What is tapering?
Tapering refers to the practice of reducing exercise in the days just before an important competition.
What?! Slow down our training right before the race? Does that make sense?
Many of us fear that we will lose our edge and add to our waistlines if we cut back on our running, even for a short time. However, scientific evidence suggests that temporary training reductions bolster leg muscle power, reduce lactic acid production, and can cut minutes off race times. In contrast, hard workouts just before a race can produce nagging injuries and can deplete leg muscles of their key fuel for running– glycogen. The tapering phase is a critical part of your marathon training. During the last couple of weeks of your training, tapering gives your body and mind a chance to prepare for your marathon. Running less reduces your risk of injury, gives you time to rest and recover, and allows your muscles to store carbohydrates in preparation for the big race.
How to Taper
There are different opinions as to how long to taper, from one to three weeks before a run. As a rule: a longer race requires a longer tapering period, a shorter race- shorter tapering period. Here is one option for a tapering schedule…
3 weeks before your marathon:
- Do your last long run three weeks before the marathon. After that, cut your mileage down to about 80% of what you were doing.
- Resist the urge to train harder and run faster. You’re not going to make any fitness improvements with three weeks to go before the marathon. At this point: *Less is more!*
2 weeks before your marathon:
- With two weeks to go until race day, cut mileage to about 50 to 75% of what you had been doing.
- Don’t be surprised if you feel some new aches and pains during the tapering period. It’s a normal part of the process, as your body repairs itself from months of training.
- Sleep is also an important part of the tapering process. You don’t need to sleep for excessive amounts of time, but try to get at least eight hours a night.
1 week before your marathon:
- Cut mileage to about one-third of normal during your final week before the marathon. Keep your normal pace for the most part. Slowing too much can alter your stride or make you feel sluggish.
- If you have a muscle strengthening routine built into your training, give your muscles a chance to rest and skip it in the final week before your marathon. You won’t get the benefits from it until after the marathon anyway.
- Work on your mental preparation by reviewing the course map.
- Take at least one or two days off from running during marathon week. Some people prefer to take off the two days before the race, while others do a very easy 20 to 30-minute run the day before the race to work out last-minute nerves.
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As the marathon approaches,
one question you may be asking yourself is“What should I eat?”
Here are a few guidelines from Coaches Devora & Tsvi for the week before the marathon to help you build a proper and healthy “runner’s diet”:
- Throughout the week you should stick with a high-carbohydrate diet. This includes breads (especially whole grain), pasta, rice cereals, potatoes, fruits & vegetables.
- Include plenty of nutritious foods, for example: lean meat, fish, low-fat dairy produce, fruits, vegetables and whole grain. Be careful not to add too many high-fat, high-sugar foods– chocolate, biscuits, cakes, etc.– particularly as snacks. Keep to regular portion sizes and stick to 3 balanced meals a day plus 2 or 3 quality snacks as you reduce your mileage for this final week (tapering).
- Watch fat consumption! Excessively fatty foods fill the stomach and the fat cells, but leave the muscles less fueled.
- Do not cut back too much on your energy intake, but don’t stuff yourself. You will be training less and eating the same. This way, the calories you would normally expend during training can be used to fuel your muscles.
- Hydration: Make sure you stay well-hydrated this week! The weather in Jerusalem this time of year is unknown and could be cold and rainy, but it is critical to keep drinking. Water is needed to convert carbohydrates to glycogen– the fuel you’ll need to run well on marathon day. Being well-hydrated may add a couple of pounds to your weight, but don’t worry– this will not affect your race! Drink plenty of fluids on marathon morning. Drink several glasses up to 2 hours before the marathon, then tank up again 5 to 15 minutes before the starting gun. Throughout the Jerusalem Marathon there are plenty of places where they give out small water bottles. You can visit the marathon website for more details.
The day before the marathon…
The nutritional aim of the day before your marathon is to fill up your reserves. This doesn’t mean you need to eat large quantities!
- You should keep your last evening meal simple and do not over-eat.
- Stick to carbohydrate foods you know you have tolerated well in training. If you eat pasta, keep the sauce simple. (Avoid any sauces with spices, cream and garlic; if you don’t like pasta, you can base your last carbohydrate meal on brown rice, couscous, buckwheat or corn.)
