Taper (from Websters Dictionary defined as a verb)
-To diminish gradually

Its 6 days away from the Spartan Beast and Ultra Beast at Killington in Vermont. I put a post on Facebook stating, “To taper or to keep blasting out supersets like there’s no tomorrow”. Everyone who responded said taper. I do like to talk a lot of junk so part of me was kidding, but with my type ‘A’ personality part of me was not. I wanted to go workout.

Lets face it, it’s a week before the race, your nerves are going, you’ve got tons of bottled up energy, and you’re looking to GO! Speaking for myself I know I’m ready to. The worst thing I can do at this time is go blow out some supersets. Go running intensely all the way up to race day. Yes, there’s always the chance of injury, or being sore before the race, but I bet almost every athlete out there is probably over trained to begin with. Being over trained does NOT increase exercise performance. Sounds simple right? I’m no expert, but I decided to do some reading on it. Besides the chance of injury or muscle soreness this is what I found:

~Tapering helps increase glycogen concentration in the muscles. This is needed for the muscles to fuel themselves on race day. Run out of glycogen in a race and you’ll “hit the wall”. One way of avoiding this is by carbohydrate loading. A few days before the race eating fruits, vegetables, and whole wheat pasta is recommended. Some companies even sell carbo loading products if you decide to go that route.  

~Tapering increases muscle strength and power. Here’s a small scale example of a “taper”. I start a workout on Monday. I decide to also train Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday all high intensity workouts. Chances are by Friday, I’m shot. I’ll take Friday and Saturday off. I do just a long slow distance run on Sunday. Come Monday I’m back at the HIIT stuff again, feeling strong like I was a week ago. That’s tapering on a small scale. Break down the body; let it rest to become strong again. Stretch it out 1 to 4 weeks instead of just a couple of days… well you get the picture.  

~Tapering HR Max and VO2 Max. VO2 Max is the best way to measure cardio fitness. Elite athletes have high VO2 Max levels. It is the maximum amount of oxygen your body can use during an exercise. Just like your muscles need glycogen for food, your body also needs oxygen to function properly. The higher intensity of an exercise, the more oxygen is used. Some studies suggest the relationship between heart rate changes in a taper, which effects VO2 Max, could possibly provide an athlete with a slight advantage come race day.  

So in closing eat your carbs and enjoy your taper. Consider it a reward for all the hard work you’ve put in prior to the race. 

Spartan Beast


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