Taper Madness | Staying Sane Until The Big Day

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One of the things I love the most about endurance sports is the training. When you first start out the training can be the most challenging part both physically and mentally. However, once you hit a certain fitness threshold (individual for all of us) it actually becomes more mentally challenging to rest. It’s almost like some sort of endorphin addiction, and tapering is like a withdrawal. Taper madness is how some refer to it. Your mood swings, everything irritates you, you’re constantly hangry, etc. If you think about it, it makes perfect sense biologically. When we train for 2-3 hours a day there’s a whole host of hormonal and biochemical responses in our body that we (mostly) get accustomed to which all change during a taper. Plus, there’s also the mindset puzzle. It’s a hard pill to swallow that doing less will somehow lead to better performance. Of course, hopefully your training plan is designed intelligently enough to mitigate some of these issues, but in the final few days before the race they are bound to bubble up to the surface. As you approach and “A” race, here are some things that might help.

  • Meditation - Stillness is different than doing nothing. Tapering should be closer to stillness, an “active” choice to spend less energy. Meditation apps are all over the place these days, but my favorite is Headspace. The motivation and confidence packs are perfect for taper time to give yourself the 15-30 minutes a day to replace physical training for mentally training.

  • Consistency - Keep your schedule more or less consistent and decrease the volume. This allows your body to adapt and prepare while you stay in your normal rhythm and routines. If you make any big change, sleep in more and shorten the early morning workout to a shakeout of 20-30 minutes.

  • Training review - As you taper it can be easy to forget all the hard work you did. Look back at your Training Peaks account or training log and examine it. Take confidence from your consistency, dedication, great training days and especially days that hurt like hell that you got through anyway!

  • Gratitude - So many things can go wrong leading up to a race that it’s easy to focus on them. Don’t neglect them, prepare for obstacles, but zoom out a little to remember that you “get” to do this race. Remember all the sacrifices from friends and family to support you on your journey. Focus on the things you’re grateful for and acknowledge how much you appreciate the position you’re in and it is amazing how much your attitude will shift.

One of the last key pieces is to understand the difference between a result and a performance. A result is just a number, while a performance captures the emotion and spirit of the race, and not only impacts how you feel but how the people around you feel as well. Keep that perspective and you’ll see any obstacles in your path in a whole different light as you become the hero instead of the victim of your race.

Happy racing!

Coach Griffin

Griffin Jaworski