Sunday, June 20, 2010

The Perfect Taper

Have you trained really hard for your important race but ran or raced poorly because of mucking up your taper.

Runners have always tapered, especially prior to a big race in order to freshen up and improve performance. Rest the mind, rest the muscles, carbo load etc. Big problem is we never know exactly how to get the taper right. Moreover, this is what every runner tapering will fear- losing their hard earned fitness.

Well, here is the latest published research on how to get your taper before your big race correct. Interested? Please read on.

The researchers studied a group of university cross country runners before and after a 3 week tapering period for a 8 km race. At their peak training, the subjects ran 6x a week logging up to 72km (or 45miles).

During their 3 week taper, the runners ran 73%, 73% & 50% of the normal mileage. They did intervals and easy runs, but cut back on "moderate" runs (like tempo runs).

Here are the results. After the 3 week taper, the average race times for their 8km race dropped from 27:42 to 26:12 mins. Every single runner improved their times after the taper. There was no decline in aerobic fitness, Vo2 max or running economy. In fact the runners gained muscle strength (in the calf) after the taper.

The author suggested that this same taper strategy will work up to marathon distance races. To achieve your PR, try this taper.

3 weeks before your race, do 75% of your normal mileage. Stop most medium-hard runs, but do usual interval training.

2 weeks before, same as above.

Last week before your race, do 50% of your normal distance. Stop ALL medium-hard runs & do 50% of usual intervals.

Race day, kick ass.


Luden N, E Hayes et al (2010). Myocellular Basis for Tapering in Competitive Distance Runners. J App Physiology 108: 1501-1509.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Running For Your Life

I had this odd habit when I was a lot younger. I'll get something nice like a new watch, pen or shoe then I'll keep it somewhere safe. Then I will get the same thing (but not quite as nice) and use this instead of the "good" stuff that I got earlier. The thinking was that if I didn't use it, it'll last forever.

I guess I still have this habit sometimes and my wife will often ask me why I do that. Fortunately I didn't take the same approach with my body. I figured if I didn't use my body it'll definitely not last forever. Unlike machines, our bodies are made to move.

As with bicycles (or car, motocycle fill in your own), for the bike to perform their best you have to maintain it. While I was still racing triathlons, I spent lots of time cleaning, adjusting, lubricating and even polishing my bike. (For the difficult stuff, I'll get Kenneth or Yusoff from Cycleworx to help).

Now that I'm not racing and have a new born son, unlike a piece of mechanical equipment (which wears out the more you use it), I actually get stronger the more I exercise, now that I don't train like before. (Likewise I become a lot more unfit if I didn't).

Our bodies do share something similar with mechanical equipment. If you don't understand their limits, they can break down. If I run 3 times a week for half an hour and feel great and then decide that I will then run 6 times a week for an hour each time then I may be inviting an injury to come. (Trust me, I've had 3 knee operations remember). That's when I learned patience.

We live in an instantaneous society now and expect results overnight. Well, this is what I learnt, you don't become a great athlete overnight (and likewise you don't turn into a lousy athlete overnight or after a poor race). Our bodies can do almost anything we ask of it as long as we give it time to adjust to new demands.

The truth is when it comes to our bodies, we have to use it or lose it. If we don't, we'll find that one day when we want to go for a run and we can't as if we don't push ourselves, our bodies start to decline.

All right, I better get moving, not to run, but my son is starting to cry.