The week before a half marathon can make or break one’s performance. Months of training can be wasted by trying to fit in one last workout. On the other hand, resting too much in the week before a half marathon can leave one feeling flat and low-energy on race day.
Tapering is a training rotuine that usually takes place the week before a key event, such as a half marathon. Longer events like marathons or ultramarathons require longer tapers. Tapering for an event is one of the most complicated and mysterious aspects of athletic performance.
Avoid these mistakes before the race to arrive fresh, fit and fast at the start line!
Training Too Much
Many amateur runners think it is good to train hard right up until the race, particularly in the last few weeks. But these efforts turn out to be counterproductive.
Instead, decrease total training volume by 30-50% in the week before a half marathon, but not the number of intensity sessions. For example, if the total distance ran two-weeks before the event was 50 km, the total distance should be no more than 35 – 25 km in the final week before the event.
Intensity should not drastically decrease despite overall distance dropping. For example, if a training plan usually calls for two days of intensity per week, still perform those two days of intense training during the final week before the event.
Reduce the number of intervals in a session by 20% of what they were in the last hard week of training. Even though overall running distance decreases, intensity may actually increase relative to the amount of total distance.
Not Training At All
Reducing training volume does not mean you should just put your feet up and stop working out. The tricky part about tapering is not to lose the fitness and pace endurance you have built up. The best way to avoid this is by reducing your mileage and focusing on short and intense workout sessions.
In the last week, it is important to get one more hard workout in four or five days before the race. This is designed to give your muscles one last training stimulus and to prepare your body for the demands of the upcoming race.
Retaining intensity while decreasing training volume in the week before a half marathon has been shown to be an effective tapering strategy for most athletes.
In the week before a half marathon, avoid strength training and unfamiliar exercises. Fatigued and sore muscles can quickly endanger performance. Of course, continue to do stretching and mobilization exercises if they have been a regular part of training.
Poor Diet & Alcohol Consumption
Letting diet slip the week before a big event is tempting. The body is busy replenishing glycogen stores, appetite is high, but total calorie expenditure should have decreased. This can lead one to give in to sugar cravings, especially if one is nervous about the upcoming event. Now is more important than ever to eat like an athlete. Give the body the nutrients it needs to refresh itself before putting in an amazing performance.
Not Sleeping Enough
Sleep is crucial throughout all training phases, but especially in the week before a half marathon. If one has been training hard, the body needs sleep to rebuild and regenerate.
Race nerves can prevent athletes from getting quality sleep in the lead-up to an important event. Meditate instead of lying in bed awake if having trouble sleeping. If sleep doesn’t come (especially the night before the event), just keep eyes closed and focus on breathing.