Classes
2018/10/31
Todays Classes
2018/10/24
Today Classes
2018/10/17
3x15 steady state
2018/10/15
Clingmans Dome
2018/10/12
Todays Efforts
2018/10/10
Update
2018/10/09
Blue Streak
2018/10/09
Todays Classes
2018/10/03
Smoky Mountains
2018/09/21
Back At It
2018/09/19
Todays Classes
2018/09/12
Blue Streak
2018/09/11
3 hours endurance
2018/08/25
Todays Classes
2018/08/22
Last Few Days
2018/08/21
Post Race Ride
2018/08/16
Nice Day in GSMNP
2018/08/09
Cleves Tonight
2018/08/07
Cleves Time Trial
2018/07/31
Cleves July 24
2018/07/24
Fastest Tires
2018/07/23
Michigan rides
2018/07/19
Michigan Ride
2018/07/12
Appleton, WI
2018/07/04
Worth reading
2018/07/04
Cleves Time Trial
2018/06/26
6x3 steady state
2018/06/20
Smoky Man Century
2018/06/15
Blue Streak
2018/06/12
Cleves Time Trial
2018/05/29
104 mile ride
2018/05/26
Update
2018/05/16
HIIT for Seniors
2018/05/11
May Blue Streak
2018/05/08
Thursday Hike
2018/05/04
First Cleves
2018/05/01
Classes
2018/04/18
First Blue Streak
2018/04/10
104 miles
2018/03/31
Classes Today
2018/03/28
4x8 steady states
2018/03/12
One More Day in NYC
2018/03/10
HR Data
2018/03/09
Todays Ride
2018/03/06
Under Overs
2018/03/01
Todays HR Graph
2018/02/28
100 mile ride
2018/02/15
Your Indoor Setup
2018/02/03
under-overs
2018/01/15
Indoor 100 miles
2018/01/13
todays 3x20 tempo
2018/01/11
2x20 tempo
2018/01/06
3x15 tempo
2018/01/05
todays efforts
2017/12/19
20x15 seconds
2017/12/14
10 sec efforts
2017/12/11
Plank! by CTS
2017/12/01
classes today
2017/11/01
Winter Training
2017/10/27
3 x 7 hill climbs
2017/09/28
Today Class
2017/09/25
Wednesday Efforts
2017/09/21
Fueling Tactics
2017/09/15
Cleves
2017/09/05
pre-race effort
2017/09/02
Michigan Century
2017/08/19
Under Overs
2017/07/27
Back at Cleves
2017/07/25
CTS on Cramping
2017/07/25
Back on the bike
2017/07/15
Time Off The Bike
2017/07/08
Under Overs
2017/06/30
Cleves TT
2017/06/27
Being Happy!
2017/06/17
Century Ride
2017/06/10
Interpreting Data
2017/06/09
USAC Nationals
2017/06/02
This week
2017/05/11
Day 2, 3x12's
2017/04/21
Clingmans Dome
2017/04/21
3x12 tt efforts
2017/04/20
This Week
2017/03/24
HR breakdown
2017/03/13
various intervals
2017/02/27
Hotel Workouts
2017/01/11
Mondays Workout
2017/01/02
2017 Goals
2017/01/02
30 minute tempo
2016/12/24
Time Trial Warmup
2016/12/07
Indoor 30
2016/11/20
Century Ride
2016/11/17
Indoor Time Trial
2016/11/13
Training Updates
2016/10/31
Clingmans Dome Ride
2016/10/20
Taper Weeks
2016/10/20
Century
2016/10/15
Blue Streak
2016/10/11
Endurance, Inside
2016/10/01
Mental Fitness
2016/09/30
Steady States
2016/09/29
14 mile hike
2016/09/22
Intervals today
2016/09/15
Blue Streak
2016/09/13
Endurance
2016/09/10
Cleves
2016/09/06
Day Before Ride
2016/09/03
10 Stomps
2016/09/01
Cleves Time Trial
2016/08/30
Back at Cleves
2016/08/23
Michigan Century
2016/08/19
Century ride map
2016/08/12
Blue Streak
2016/08/06
Cleves Time Trial
2016/08/02
Cleves Results
2016/07/26
took yesterday off
2016/07/21
Michigan Century
2016/07/19
Michigan Century
2016/07/19
Back on the bike
2016/07/14
10x30 seconds
2016/07/08
Hydration Myths
2016/07/07
Cleves
2016/07/05
Cleves Time Trial
2016/06/22
Photo's
2016/06/19
20x30 seconds
2016/06/09
Cleves Time Trial
2016/06/07
Saturday Century
2016/06/04
Cleves Time Trial
2016/05/31
