Tapering for a Race
Taper, or tapering, refers to the reduction of exercise before a race. Tapering is believed to be essential for best performance and can take from as little to a week to two or three weeks.
You will find your own rituals before a race but here are just a few bits of advice that might make any run/race a little less stressful.
The day before your race eat sensibly, drink plenty of water and set out your race gear so it’s all ready for you in the morning. Set 2 alarms just to make sure you don’t over sleep and eat breakfast even if your stomach is churning, try not to eat anything that you haven’t eaten before, you don’t want it reacting to you half way through the race. In your bag make sure you have warm layers for after the race, paracetamols, tissues, something to eat after the run (some kind of sandwich made on wholemeal bread and a packet of crisps and some water).
Set off in plenty of time so that you don’t get stressed trying to park and if possible try to car share with someone as it makes the whole experiece more fun. Make sure you drink plenty of water or lucazade, again don’t try anything new, but it’s fine to not have anything an hour before the race starts. You will want to go to the toilet a million times this is just mother nature getting rid of the nerves, Imodium is very good for calming the bowels down, but if you haven’t taken it before a run before, don’t start now. Just accept the fact that you will need to poo a lot of times before the start line (And so will the rest of the runners hence antibacterial hand wash after you have been to the loo and a strong stomach for the smell!).
We will do our usual RV warm up so try and find our flag if it is being used or get to the arranged place as soon as you arrive. As soon as you get to the venue, most big runs have organised warm ups but I always like to do ours first. After the warm up make your way to the starting line and keep moving around as much as possible and don’t panic, you are part of one big show and everyone is nervous around you. As the race gets nearer stand with your hands on your hips like you are superwoman/man and mentally prepare yourself for what is ahead and tell yourself you are invincible.
Pacing – You will suffer for a long time if you don’t pace wisely, if you start too fast or surge too quickly you’ll exceed your threshold and waste glycogen supplies, going too fast sets you up for failure, the result being you will either a long struggle over the last several miles or you may even drop out. Run at a comfortable pace for you and only you know what this is. So monitor your pace and race the mile you are in, try not to overthink the race and try to visualise it in your mind, set goals to get to certain mile markers or landmarks and then set out to knock them off one at a time. Take walk breaks if necessary, if you are having a bad day then don’t panic, alternate running with walking if your body just can’t keep running non stop. Better to finish than stubbornly run until you can’t take another step or cause serious injury. Ease into the run, see the first 2 miles as a warm up, stay as calm as possible and save your mental energy for the second half of the run. As you ease into the middle section of the run, let your mind wander, but don’t let your pace slip. At halfway see where you are, how do you feel, if you feel good this will give you a mental lift, if you are off a little bit and struggling then readjust your time goal. Break the last miles down, think mentally it’s an RV session and you can do it. Again just live in the mile and be assured that it will end, as you near the finish line, the crowds will give you a great boost and remember your sprint finish. Find your super strength and use it, it may be a sprint finish, it may be that you never give up no matter what, but focus on your achievement. Remember most importantly run tall, pockets to sockets and snap, crackle and pop! Trust your training, your body doesn’t know how far it has to run, it will just find the energy to meet the demands of the run so trust this and don’t give in to negative thoughts. And remember to smile, collect your goodie bag, pick up your bags and come and share your story with us all at the RV meeting point. Good or bad, it’s just part of the running journey.
So here we are on week 8 of Run for 60. Life may have got in the way and you may have not made it to training and it might have been hard to find the incentive to keep on going especially if you have just lost your mojo and can’t get your head around focusing on this new goal. Finding your motivation to get out and run especially when you have finished work and the last thing you want to do is leave your cosy front room, it’s easy to put the run off. Running is hard and it’s difficult developing mental toughness, you remember the feeling of finishing a run when the hardest thing to do is just put your trainers but running with friends can give you an incredible confidence boost which you can build upon and this will help you get out there again next time. So here are my running tips for starting to enjoy running again.
