Marathon training is no easy feat. From the grueling long runs to the intense speed work, it can take a toll on the body and mind. That's why tapering is an important part of any marathon training plan. Tapering refers to the process of reducing training volume and intensity in the weeks leading up to a race or competition to allow the body to recover and perform at its best.
According to Dr. Megan Cannon, a sports psychologist and endurance athlete, the taper mentality is more than just reducing training volume and intensity. It requires a shift in mindset towards rest, recovery, and mental preparation. The taper period can be a time when athletes feel anxious or unsure about their training, but Dr. Cannon emphasizes the importance of viewing tapering as a positive aspect of training. "The taper is where the magic happens," she says. "It's where you give your body the time and space it needs to perform at its best."
One of the biggest challenges of tapering is the mental aspect. Athletes often struggle with feeling antsy, irritable, or anxious during the taper period. Dr. Cannon suggests that athletes can combat these feelings by focusing on mental preparation. This includes visualization, positive self-talk, and setting achievable goals. She also recommends staying active during the taper period, but in a low-intensity manner. "Find activities that bring you joy and allow you to stay active without putting additional stress on your body," she advises.
Nutrition and hydration are also important components of the taper mentality. Dr. Cannon stresses the importance of fueling the body with healthy, nutrient-dense foods and staying hydrated. She also notes that athletes should pay attention to their bodies' hunger and thirst cues and adjust their intake accordingly.
Dr. Cannon emphasizes the importance of rest and recovery during the taper period. This includes getting enough sleep, scheduling rest days, and taking time to stretch and foam roll. "Rest and recovery are just as important as training," she says. "If you don't give your body the time and space it needs to recover, you won't perform at your best."
The taper mentality is a crucial part of marathon training. By shifting your mindset towards rest, recovery, and mental preparation, you can successfully taper and perform at your best on race day. Remember to view tapering as a positive aspect of training, focus on mental preparation, prioritize nutrition and hydration, and give your body the rest and recovery it needs. And for more insights on the taper mentality, listen to the Behind the Sweat podcast episode with Dr. Megan Cannon. Happy tapering and crush it on race day!