I’m in the middle of my taper period. As related to sports “..tapering refers to the practice of reducing exercise in the days just before an important competition. Tapering is customary in many endurance sports, such as long-distance running and swimming.” Let me tell you what anyone who has trained for months will tell you — the taper will drive you mad.
For me, the madness actually started about a month ago when all of the sudden I was convinced I hadn’t run enough miles and therefore should cram as much as possible into the weeks before my taper. I didn’t end up doing that, but I sure did panic about it. Stage 2: As of last Thursday or so, I started obsessively checking and trying to predict the weather — which is pretty much useless since I’ve heard that 3 day forecasts are the only ones you can really count on. Stage 3: I’ve also had a little bit of FOMO as I’ll be missing out on two weekends of group runs with my running group (shout out to Team Snack Attack!). Shoot even driving on my way to work this morning I was jealous of all the people I saw running. (EDIT: Now I’m fighting off some sort of foot injury, so the FOMO is getting too real). Stage 4 will follow soon, where I obsess about every little thing I eat so as not to upset my stomach, and I check for the 18millionth time that I’ve packed everything, and my alarm is set for the right time on race day. Yes, for a slightly paranoid and obsessive compulsive personality, the taper can truly be awful. That said, I’ve tried to spend time enjoying the few runs I have left and channeling my energies elsewhere.
One way I’ve attempted to keep the taper crazies at bay is to focus and think back to my previous races and all the things I’ve improved upon since then. Every training program I’ve learned new things about myself and ways to improve my performance. I realized a few weeks ago that this time around it’s been all about the recovery this time around.
Last summer after every long run, and especially after my first half marathon, I was just incredibly sore. And I wasn’t sore for just one day oh NOOOOO. Of course I stretch after my runs, but still for days after it felt awful to get out of bed or squat to put the leash on my pup. That kind of soreness is not a convincing argument for running long. I was doing recovery all wrong. Recovery is critical not only to improving performance, but also staying injury free (and who doensn’t want that?). Recovery includes many aspects as noted by this Runner’s World article. So as part of my due diligence, I invested in a foam roller, and got back into more yoga and let me tell you – these two things have totally changed the way I recover. Now my routine is run, stretch, shower then eat (or eat THEN shower depending on the runger factor), foam roll after the shower, then 30 minutes of runner’s yoga sometime in the afternoon. Now I’m still a bit stiff on the day of a long run, but I can move about with no problem the day after!
The benefits of foam rolling are quickly growing in the running and exercise community — and let’s be honest — even the most expensive foam roller is still a lot cheaper than scheduling regular massages. I cannot claim to be any kind of expert here, but the tips I learned from my book Build your Running Body plus numerous online articles (my coach just sent a great one here). For me, rolling is particularly helpful for my calves and quads when other stretches just don’t do enough.
Not shockingly, I’m also not a yoga expert. Unless you’ve been under a rock, you’ve surely heard all the amazing things people say about yoga, and I will admit most of them are true. I started with some basic poses after my cousin and best friend mentioned how much they liked it. Once I started running, it occurred to me there was specific poses and flows targeted to a runners’ needs. I was over the moon. This video in particular is great for targeting hip flexors (which often plague runners), while THIS video is just my favorite overall. Don’t have 30 minutes? Check out some of the poses below which are all favorites of mine.