After months of hard training, the last thing you want to do is screw things up the week before your race. More often than not, though, that is easier said than done. The emotions during race week alone are enough to psych you out – not to mention the stress that comes with the packing, logistics, and communication surrounding race day. Managing all these emotions can be tricky, especially when you want to taper smart and spend less time on your feet.
Related: 5 Things I Love About Taper Time
As race week quickly approaches in my 25k training, many of these thoughts are running through my head as well. As the final week of training nears, I am already beginning to taper. Running less mileage combined with the nerves and excitement during race week often lead to second guessing your training and preparation (no matter how many times you’ve done it before).
Navigating the emotions and stresses of race week can be tricky, so must have resources and important tips to get you to race day feeling confident, ambitious and stress free.
Taper Tips and Race Week Tricks
One of the key aspects to a successful race week comes from tapering correctly. While many runners know that taper means they need to reduce their mileage leading up to race day, few runners actually taper smart and listen to their bodies. Here are a few tips to ensure you make the most out of taper for your best race performance ever.
5 Tips for a Successful Taper
- Begin to reduce your running mileage 2-3 weeks before your race. For longer distance races (marathons and half marathons), begin to cut back your mileage about 3 weeks prior to race day; for shorter distances, begin cutting back 2 weeks prior to race day. Cut back your mileage about 10% each week until you reach 60% of your regular mileage during race week.
- Add intensity to one workout early in the week on race week. It’s okay to throw in a few intervals or fartleks early in the week if keep the duration of your workout at about 60-70% of what you’ve done during training. Adding in a few bursts of speed keeps your legs fresh for race day.
- Complete one medium length run in place of your long run the week before your race. If you’re training for a marathon or half marathon, this run might range anywhere from 6-12 miles. If you’re training for a 10k or 5k, complete your final long run that is at least 1 mile longer than your midweek runs.
- Cut out cross training and heavy weight training workouts the week before your race. It’s okay to complete some easy strength training moves (with little to no weights), but now is not the time to sweat it out at the gym on the cardio machines. Avoid anything that leaves your muscles sore or fatigued.
- Make sure to take at least one complete rest day during race week. I usually like to have a day of complete rest the day before a race, but I know others who like to complete a short shakeout run. If you run the day before your race, make sure you have a day of complete rest 2 or 3 days beforehand.
While these basic guidelines will help you have a successful few weeks of taper, everyone’s body is different. Just because your friend runs 3 miles with strides the day before the race doesn’t mean that will help you. It takes a bit of experimentation to determine what is best for your body, but listening to its cues will set you up for success. Feeling more tired than usual? Take a rest day or add an extra hour of sleep. Feeling really antsy? Complete a short strength workout, or run a few miles at an easy pace. Listening to your body while tapering will help set you up for your best race day yet.
The great thing about taper time is that it falls during the most stressful time of preparation: race week. Running fewer miles during the week gives you some extra time to plan and prepare for race day. Whether you are traveling for a destination race, or the start is in your backyard, there are quite a few details you’ll need to know before race morning. Here is a handy guide to ensure you don’t miss any details and are as prepared as possible when you reach the start.
What to Do the Week Before a Race
Finalize any travel and lodging plans.
What hotel are you staying in? When is the check in/check out (will you have time to shower after the race)? Are you riding with someone else – flying, driving, taking an uber? Make sure you have everything planned out beforehand.
Figure out your transportation to and from the race.
Are you driving yourself to the start? How long does it take to get there? Where are the designated parking areas (and how far are they from the start)? Where will you meet your family afterwards? Think through all the possible scenarios to make sure you have your bases covered.
Drink plenty of water throughout the week.
Here are some tips to increase your water intake each day without even trying! Being properly hydrated on race morning will help your body feel fresh as you embark on your journey.
Make sure you get an adequate amount of rest each night.
Two nights before the race is the most important night (which is great news for those of us who can never fall asleep the night before the race)! That being said, the rest of the week is still incredibly important. Do what you can to get to bed on time.
Set your alarm for race morning.
Accidentally sleeping in on race day would be the worst! I like to set my alarm at the beginning of the week once I’ve thought through all my plans.
Plan your packet pickup and when/if you will attend the expo.
Does the expo take place only the day before the race? Where is it located? Is there packet pickup on race morning? Make sure you allow enough time to wait in lines.
Prepare meals that have less fiber and more carbs the two days leading up to the race.
Cut back on your fiber intake in the 3 days leading up to your race, all the while increasing the carb content. Fueling up on carbs is especially important the day before your race – but don’t go overboard. Be mindful in consuming foods that your body is used to eating, like pasta, pizza, etc.
Prep your breakfast for race morning.
Getting your bagel and banana ready to go the night before your race will make the morning that much smoother. Make sure you have the foods you’ll need to eat if you are staying in a hotel.
Check the weather forecast to ensure you have any extra supplies needed.
Will you need rain gear, mittens, visors, or sunscreen? Check the forecast and make sure to look at the hourly. Oftentimes the high for the day is not what the temperature will be when you’re standing outside at 6 am waiting to start.
Pack your bags for race weekend and lay out your clothes for race day!
>>Download the Ultimate Race Day Packing Checklist (for FREE!) to make sure you don’t miss a thing!
While the week before a race brings a lot of added stress and logistical nightmares, it also brings some of the most exciting times. After training for weeks and months, the excitement really reaches its peak as you begin to envision yourself crossing the finish line. You can now sit back and relax, as the hard work is done and you’re ready to celebrate. Here’s hoping you have your best race yet!
Further Race Day Reading: