Friday, July 16, 2010

The 4 Key Areas of TAPERING for a Race

By Dave Scott


Rule One:
Allowing your body to rest and rebuild over the final four weeks provides the heightened sharpening to your race. Rest does not mean easy training. Maintaining the same percentage of hyper intensity training during the final four weeks is paramount for a fast race day. You cannot just "cruise" through all of your sessions. The nervous system needs to be stimulated. So what does intensity really mean? The total percentage of faster paced efforts should be around 8-20 percent of your total workout time per week for each discipline - swim, bike, run. (For example, you may ride three times per week for a total of six hours. Within this six hour timeframe, there should be up to 20 percent at a higher intensity. 8-20 percent of 360 minutes equals 29-72 minutes). Breaking this into three days includes repeats or a steady tempo session in equal to your optimal race pace. An example of this is interval segment on one ride day would be: 7 x 4 (8%) or 8 x 9 (20%). Again, each repeat is comparable or equal to your previous training higher intensity sessions. Do not try to exceed your "normal" intensity sessions during your final three weeks. Elevating the percentage or speed of intensity will only cause fatigue on race day.

Maintaining the suggested percentages of intensity on 1-3 days per discipline per week is vital for your race.

Rule Two:
Drop your total time per session at this rate (percentage drop from normal training volume each week. I.E.: 360 minutes less 10% equals 324 minutes):

week 4: 10%
week 3: 15%
week 2: 30%
week 1: 60%

The taper should drop off dramatically over the final two weeks.

Rule Three:
Maintain 15-25 minutes of aerobic intensity two to three times per week per discipline. The aerobic heart rate allows the morphine-like compound (endorphins) to purge your system. This "feel good" emphasis is vital during the taper. Stimulating your muscles and breathing rate to a broken conversation pace alleviates anxiety and the sessions will remind your mind and body that you did a light workout. These aerobic sessions can be mixed in with the higher intensity sessions or inserted on another training day. For example, if you have a higher intensity block on the bike designated for your Tuesday session, you would warm up for 15-20 minutes; insert the higher intensity block, followed by the aerobic work. A cool down for 5-10 minutes and that's it. This workout may be a bit long for some of you, so my advice is to insert the aerobic block on a non-intensity day.

Let's take a look at Week Four for an athlete that is preparing for an Olympic distance race. Training time per week would look like this:

Run: 4 hours or 240 minutes
Bike: 6 hours or 360 minutes
Swim: 2 hours or 120 minutes

(HI) Higher intensity (8-20%) would look like this:

Run: 20 to 48 minutes
Bike: 29 to 72 minutes
Swim: 5 to 12 minutes

Days of training per week include: Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday

Psychological and Emotional

Rule One:
Write down 4-10 key words that describe you when you've felt fantastic in a training session. These words should describe each sport. Think of your best training day and write down the "feeling" that allowed you to flow during the workout. For example, a swim workout description might include the following: "fluid, powerful catch, hips floating to the surface". Write these down on a piece of paper and recite them with your eyes closed. See yourself in the race the same "feelings". Practice this mental imagery when you have a calm moment during the day. It only takes 5-10 minutes, so do it!

Rule Two:
Decide what you can control in your race and determine how you're going to do it. This requires you to have a mental map of the race course. Learn the course, either by viewing it online or discussing it with previous racers. Ultimately, you should view the course first-hand during the final days leading up to the race.

Rule Three:
Controlling your emotions will alleviate your anxiety about the race. Recognize what you do well and decide how these skills will guide you during the race. Also, minimize the stressors in your daily routine and take comfort in the routines that allow a psychological and emotional lift to your race preparation.

While I was preparing for the Ironman Kona in 1994, I was advised by a sport psychologist to select only items that I was willing to control in my life and release everything else. This allowed me to focus on tangible tasks and not to wrestle with the mundane psychological turmoil that ultimately hampered my final sharpening for the race.

Rule Four:
Select three levels of goals to your race and write these down.

Level 1 is a solid race. The race may unfold with a few hurdles, but you will overcome these diversions.
Level 2 is the race that mimics your preparation. Your potential is projected by the race outcome. This race is extremely gratifying.
Level 3 is the race that supersedes your expectations. You have visualized a day where you will unleash a race that is 10 to 20 percent above your expectations. This is not a dream, but an achievable goal!


Rule One:
Maintain your weight within one percent of your race weight over the final four weeks. Ideally, you are still trying to shed a few pounds during the taper. Plan on a loss of .8% of your body weight in pounds per week.

Rule Two:
Practice eating your pre-race meal one time per week on your higher intensity workouts.

Rule Three:
Plan out your race nutrition. Total fluid intake and total calories for every 10 to 15 minutes of racing.

Rule Four:
Increase your intake of antioxidant foods and glutamine to combat any potential illness over the final four weeks. Try to select four to six servings per day of antioxidant fruits and/or vegetables.

Glutamine is primarily stored in the lungs and skeletal muscle. Athletes that are prone to infections, allergies and slower recovery, quite often have low plasma glutamine levels. If this is you, consider taking a glutamine supplement of 10-20 grams four times per week during the taper.

Race Awareness

Being prepared for your ultimate race requires preparation over the final four weeks. During the taper, there are several items that I have included in your check list (see below). These are reminders about your race. Take a look at the following list and make sure that you are organized and ready before the event.

• Practice using your race equipment: shoes, aero-bars, fuel belt, swim/bike/run apparel

• Get to bed early

• Go over the course and have a mental map of the course and terrain

• Lay out your race plan: pace in each discipline, fueling intervals and "strong" sections of the race

• Three days before the event, finish dinner at an hour that allows a ten hour spread between dinner and breakfast. (If your race starts at 7am: breakfast is consumed 2-2 ½ hours before the start, then dinner the night before should be consumed by 6:30pm). This allows sufficient transit time between meals and allows your breakfast meal to partially digest before competition. Begin to shift the dinner hour three days prior to the race.

• Warm-up before your event. The ideal warm-up will allow you bring up your aerobic zone for 8-12 minutes and should include 4-6 efforts near race pace. Plan on allowing a warm-up of 15-30 minutes

• Think about your breathing (deep inhales) at the start of the race

• Stand up on the bike during the first 5-10 miles. Stretching your back and calves, while allowing for a subtle change in muscle recruitment, will enhance your overall ride.

• Lastly, do what you can do at the moment. Simply concentrate on the short term. Use the skills that allowed you to peak for the event. Confidence, tenacity and perseverance will prevail...just let it happen.

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