Since I’m in a training taper for the Savannah Rock ‘n Roll Marathon, I’m sharing how to not go completely insane when the high-mileage bedrock of your days suddenly becomes an occasional 30-minute excursion. Last week, I shared tapering basics, but this week is how to not go crazy during a taper.

How to not go crazy during a taper: Cutting back your mileage that was the bedrock for your days can be unsettling, but its the best way to spend the last few weeks leading up to a marathon or half marathon. Learn how to not go crazy here.

How to Not Go Crazy During a Taper

Re-frame Taper Week 1

While you’re cutting back your mileage, you still run a lot (80 to 90% volume) in the first week of the taper. You aren’t far removed from when this taper’s mileage was your actual mileage.

Consider executing the first week as a planned but pretend it’s not a taper or “rest period” which can lead to feelings of laziness, worry, or stress.  Follow the rules of the taper of not pushing too hard, but re-frame it so you have one less week to possibly go crazy.

Keep your routine

I’m guilty of this during this taper. A 5, 8, 20 mile run fits in only so many time-blocks in your day. You develop a routine to get those runs done. But a 3 mile run? You could do that this morning… or you could wait till this afternoon… evening? And when you push it off multiple times, you can even start to wonder if you need to do it at all.

Keep your routine. Run on your run days. If you’re a morning runner, run in the morning. If you run with a group on Sundays, meet up on Sunday and just turn around early if they aren’t tapering too.

Maintaining the structure of previous training will keep you sane and focused.

Friends walking

Find ways to spend the extra time

When you cut your training plan to 60% or 40%, you are going to end up with extra time. Be mindful of where it goes. You want a healthy balance of rest without wasting away on the couch.

Keep activity light. This isn’t the time to see what Orange Theory or Cross-Fit is all about. Don’t start a new landscaping project.

Play fetch with the dog. Meet your friend for a walk around the park. Pick up a book.

Eat well and avoid excess

Fall race tapering is smack in the middle of football season. For me, it is easy to spend my extra time on the couch, watching football, eating snacks, and drinking beer. And those pizza commercials get me all the time!

Consuming copious amounts of sugar, alcohol, fat, and junk food leads me to feeling sluggish. And I know that feeling sluggish leads me to feeling panicked that I can’t complete an endurance event.

Eat lots of good food that your body needs in race preparation. Moderate food that doesn’t serve your body.

Don’t ignore your recovery methods

As the miles drop, stretching, ice baths, and protein shakes beg skipping. Even more time for TV! But recovery is the entire purpose of tapering. Don’t lose focus now.

Look back at your training schedule and find an early week that matches your taper. What things were you taking seriously in week 3? Consider that Week-3-You would want to punch Taper-You for skipping your stretching session, and go stretch.

Yoga mats on the wall

Allow yourself short bursts of speeds

Slogging through miles in the heat, I question whether I will ever run fast again. Then cooler weather rolls in and the taper brings short distances — and all the sudden I can’t slow down! But I know I shouldn’t throw my body into a new fast training program right before the race.

I typically allow myself one fast run early or mid-way through the taper just to get it out of my system. I get the confidence boost of going fast, but give my body time to recover. Then I can go back to training pace and complete my runs there.

Know that your ability and desire to go fast means the taper is working!

Strides, fartleks, or some short goal pace intervals are good to tune-up your legs in the week leading up to the race. They will also make you feel more ready to tackle the miles at pace ahead.

Give yourself these small bursts of speed to defuse and feel less crazy during the taper.

Remember why you taper

During the taper, instead of running high mileage to serve your body, you serve your body in other ways.

Be mindful of how much you sleep, what you eat, hydration, and stress.

If you take the taper seriously, you will prepare your body to run a great race, smash PRs, and even set yourself up for a faster recovery.

Taper sanely, my friends.

Further reading:

How to not go crazy during a taper: Cutting back your mileage that was the bedrock for your days can be unsettling, but its the best way to spend the last few weeks leading up to a marathon or half marathon. Learn how to not go crazy here.

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How do you stay sane during a taper?