State of the Union: Its All About the Taper

images (1)For the last three weeks I have reduced my volume of training but increased the intensity via brick workouts.  The plan has been to do three week of high intensity brick workouts, on Monday, Wednesday and Friday.  I am currently on the third of these brick weeks with my final high intensive push.  Next week leads to race day and of course I have been contemplating the taper phase.  When I worked out this plan initially I had figured that taper week would involve light workouts Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday ad Thursday with Friday and Saturday off.  These workouts were to be super light, low pressure workouts.  Unfortunately the internet happened and now I am questioning this strategy.

In sports theory and triathlon ‘Taper’ is a term used to describe the period when an athlete reduces their efforts and intensities in order to be ready and prepared for a race.  Google this and sprint triathlon turns up a myriad of opinions on how best to do this, if at all.  Some people see it as being pointless in a sprint race while others contain differing opinions on what exactly ‘tapering’ means.  I am trying to make sure I have a solid plan for next week based on my current ‘feeling’ with the goal of having the best first race performance possible.

imagesBy ‘feeling’ I am talking about how I currently feel as I perform my last bricks before the race and how I feel heading into next week.  After two and a half weeks of performing bricks at a fairly high intensity I have noticed my legs certainly are no where near fresh.  Spinning at my normal level feels off and sluggish, almost like there is something wrong with the bike and there is too much resistance.  I can complete a long spin session, but I cannot sustain zone 3 heart rate efforts for long periods like I was able to a couple of weeks ago. Running is similar, I feel sluggish on the run and it seems my step has very little bounce.  I have been walking more than I was previously and my running has gotten a little slower.  Swimming is probably the only thing I have not noticed too much of a lag.

Overall I have been feeling more tired than I used to feel.  I try to give myself a full day of recovery between each brick session, but I feel a bit tired and run down lately.  My recovery time has increased after each brick session and I feel more resilience and confidence in performing them.  Overall I feel tired, really tired some days and my body feels weary and a little worn.

The goal of next week is to recharge and freshen up for the race.  But I do not want to go too easy.  Right now I feel like I really need a super easy week next week.  Maybe take Monday, Friday and Saturday off and just do a quick and simple thirty minute workout on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.  I just want to make sure I do not mess up all my work by doing too much or too little.  I feel like I severely am ready for a recovery week, or a reduced week.  Figured I would throw this out there and get a few more opinions before finalizing my race/taper week plans.  I really want to be fresh and ready for my race and not feel so tired and worn out.  Just not certain of how much work I need to put in next week.  I know there will be allot of extra sleeping, time in the sauna and hot tub and time rolling muscles and stretching next week.  Just not sure how much time of everything else there needs to be.

Suggestions for how I should handle next week?

Til next time.


  1. Tapering is difficult to do both mentally and physically. I’m not sure that there is a “correct” way to do it. You do need to back off from your peek miles and reduce your efforts to allow your body some time to heal and recover from what you have been putting it through.
    But do you cut back 25% or 50%? Do you stop doing hill work or speed work? As you say there is a wide variety of opinion on this.
    I would rely on past experience and recall how well your last taper went, how healthy you were on raceday and how your race went.

    1. That’s just the problem, this is my first triathlon, I really do not have a built up body of knowledge regarding what works for me. I know if anything I might have to treat next week more similar to a recovery week, a few really short and simple workouts with lots of rest and recovery. I feel wiped out and like I am only at 65% capacity at best. Good point though, lots to think about.

      1. If you feel wiped out then try to get more rest. Cut back your long run/swim/bike. Personally, I feel that consistant training with fewer miles is better then banging out huge miles on three workout days.
        Maybe cut out the long run, swim or bike completey? They are tough on the muscles and joints. You are probably as fit as you are going to be able to get at this point. No sense continuing to push your boundaries now and risk injury.

      2. I agree, the point of the brick weeks was to get an idea of what the ‘feel’ will be like and to adapt a bit. Due to these I have a very good idea of what I am capable of doing on race day. I have one more heavy training day planned where I am actually riding 12 miles on my bike then running a few. Then its all figuring out next week. I know now I am cut back on all workouts, probably to an almost lazy pace. You have given me some food for thought and added some ideas to my strategy bucket. Thank you.

  2. kruzmeister · · Reply

    You are not going to pick up any more fitness the week before but if you do too much you will certainly affect your efforts on race day. Personally I find light sessions during taper week to be the best. Just keep your body moving so it doesn’t seize up. I take the two days before a race off to fully recoup. I find the nervous energy and excitement on race day more than makes up for any fitness I may be lacking. Just my personal experience but every one is different.

    1. Sounds like a sound plan. I will probably give myself the two days before off. Going to finish up this weeks plans, not to get in better fitness, but to work out a few more kinks.

      1. kruzmeister · · Reply

        Best advice I can give you when practicing transitions is take your time and be methodical. If you try too much for speed you get flustered and end up taking twice as long. If using socks and bike shoes roll the socks up to the toes as they go on wet feet easier then you just roll them on. Make sure you have your bike shoe straps open with the tongue out. For runners use elastic laces with lace locks they are awesome. I also have a small hand towel in transition to wipe any mud or grass off my feet before putting socks on. Hope that helps.

      2. Sound advice, I will definitely have to add those suggestions to memory when I start my transition practice this weekend. Thank you very much.

  3. Be prepared to second guess everything you’ve done and to be hyper aware of every niggling ache and pain and creak in the joints. Joe Friel says its better to be 10% undertrained than 1% overtrained. Excitement and adrenaline will carry you through. The first one will be your best to date. Use it for fun and for experience to learn from.

  4. kruzmeister and iswimbikerunstrong both have the right of it….the only thing that can come from any “intense” training this week is an injury. Your body is saying “I’m tired”….keep it loose and let it rest. I would add to kruzmeister’s advice that if you are using lace locks practice NOT getting them too tight when you lock them…they won’t give and you don’t want to have to stop mid-run to loosen a too tight lace when your feet start swelling. (voice of experience speaking) Just get them snug…not tight. Yes, you will be racked with doubt by Wednesday…resist any temptation to go out and get one more quick workout in. Expect butterflies in your stomach…I was ALWAYS weak-kneed before a matter how well prepared I was. Even on the beach at Kona.
    Most importantly…..keep well…keep yourself safe this week….and have a great race!

    1. Thank you grammadog. I will probably nix the last bike/run and opt for other training instead. I agree extra rest might not be a bad idea with only a week left to go.

  5. […] couple of days ago  I fished for taper week suggestions (here)  and I want to thank everyone for the great words of encouragement and suggestions.  One issue […]

  6. […] State of the Union: Its All About the Taper ( […]

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