1 Have fun. If you don’t have fun running you won’t stick with it. Do the majority of your runs at a relaxed pace and enjoy life around you, tune out or just chat but make sure escape the daily pressures. My main piece of advice, don’t make running another stress in your life, if you do you could burn out and running won’t be fun anymore. Run without your watch, you’ll be surprised how relaxing it is.
2 Register for races. Having a goal is a great way to motivate yourself, sign up to a couple that you know other people are doing, or do a different park run. Make the races achievable and reachable but adjust your goals if life gets in the way (See point 1).
3 Remind yourself of the health benefits. Why did you start running in the first place, was it to improve fitness, loose weight, feel good about yourself. Remind yourself of how far you have come from when you first starting running and every time you get out and run you reinforce that positive behaviour which in turn helps to achieve your goal. Remember those feelings of personal achievement and pleasure when you completed your first 5k from the beginner’s group, keep those feelings in sight.
4 Prepare your clothing before you come home from work. Have everything ready to go so you don not need to spend anytime preparing or even thing about what you need. The same goes with preparing what you are going to eat in the day so that you don’t get tempted to have a large meal when you get in as you are so hungry.
5 Invest in the right running clothes for running . Having the right clothing is as the seasons change is essential, so invest in the right clothing and it will make getting out so much more bearable.
6 Plan rewards. Plan some rewards for yourself, short term and long term, this could be massages, pedicures, manicures, buying new clothes. Anything that works for you, remember running is hard but it’s also meant to be fun, remember the benefits are so rewarding and in my opinion so worth the effort. x
As some of you are beginning to run longer distances in preparation for the longer races that you are doing, GSR, Bournemouth and Gosport half, I have written some basic advice about fuel and hydration. This topic area is huge so I’ve condensed it down to what I think are the most important things.
After 60-90 minutes of running, you begin to deplete glycogen supplies, basically carbs that are stored in your muscles that are the critical fuel for you to keep going now that you are increasing your miles. Fuelling up with carbs before and during running helps you to avoid “hitting the wall” which is where you run low on glycogen and feel like you are running through treacle. Lack of fuel prior to running can cause mental tiredness and dehydration not only limits performance but it can also be life threatening.
Now is the time to start practising drinking and taking on fuel as you start to increase your miles on your training runs. This is just general advice, try different things and see what works for you.
1 If you wait until you are thirsty to drink, it may be too late. Don’t wait until late in the run or until you feel hot; it takes up to 20 mins for the fluid to be absorbed. So drink at least every 30 to 45 minutes for easy training runs and at least every hour in cooler weather. Water is adequate to replace lost fluids for runs up to an hour but beyond that replace fluids and improve performance by hydrating with sports drinks. Sports drinks supply a low concentration of carbs, you would have to drink a lot to equal the fuel power of a gel.
2 Energy gels eg TORQ, SIS, GU contain a number of ingredients that provide instant energy in the form of 30g of carbs. The gels are easy to consume when on the run although can be quite sticky and I would advise having one of these half way into your training run and possibly 2 miles towards the end. Again, have a play around with them, see what works for you. Try pinning the gels onto you top if you don’t fancy carrying them in your pocket. Alternatively you could eat 6 jelly babies as this would give you the same amount of energy and they aren’t quite as sticky and are cheaper.
Experiment with various energy sources before, during and after training runs and practise races until you find what works for you. Please don’t eat them for the first time before or during an important race since they may upset your stomach.
A tempo run is a sustained effort at lactate threshold intensity, which is the fastest pace that can be sustained for one hour in highly fit runners and the fastest pace that can be sustained for 20 minutes in less fit runners. Tempo or threshold runs serve to increase the speed you can sustain for a prolonged period of time and to increase the time you can sustain that relatively fast pace. These runs should include warm up mileage, the increased effort in the middle of the run and then cool down miles at the end. These runs can be as little as 3 miles.
Interval workouts consist of repeated shorter segments of fast running separated by slow jogging or standing recoveries. This format enables a runner to pack more fast running into a single workout than he or she could with a single prolonged fast effort to exhaustion.
The main thing is to try something different and see what works for you, have some fun, push yourself in a safe environment and see what happens ;)
A recovery run is a relatively short run performed at an easy pace. Recovery runs serve to add a little mileage to a runner’s training without taking away from performance in the harder, more important workouts that precede and follow them. Recovery runs are best done as the next run after a hard workout such as an interval run. Do your recovery runs as slowly as necessary to feel relatively comfortable despite lingering fatigue from your previous run.
A base run is a relatively short to moderate-length run undertaken at a runner’s natural pace. While individual base runs are not meant to be challenging, they are meant to be done frequently, and in the aggregate they stimulate big improvements in aerobic capacity, endurance, and running economy. Base runs will make up a bulk of your weekly training mileage.
Generally, a long run is a base run that lasts long enough to leave a runner moderately to severely fatigued. The function of a long run is to increase raw endurance. The distance or duration required to achieve this effect depends, of course, on your current level of endurance. As a general rule, your longest run should be long enough to give you confidence that raw endurance will not limit you in races. There are many spins you can put on a long run, such as progressing the pace from start to finish or mixing intervals (described on the last page) into the run.
A progression run is a run that begins at a runner’s natural pace and ends with a faster segment at anywhere from marathon down to 10K pace. These runs are generally intended to be moderately challenging—harder than base runs but easier than most threshold and interval runs. Because they’re a medium-effort workout, the recovery time is less than more intense sessions.
A fartlek workout is a base run that mixes in intervals of varying duration or distance. It’s a good way to begin the process of developing efficiency and fatigue resistance at faster speeds in the early phases of the training cycle, or to get a moderate dose of fast running later in the training cycle in addition to the larger doses provided by tempo/threshold and interval workouts. They can also serve as a less-structured alternative to a traditional interval session such as a track workout
Hill repeats are repeated short segments of hard uphill running. They increase aerobic power, high-intensity fatigue resistance, pain tolerance, and run-specific strength. The ideal hill on which to run hill repeats features a steady, moderate gradient of 4 to 6 percent. Hill repetitions are typically done at the end of the base-building period as a relatively safe way to introduce harder high-intensity training into the program.
It is a fine balance between eating healthily but also wanting to eat more as you are using up energy when you run. And if you don’t have enough fuel in your body you will feel like you are running through treacle. Lack of fuel prior to running can cause mental tiredness and dehydration which can make you feel rubbish when you run. Throw the bathroom scales away and don’t reward yourself too much for a run with food, yes you are burning calories but not as many as you think, I run over 40 miles a week and I still have to watch what I eat. I put weight on when training for my first marathon as I thought I could eat what I wanted, and I found to my cost that I couldn’t. Here is my advice
As a runner your body needs carbohydrates and these are stored as energy in the muscles and liver as glycogen, they are then quickly and efficiently released when you are active or exercising. You also need good fats as these are an essential source of fuel and energy but they are released more slowly. Protein is essential in running as you need it for repairing of the muscles. To make your body work more efficiently you need water for effective storage of glycogen, basically the water keeps the glycogen in your muscles until you need it.
Glycemic Index is a numerical measure of how quickly foods containing Carbs which boost your blood glucose levels after eating and high GI foods- 0ver 70 fill you quickly and give a fast burst of energy however they leave you hungry again a short time later whereas low GI foods below 50 fill you up but raise blood glucose slowly giving a more continuous energy release.
So if you are getting you energy from high GI foods these will fill you up quickly and give a fast burst of energy however they leave you hungry again after a short time later. Try not to skip meals as you won’t be storing any energy ready for your run and you could make you feel rubbish and if you are not drinking enough you won’t be keeping what carbs you have in your muscles ready for your exercise.
The majority of fruits and vegetables fall in low to medium GI foods whilst some processed foods eg cornflakes, white bread are high in GI. Look at improving your quality of food intake so stage your food intake regularly through the day to maximise storage, be aware of the high GI index of carbohydrates so that you maximise balanced energy requirements and make sure you drink at least 2 litres of water a day. I’d advise when you come in from a run that have food that is high in protein to help repair muscles.
