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World Athletics Championships 2007 in Osaka - ...

World Athletics Championships 2007 in Osaka – Scene from the women*s 5000 metres final (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’d generally politely suggest the abstinence taper for most of us most of the time. IE do nothing for 2-3 days before the race. 2 days for the youngsters and 3 if you are less inclined to recover more quickly. I’d say that this would be a parkrun-friendly taper.

For the week or so before that 3-day period you’d probably also tone your training intensity+duration down a notch.

You are pretty safe with that advice. If you haven’t been tapering then a 3-day this simple kind of tapering will certainly help with that next PB.
But what next? Obviously the pro’s don’t do that. Elite athletes don’t do that and the more serious Age Group triathletes/duathletes don’t do that.
Why not?
Well you lose a “bit” of sharpness in the 2-3 days of abstinence (not much) and by JUST doing the 2-3 days taper you might not be allowing yourself time to recover from the previous week of exertion as well. IE you will need more than 3 days if your previous week was full-on. So really a taper is something you look at over about 2 weeks.
Although remember we are talking here about a 5k taper not a HM or HIM or some other longer distance event. And I reckon that for a 5k you can pretty much full taper in  a week. Coaches agree.
Here’s how
brianmac.co.uk advocates the following:
  • 6 days before 3 × 1600 metres at 5 km pace : recovery 4 minutes
  • 5 days before the race : 5 × 600 metres at 5 km – 5% : recovery 400 metres jog
  • 4 days before the race : 4 × 600 metres at 5 km – 5% : recovery 400 metres jog
  • 3 days before the race : 3 × 600 metres at 5 km – 5% : recovery 400 metres jog
  • 2 days before the race : 2 × 600 metres at 5 km – 5% : recovery 400 metres jog
  • 1 day before the race : Rest
  • RACE
Here is my variant on that which is a tad kinder that I have started following today. I am trying to perhaps introduce a bit of sharpness due to a bad peak period (edit: this was a mistake in hindsight)
  • 6 days before 3 × 5-6 minutes at race pace (RP) : recovery 4-6 minutes
  • 5 days before the race : 5 × 120 secs at RP-5 secs: full recovery 3 minutes walk/jog
  • 4 days before the race : 4 × 90 secs at RP-5 secs: full recovery 3 minutes walk/jog
  • 3 days before the race : 3 × 90 secs at RP-5 secs: full recovery 3 minutes walk/jog
  • 2 days before the race : Rest and streeeeeeeeetch
  • 1 day before the race : Rest, maybe 2-4 x 100m at 5k RP
  • RACE
I’ll also be combining that on the same days with a similar bike taper. ie, for example, 90 secs of RP bike with full recovery. If I can I’ll try to do that bike/run sessions as 2 different sessions, no brick sessions here. I know what the last run leg is going to feel like but I want to re-acquaint myself with the feeling of a fresh 5k start which  I’ve not had for a very long time. I’ll monitor my TSB/ATL/CTL very closely and adjust accordingly.
So you’ve read this far. Keep going there’s more!
Let’s say you decide to do the 1 week taper above. It still might be too much if you have been really going for it in the previous week. But how do you know?
THE GOLDEN KEY: You should look at timing your race day with optimising your TSB. Your Training Stress Balance. Your TSB curve should be as high as possible without CTL falling by more than 10%.
Simple (ish!). Simple, that is, if you follow your CTL and TSB curves. OR indeed if you have any idea what they are!!
You can get your TSB by having: 45 days of HR stats; your HR Zones; HRmax; by using the free software SportsTracks; and then the free TrainingLoad plugin (the green line on the graph).
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