Nationals Comments
2016/05/28
Cleves Time Trial
2016/05/24
Indiana State Games
2016/05/22
Cleves
2016/05/17
Smoky Mountain Hike
2016/05/13
10 x 30 seconds
2016/04/28
100+
2016/04/23
Todays Efforts
2016/04/18
12 second efforts
2016/04/16
Ramsey Cascade Hike
2016/04/15
Clingman's Dome
2016/04/14
10 x 10 seconds
2016/04/08
Varied Workout
2016/04/06
Some Rest Days
2016/03/29
13.4 mile hike
2016/03/25
Smoky Mtn Century
2016/03/24
12x1 minute, inside
2016/03/19
Step Exercises
2016/03/18
Wednesday Training
2016/03/16
Max HR vs LT Zones
2016/03/10
Sunday rides
2016/03/06
Todays efforts
2016/03/05
day 2....3x12
2016/02/19
This Week
2016/02/12
Indoor TT Prep
2016/02/06
WLWT Flying Pig
2016/02/01
Steady state 4x10
2016/01/25
Missed the storm
2016/01/22
Cadence test
2016/01/15
Saddle Height Test
2016/01/15
Crank Length Test
2016/01/15
Link to TT Results
2016/01/10
Indoor Time Trial
2016/01/10
Fox 19 Interview
2016/01/07
Training Mediocrity
2016/01/05
Off Day
2016/01/05
20 minute effort
2016/01/03
6x4 hill repeats
2016/01/01
Strength Training
2015/12/28
Rainy Weekend
2015/12/26
Hill Repeats
2015/12/22
10x1 minute
2015/12/14
Indoor Time Trial
2015/12/13
Recovery Day
2015/12/12
USAC CEU Totals
2015/12/08
December Training
2015/12/06
Over Unders
2015/12/04
10x1 minute
2015/11/20
12x30 seconds
2015/11/16
10x1 minute efforts
2015/11/13
Weekend training
2015/11/01
Training Updates
2015/10/30
Tempo Efforts
2015/10/05
4x15 tempo efforts
2015/10/02
Hate to Hear This!
2015/09/29
Power Intervals
2015/09/25
Cleves Time Trial
2015/09/15
Cleves
2015/09/01
Cleves
2015/08/30
Cleves, August 18
2015/08/21
Easy day
2015/08/18
Blue Streak
2015/08/14
Cleves August 11
2015/08/11
Steady States
2015/07/31
State Time Trial
2015/07/25
Back at Cleves
2015/07/25
Michigan Century
2015/07/19
Race Day!
2015/07/19
Race Day
2015/07/11
5x6 steady states
2015/07/03
Taper
2015/07/02
Off Days
2015/06/28
Cleves Time Trial
2015/06/16
Blue Streak TT
2015/06/10
Saturday Century
2015/06/06
Easy Days
2015/06/01
Omnium TT Results
2015/05/16
Blue Streak TT
2015/05/13
Mountain Century
2015/04/27
Century plus
2015/04/20
Blue Streak TT
2015/04/08
4x12 steady state
2015/03/09
Indoor TT History
2015/03/06
4x10 steady state
2015/03/02
GSMNP photo's
2015/02/08
Mountain Ride
2015/02/05
10x30 seconds
2015/01/23
Indoor TT
2015/01/11
Complete Results
2015/01/11
New Year
2015/01/01
Back At It
2014/12/19
Down and out
2014/12/15
Training summit?
2014/12/11
Fitness Myths
2014/12/06
4x8 steady state
2014/12/05
3x20 minute tempo
2014/11/26
This Past Week
2014/11/07
Long Tempo Inside
2014/10/31
4x12 tempo
2014/10/21
3x30= 1x90
2014/10/16
Off Day
2014/10/14
3x30 tempo
2014/10/13
3x20 minute tempo
2014/10/10
two days of tempo
2014/10/04
Training Zones
2014/10/01
Smoky Mtn Century
2014/09/26
Clingmans Dome
2014/09/25
Cleves Time Trial
2014/09/23
Cleves Time Trial
2014/09/16
Blue Streak
2014/09/10
Cleves Time Trial
2014/09/09
Challenging Week
2014/09/07
Cleves TT
2014/08/22
Cleves Time Trial
2014/08/19
Blue Streak TT
2014/08/13
Roaring Fork
2014/08/12
Cleves TT
2014/08/12
Cleves TT
2014/08/05
8x5 steady states
2014/08/01
Cleves TT
2014/07/29
Ohio State TT
2014/07/27
Cleves Time Trial
2014/07/22
Last Ride in MI
2014/07/17
Michigan Century
2014/07/13
Cleves Time Trial
2014/07/02
This week….
2014/06/20
Blue Streak TT
2014/06/11
Isagenix users
2014/06/03
Isagenix
2014/06/03
Century Plus
2014/05/31
This Week So Far
2014/05/30
Smoky Mtn Century
2014/05/22
Cleves Tonight
2014/05/20
This Week
2014/05/13
Mega-Hike
2014/05/13
Weekend of TT's
2014/04/30
Day 2 of 15x1's
2014/04/22
15 x 1 at Ault park
2014/04/21
30 second efforts
2014/04/18
Hill Accelerations
2014/04/11
Link to Results
2014/04/10
Light Week
2014/04/06
Some Steady States
2014/03/31
TT Bike Position
2014/03/29
More TT efforts
2014/03/27
Hiking and Riding
2014/03/21
Saturday Century
2014/03/16
Beta Alanine
2014/03/14
Long Tempo's
2014/03/14
Indoor Tt Efforts
2014/03/07
Stages Power Meter
2014/03/07
Food on the bike
2014/03/04
TT Gear
2014/02/26
Todays Efforts
2014/02/25
Time Tennessee
2014/02/23
more tempo
2014/02/15
60 minute tempo
2014/02/14
5x10 steady state
2014/01/25
5k comments
2014/01/16
Small Taper
2014/01/08
Last Few Days
2014/01/04
Over Under comments
2013/12/28
over/under graph
2013/12/26
Over Unders
2013/12/26
Field Test Comments
2013/12/24
Field Test Graph
2013/12/24
4x8/2 comments
2013/12/21
day 2, 4 x 8/2
2013/12/20
5 x 8/2 efforts
2013/12/19
Todays PI's
2013/12/07
12x1 comments
2013/12/05
12x1 comments
2013/11/30
12x1 results
2013/11/26
Spin Class
2013/11/11
The Lunge
2013/11/03
4x12 steady states
2013/10/29
LeMond vs Lance
2013/10/22
Endurance Ride
2013/10/12
Century Graph
2013/10/05
Endurance Day
2013/10/03
Monday Workout
2013/10/01
Strava
2013/09/29
10x6 graph
2013/09/26
Off Day
2013/09/22
5x5 results
2013/09/15
Century
2013/09/07
over under graph
2013/09/06
Over/Unders
2013/09/06
So Far This Week
2013/09/04
over unders
2013/08/30
Cleves, again
2013/08/21
Cleves Time Trial
2013/08/06
6x3 Power Intervals
2013/08/01
Cleves July 30
2013/07/30
Nationals, Day 2
2013/07/25
Nationals
2013/07/24
Cleves Time Trial
2013/07/16
Back at it
2013/07/15
A little tempo
2013/07/10
Another 100
2013/07/09
More Michigan Miles
2013/07/08
M22 Century
2013/07/05
Tempo
2013/07/04
5k State TT
2013/06/26
6x5 graph
2013/06/23
6x5 steady states
2013/06/23
Cleves Time Trial
2013/06/18
Weekend
2013/06/16
15x1 comments
2013/06/08
15x1's
2013/06/08
7x3, day 2
2013/06/07
7x3, day 2
2013/06/07
7x3 Power Intervals
2013/06/06
7x3 comments
2013/06/06
Cleves June 4 2013
2013/06/04
This Week
2013/06/02
Cleves Time Trial
2013/05/28
140 miles
2013/05/26
Hill Accelerations
2013/05/24
Cleves Time Trial
2013/05/22
Weekend Workouts
2013/05/19
Smoky Mtn Century
2013/05/16
Cleves, May 14
2013/05/15
Blue Streak TT
2013/05/08
Cleves Time Trial
2013/05/07
135 mile day
2013/05/05
Climbing Repeats
2013/05/02
BodPod Results
2013/04/23
Day two of 8x2's
2013/04/22
2x30 Tempo
2013/04/14
Steady States
2013/04/13
2x30 minute Tempo
2013/04/13
First Blue Streak
2013/04/10
Saturday, April 6
2013/04/06
Muscle Tension
2013/04/03
one hour tempo
2013/03/26
2x60 minute Tempo
2013/03/23
Tempo
2013/03/18
Tempo Data
2013/03/14
Weekend Update
2013/03/10
4x12 comments
2013/03/04
4x12 steady state
2013/03/04
4x10's
2013/02/28
4x10's at Ault Park
2013/02/18
8x2's, day 2
2013/02/05
8x2 comments
2013/02/04
8x2 graph
2013/02/04
6x2's
2013/01/29
15x1 results
2013/01/22
Indoor TT
2013/01/20
15x1's, comments
2013/01/17
3x20's, again
2013/01/08
3x20 Steady State
2013/01/03
Lifetime Miles
2013/01/02
3x20's
2012/12/24
Graph for 3x15's
2012/12/24
3x15 Steady State
2012/12/13
3x15, details
2012/12/13
The Rest Helped
2012/12/12
5000
2012/12/12
Race Results
2012/12/11
Book Review
2012/12/11
Windy Century
2012/11/23
multi-workout day
2012/11/21
4x8 Steady States
2012/11/19
The Last Week
2012/11/17
First Indoor TT
2012/11/11
4x15 Steady State
2012/11/10
30/30's, outside
2012/11/02
30/30's, again
2012/11/01
30/30's
2012/10/24
Crankenstein
2012/10/21
Multi-workout day
2012/10/17
15x1's, day 2
2012/10/10
Back to the PI's
2012/10/09
Lots of Tempo
2012/10/07
Cadence
2012/09/29
Cycling Past 50
2012/09/24
Training Update
2012/08/20
Random Comments 4
2012/08/12
Random Comments 2
2012/07/29
Random Comments
2012/07/21
State Time Trial
2012/07/07
Tapering
2012/06/30
Cadence and Power
2012/06/20
Metabolic Rate
2012/05/28
Time to Evaluate
2012/04/04
January Training
2012/01/19