I suggest that you optimise how much nutrition you have in one day, make sure you have foods that are high in nutrients and vary what you eat day by day so mix it up a bit, have stewed fruit for breakfast, black pudding or ham and eggs. Try to have porridge or a smoothie for breakfast this will release energy slowly. Snack on fruit and nuts, banana nut butter sandwich and try to cut down on your sugar content in your food so aim for food that has no more sugar content than 6/7g per 100g. You will find that low fat foods have more sugar so go for full fat and have Greek yoghurt (Total 0% fat is best for low sugar and then throw in some blueberries or raspberries, add a bit of honey or maple syrup).
Try having hummus and whole-wheat pitta bread for lunch with cut up peppers, celery, carrot sticks. Have oat cakes with nut butter on them in the afternoon when there is a dip in energy
Try different things and see what works for you, eat at least 2 hours before you run and if you are really hungry before your run you can have a banana to keep you going. Try to be balanced in your food intake and then the odd burger at the weekend won’t do you any harm
Running can be uncomfortable especially when you are just getting started but it should never hurt. Aches and pains in the feet, ankles and shins are common among runners and to be honest most running injuries will go away in time. The best predictors of an injury are previous injuries so sometimes you have to think back, maybe you broke a leg or sprained an ankle as a child, this trauma can rear its head later on in life especially if you have just taken up running and haven’t exercised for a long time. We tend to lose our flexibility the older we get so it is so important to look after yourself once you start to increase your mileage.
An important part of running is learning to recognise the warning signs of an injury early. Mild stiffness or tenderness that doesn’t go away after a day or two’s rest or after the first few minutes of a run is one of the first signals.
Unfortunately, no one is injury-proof but before you panic, wait to see if the pain resolves itself within 24 to 36 hours. If it does, and you feel OK after your next run, that probably means you’re good to go, however if you limp or notice a change in your running style, you need to stop and address the issue as this can lead to long term damage that may mean you have to stop running permanently.
Running is hard as you don't see the results over night, it takes time, commitment and consistency but one of the things that running does teach you is to have patience.
You have to be extra patient when you are injured and being injured forces this patience upon you. You have to create a plan B if you experience setbacks and that can be hard...especially if it seems that everyone else is doing so well. A week can seem like a lifetime...
1. Don't deny that you are injured, you have to deal with it and accept your injury but you may also experience some anger and depression and refuse to stop running, however you will reach a point where the pain forces you to stop. You will be able to return to your training plan if you allow the healing process the time that it needs.
2. Stick to a routine, walk when you would have run, by sticking to your normal training routines you will still gain the psychological benefits of regular exercise.
3. Keep up running friendships and support others in races, supporting is a great way to experience the race without the stress and it is appreciated by runners so much.
4. Cross train so that you don't end up feeling lethargic and fat, go swimming, do yoga or Pilates, strength training to build up muscle strength, go biking, it will really help fill the void.
5. Most importantly return to running with realistic expectations, start slowly and build gradually, set goals and don't do too much, too soon with too little recovery.
As you start to build up your miles and get into good habits of running a couple of times a week, sometimes life gets in the way of running! Running well requires being in balance with the rest of your life and what goes on around you can have an effect on your running just as running can have an effect on your life.
Running and how to stay injury free is one of the most pressing questions on every runner's mind and as you start to increase your distance and time on your feet here are a few of my golden rules for staying as injury free as possible.
Having run with women for a number of years, I get to hear about all sorts of problems that a lot of people don’t talk about, as you know I am a very open book and I’m happy to talk about things that other people may be a little bit embarrassed about.
Sticking with a plan and staying on track can be hard when you have seen so much progress going from 0 to 5km in a relatively short period of time as you may just want to run and run and run.
Running is an incredibly effective and immediate stress-reducing activity, you can often hear me saying the running cures everything. It clears the mind, stimulated the release of “happy” hormones, it can increase your energy levels, help you to lose weight, gain fitness, the list is quite long.
For those of you who would like to increase your distance from a 5k run to trying the challenge of a 10k, I have uploaded an 8 week plan which fits in nicely with the New Forest 10k run on the 10th September.