The Taper…

Posted on 04/04/2019

About the author: Erin found his love for running 12 years ago, and has been a student of the sport ever since. Running both road and trail, he has been fascinated with the training methods and approaches of all the great coaches. He founded Flat Rock Endurance upon completion of his National Diploma in Coaching Sciences in 2017, and has been working with athletes of all levels, from complete beginners to elites covering distances from 5 km to 100 miles.

"Sweet Taper" Performance Chart

The “Sweetest Taper”. A TrainingPeaks graph showing the reduction of training volume (taper) to ensure peak fitness and freshness on race day.

The Taper…

It strikes fear into the hearts of the hardiest, bearded, plaid wearing trail runners, and green number, split shorts wearing Comrades vets alike. Bringing up doubts of whether you have trained enough or possibly too much.

Trying to cram mileage like the last minute studying that goes on the morning of a final exam. Avoiding your sick friends like the plague hoping not to catch the ‘Taper Flu’. Managing the pressure of performance placed on you by friends, family, sponsors, the running community or, most likely, yourself.

And all of this is going on when you should be calming the mind and focussing on the challenge ahead. So in order to keep those nerves at bay, stay healthy, and maximise the effectiveness of your taper, have read through the points below:

Why do we taper?

We all love to run, we love running hard, easy, long and short. What we don’t love quite as much are our rest days, we often feel guilty or lazy for not training. But these rest days are when all the magic happens! It’s only when we remove the training load, that the body makes all the adaptations that lead to improvements in fitness and conditioning. So the more you can rest and recover, the harder you can train.

The taper period is the most important period of rest and recovery in the training plan and usually follows the hardest block of training, it can vary in length from a few days to a few weeks depending on the duration of the event and the volume of the training load.  This time of increased recovery and reduced volume will consolidate all your hard work and effort over the past weeks or months and ensure that you are your fittest and freshest on race day.

Keeping this in mind will allow you to see the taper as a valuable part of your training and a well earned reward for those early morning sessions and missed social events!

Setting clear goals

Your goals should excite you, maybe even scare you a little! But they should also be realistic. Lay out A, B and C goals, it might be a top 10 finish, a time goal,  just to finish or it may be a training race that prepares you for a more important race further down the line. Breaking down your goals like this will allow you to adjust to whatever is thrown your way during your taper and the race itself. Going into your taper with clear race goals is a great way to limit stress and ensure that you are properly prepared.

Have faith in your training

Training with structure and purpose will help you build confidence in the training process and your abilities. Knowing that you have trained correctly and are ready for your goal race will make the taper a breeze! You will then understand your taper to be the final part of your preparation, and a part to be treated with equal respect

Stay active

The taper is not a time to be lazy! Stick to your training plan, and look to include walks, gentle hikes, swims and even some yoga. These activities will help you manage some of the nervous energy that is bound to build up when the training load is reduced.

Diet and sleep

Continuing to eat a healthy and balanced diet during your taper will provide the body with the nutrients it requires to rebuild damaged muscle and replenish glycogen stores and electrolytes that would have been lost during your training. It’s also really important to hydrate well during this time.

Just as sleep is important during blocks of hard training it is also important during your taper period as the body will do most of its repairs and recovery while you sleep. So look to get 8-9 hours of sleep consistently during this time. Following this advice will keep your immune system strong and reduce your chances of picking up a cold or flu.

Head space

Finally, don’t give any energy into the negative thoughts that are bound to creep in as race day approaches. Stay positive and maintain a good sense of humour, knowing that you are ready to take on whatever the race throws at you, this will make you more resilient and increase your chances of success.

Run happy and you’ll run well!

Naomi Brand, 3rd women at Hout Bay Trail Challenge, ran in the Ultimate Direction Halo and the Altra King MT’s. She’s coached by Erin and is signed up to do the 100miler at UTD coming up at the end of April. Image: Rory Scheffer

Find out more at :


Leave a Reply