Getting Sick and Tapering

It never fails.  3 weeks out from a race, and I end up getting a cold.  Maybe it’s the mental stress, maybe it’s the physical fatigue, maybe it’s my generally crappy sleep habits, or maybe it’s a combination of all 3…all I know is that I’ve been feeling them all, and now I have a barking cough and phlegm oozing from all the usual phlegmy areas.

At the very least it seems to be a pretty common trend amongst athletes, and in my sports circle, runners specifically.  I’m sure the seasonal change in the weather, and flu season beginning don’t help, however a handful of online running friends at (all training for the same November marathon as I am) have reported suffering from colds as well.  Perhaps this is part of why tapering is so important?  It certainly can’t hurt…or can it?

The question I’ve been dealing with as of late is how long should one taper?  There are a significant number of training plans out there that have a 2 week taper, though there variations.

At the beginning of this calendar year I had a slight tear in my upper calf muscle 3 weeks before a 30km race I had been training heavily for.  My therapist advised rest, and a calf sleeve, but assured me that I would be able to race.  Relieved, albeit disappointed I asked him how this would affect my conditioning; he told me that 3 weeks off/light exercise shouldn’t cause me to lose my base despite my worst fears.  Turns out, he was right.  Not only did I run without pain, I did pretty well too.

Since that time, I’ve done a lot of online research and found that tapering seems to be as clear as mud.  How long should one taper?  Should tapering have a steady reduction in mileage or a sudden stop?  How much mileage during taper is acceptable? Or too much?  My current training plan maintains the weekday mileage, and has a significant reduction in the long runs on weekends, is this enough taper?

I guess when I get to the root of this issue, the question really is:  At what point will you benefit more from resting and less from training?  I’ve heard the adage “the work you put in today is the benefit you see 2 weeks from now”, this fits the 2 week taper plan, however, is it truth or hearsay?

So… What do you think?


About 51feetunder

Running & Fitness, Rock Climbing & Outdoor Activities, Photography & Rock & Roll.

Posted on October 19, 2010, in Running, Taper and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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