— by Claire Duncan
Are you in the last few weeks of training before your first triathlon? Now is the time to start tapering, the period where you reduce training volume in preparation for race day. Depending on the length of your race, your taper will last around one to three weeks. Most race plans will have a built-in taper, but here are some tips to keep in mind as you wind down.
1. Reduce volume but maintain the intensity
The goal of tapering is to reduce the frequency of your training sessions but keep up the intensity when you do train. This means training at race pace and maybe even fitting in some high-intensity intervals in each sport. However, be careful with swimming. Because of how technical it is, you risk greater muscular fatigue if you don’t back off the intensity enough in the last weeks leading up to your race.
2. Listen to your body
It’s normal to feel lethargic during your taper. After all, you’ve been mentally and physically training for months. Remember that this period of recovery is essential. Don’t push yourself too much and if you feel you need an extra rest day, you probably do. Completing every small workout just because they’re in your training plan doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll be better off. Take ice or Epsom salt baths, stretch, and stay off your feet on days you aren’t training.
3. Gather your gear and practice your transitions
Your taper period is the perfect time to fine-tune your transitions and make sure you have all the equipment you need. Do some mock T1 and T2 run-throughs so they will feel second nature when you’re racing. Use these last weeks to make sure you’ve packed everything you’ll need – it’s a good idea to bring backups of gear like bike tubes, goggles and sunscreen.
4. Get a massage
If you don’t usually get massages, ignore this one. Many triathletes see considerable benefits in their training by getting a massage every two to four weeks, even if they aren’t suffering from any sports-specific injuries. During your taper, getting a massage more frequently can help muscle recovery and reduce anxiety. Schedule your last massage four to five days before your race. Just like a hard workout, your body needs a rest after a deep massage. Drink water to help flush out toxins released during the massage.
Use your taper weeks to catch up on sleep because the nights before a big race may leave you feeling too anxious to sleep well. Head to bed early when possible and even give yourself a few mornings to sleep in, something we triathletes rarely do! Remember that it’s normal to be restless the night before your race. However, you’ll feel more confident on race morning if you know you’ve had enough sleep in the weeks before your big day.