- Remember to include a small amount of protein (for example: chicken, fish, or some cheese) along with your carbohydrates.
- Finish your meal with a couple of portions of fresh fruit and a yogurt.
- Before you go to sleep don’t forget to drink water, and be sure to avoid alcohol and caffeine.You need a good night’s sleep before the marathon!
- Eat a familiar breakfast 1-to-3 hours before the start of the race.
- Have a cup of coffee if that is your habit, but watch caffeine consumption!
- Be sure to eat after the race! The Jerusalem Marathon provides some food for immediate consumption after the race, which is very important: consuming at least a small amount of carbohydrates within the first 20 minutes after running has been shown to optimize replacement of muscle fuel.
- Continue to eat plenty of post-marathon recovery carbohydrates to refuel your muscles. This includes whole grains– bread, rice and pasta– and fruits and vegetables. Take in adequate protein– meat, dairy and fish– to help in healing damaged muscles. Team Crossroads is planning a BBQ that will provide all of the above for our runners and friends…Hope to see you there!
Most people who start running say that it makes them feel better–physically, mentally, emotionally. Running is among the best aerobic exercises for physical conditioning of your heart and lungs. Studies have shown the health benefits to be enormous, reducing the likelihood of everything from the common cold to cancer. When you run your stamina will increase. You’ll lose weight; most beginners lose nearly a pound a week! For those of us couch potatoes, that itself is reason enough.
Just as important, running– like many forms of exercise– is a great cure for stress, emotional strain, even mild depression. You’ll likely find yourself with fewer headaches and more energy, patience, humor and creativity. Studies have found that healthy adults who exercise regularly are generally happier than those who don’t.
And running, quite simply, is convenient. You don’t need any elaborate gear. No special playing field or apparatus. No need to juggle the schedules of others. All you need is a pair of shoes and the inclination to get out the door.
So lets go!
How to start? Tips for beginners:
1) Getting a physical exam from your doctor should be a priority, especially if you’ve been sedentary for a year or more, you don’t currently exercise and are over age 65, you’ve been diagnosed with heart trouble or another medical condition (high blood pressure, diabetes, a family history of heart disease), you’re pregnant, overweight, a current or former smoker or have chest pain, especially when exerting yourself.
2) Warm-up and cool-downs: Many people prefer to skip these since it seems like a waste of good running time. *Don’t!* It doesn’t take a lot of time, and will ensure that you don’t hurt your body and have an efficient and healthy run.
Why is the warm-up and cool-down so important? A good warm-up dilates your blood vessels, ensuring that your muscles are well supplied with oxygen. It also raises your muscles’ temperature for optimal flexibility and efficiency. By slowly raising your heart rate, the warm-up also helps minimize stress on your heart when you start your run.
Just as critical, the cool-down keeps the blood flowing throughout the body. Stopping suddenly can cause light-headedness because your heart rate and blood pressure drop rapidly. Winding down slowly allows them to fall gradually.
Do about 5-10 minutes of light aerobic exercise to loosen up your muscles and warm you up for your run. Try walking briskly, marching, jogging slowly, or cycling on a stationary bike. After you’re warm it’s time to stretch (see following point for details), and then you can start running. After you finish your run, cool down by walking or slowly jogging for 5 to 10 minutes. Stretch fully after your cool down. Your body should be warm and stretching should be easy.
3) Stretching: It’s best to do your pre-run stretching after your warm up since “warm” muscles stretch more easily. You have to be careful about how you stretch. If not done properly, stretching can actually cause injury rather than prevent it. How do we stretch properly? Despite what you may have seen others do it is critical *not to bounce* in the stretch. It’s a common mistake, but bouncing risks pulling or tearing the muscle you’re trying to stretch and relax. Muscles must be stretched gradually. If a stretch is applied too quickly, the muscle responds with a strong contraction, increasing tension. If the stretch is applied slowly, however, this contraction reflex is avoided, muscle tension falls, and you may stretch the muscle further. Stretch slowly and hold the stretch for 30 to 40 seconds.
Do not stretch beyond the point where you begin to feel tightness in the muscle. Do not push through muscle resistance, and *never* stretch to the point of discomfort or pain.
Here are a few recommended stretches: