It’s Taper Week!

Warning: “Be aware that tapering may cause the following conditions: weight gain, phantom pains, heavy legs, anxiety, depressed mood, an urge to run extra miles or to run harder, the urge to eat more than you need to and many other conditions you haven’t felt during your regular training.”

Taper week is usually a struggle for me. For one, what am I going to do with all my free time??? Suddenly not having a regimented workout/training schedule means LOTS of free time. Second, I start to have “phantom” pains and I stress out that I’m injured.


When I did my first race, a 5k, I had a forced rest week because I got the flu. For two weeks leading up to my race I was sick as a dog in bed. I wasn’t fully healed, rested or well enough to run that race but I did it anyways and it was a struggle every step of the way.

Shamrock 8k

For my second race, an 8k, I did the proper taper and rested for several days leading up to it. I had a good race. My last race was Hood To Coast. I ran my last run, and PR’ed! about 5 days before the big day. I swam a few times that week before I ran HTC too but that was a relaxing, almost-impossible-to-injury-myself activity.

Hood to Coast

Runner’s World had a good article about Tapering“Remember: During this final week, you can’t under-do. You can only overdo.” Tapering is important because your body needs the rest and time to repair before Race Day. It can Make or Break your race!

Some things to keep in mind:

  • Phantom Pains: it’s totally normal to have new and weird aches and pains. In fact, before every race or event I’ve felt like something new was broken on my body. I was convinced that I was injured and wouldn’t be able to participate. Not true! It’s just nerves–the mind playing tricks on me.
  • Skip the weight training and difficult cardio a week before. The last thing you need before Race Day is a tweaked muscle.
  • Take it easy. That means no gardening, no strenuous activity, DO NOT TRY NEW THINGS! I made the mistake of pulling weeds before the Shamrock Run last year. Oh my god were my hamstrings beaten up! Stupid mistake.
  • Get lots of rest. Sleep when your body needs it.
  • Carb Load. Start eating more carbs but don’t overdo it until the night before when you can really carb load! 🙂
  • As the Big Day approaches, you may become irritable, cranky, nervous, excited…all normal feelings. Take it easy. Meditate, relax, go for walks in the outdoors, anything to keep you positive and upbeat.
  • Buy your sweetie something special for putting up with your cranky butt during Taper Week!

The taper length depends on what you’ve been training for. It can be 7 days to 3 weeks. If your taper is too short you risk being tired on race day. If it’s too long you risk losing some of the fitness you’ve built up. I think the decision lies with the individual person. Only they know their bodies and their training to date.


The Portland Century Bike ride is Sunday, August 21st. Just a short week away. If you are a newish reader, the back story is this:

In May of 2010 Michael and I biked in our first organized ride, Reach The Beach. I was a newbie biker and also training for the Hood to Coast Relay Race. It was a busy year with a lot of training but on race day we successful completed it! For RTB I biked 55 miles and Michael did the 80 mile route. We loved the organized rides and wanted to do more of them.

The Portland Century is a 100 mile bike ride throughout the Portland Metro area. It’s one of the most popular organized rides in Oregon as well. The original plan when we decided to do this ride was to do the full 100 miles. A few months ago the route was changed and those 100 miles were full of insane hills–out of our abilities. We decided to switch to the 70 mile route:

“This route features some of Portland’s best off road paths and routes. You’ll pedal a stretch along the gorgeous Historic Columbia River Highway. You’ll cruise back to the finish line along the Springwater Corridor, passing Jenne Butte, Powell Butte and Johnson Creek along the way. The course is relatively flat and travels along scenic, low traffic roads.” The route is seen here.

My training has been going well. I started commuting to work by bike and eventually biked the whole way from the house.  Michael and I did some long bike rides. My weekly mileage was averaging between 50-65 miles. I feel pretty confident. I’d hoped to get my mileage to 80 for the week before the Century and didn’t, but I got close.


Now it’s Taper Week. This means:

  • No hard/long bike rides this week. I might bike to work Tuesday.
  • Limiting carbs. I think I’ll go back to the Slow-Carb diet thing for a few days. That means soups and salads with protein for lunch and the normal non-carb foods we already eat for breakfast and dinner.
  • No sugar. This will be hard. But I’m going to try and avoid dessert all week. No candy, no chocolate. I will eat fruit though.
  • No alcohol. See above–it’s just carbs and sugar!
  • No weight lifting. The last thing I need is to be sore or pull a muscle.
  • No gardening! This is such a stupid mistake that I’ve made too many times. I do NOT need sore hamstrings before the race!
  • Foam Roll every single day this week.
  • Drink lots of water this week.

The exercise I will be doing is swimming and walking, maybe an easy jog or some yoga. It’s going to be a long week!

QUESTION: How do you handle taper week? What’s the biggest challenge for you?

14 Responses

  1. Yeah, I kinda wish every week would be a taper week… haha.

    No really, I’m really good at tapering. I hardly get the itch to run at all. I love sleeping in and having an excuse to be lazy. It’s fantastic. I probably should be better about the diet and paying more attention to carbs and water and watching the alcohol intake but HECk you only live once. 😉
    Leah @ L4L recently posted..Multi-Cooker Monday?

    1. I usually don’t go too batty during taper week. I do get the phantom pains. And sometimes I stress about not working out as much. But at the same time I’m also super focused on having a good race day and I don’t want to screw that up!

  2. For me, not lifting is the hardest thing for a taper week. Plus, not eating too much. I still want to eat as much even though I am not moving as much. I would do just a couple short rides this week. Slow flat rides of maybe 10 miles early this week, then 5 miles later this week.
    Lori recently posted..47 miles to yogurt!

    1. I was hoping to bike part way to work tomorrow but Michael’s car issues might make that impossible. I’m not sure if doing 24 miles tomorrow on the bike will help me or hurt me Sunday…

  3. Lisa,
    One day I got up and said “I am going to do the half marathon” and I did it and then spent a week or two sick and also hurting. Yes, I was foolish.

    I really admire how much well you train and how much you enjoy the process. (I never heard of tapering).

    I love my workouts but I barely remember to cool down, let alone prepare properly for a major physical event. I keep trying to remind myself that I can start small with a 5k or 8k but I do not know if I can add only more regimens into my life so I continue my varied workouts and activities and keep watching the real athletes from the sidelines.

    Jane~
    Keepingthepoundsoff.com
    jane Cartelli recently posted..Auto Club or Suicide Hotline

    1. It was all a learning process. I learned from my mistakes at each race. I am also guilty of biting off more I can chew. It’s easy to do because you get excited about the big race!

  4. I have never heard of tapering. Another tip that is going to save me agony in the future! Thank you!
    I can see how tapering can be stressful. Change in routine is enough to send me into a panic. It sounds like you have a GREAT plan for your week. Lot’s of relaxing type movement. Maybe you will even find enjoyment as you feel yourself relaxing? 🙂
    I can’t wait to hear your updates on this race. I plan on doing the MS 150 next year! YIKES!!!
    Jill recently posted..Scale Victory

      1. The MS 150 is a 2 day cycling event. It is a fund raiser for muscular dystrophy. You can ride 30, 50, 75 or 100 miles. There is a big party at the end! Now that my foot is healed my goal is to begin training so that I can ride the 100 miles. I think I can, I think I can, I think I can…

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