Tapering: The Art of Doing Less

It is officially taper time, defined as the time before a race when you do less stuff. Of course, it’s hard to do less than nothing, so I don’t know if I’m really tapering like a pro right now. Ideally, a race taper does a couple things:

  • Gives you a break somewhere between five days and two weeks before a peak race.
  • Reduces your training volume, generally, by half.
  • Keeps a handful of short, intense efforts in the training to get the blood flowing.
  • Lets you rest and ‘sharpen the sword.’

‘Sharpen the sword’ is Steve’s phrase, not mine. It means fine-tuning. It also implies getting by on less than ideal fitness, as in ‘I’m going to do this triathlon with only a handful of times in the pool to sharpen the sword.’

That’s pretty much my motto. I’m going to rest and get my foot better and hit the start line at Boston sharp as, well, a sword.

Today’s Boston Photo Challenge is also #taper, so here is my photo. This is what a taper should look like:

OK, actually that's from Mexico last year. But, fun fact, all-inclusive resorts usually give you as many drinks as you want in tiny little cups, but if you ask them just to fill up a bike water bottle they'll do it. And, then you don't have to go back-and-forth from the beach every 20 minutes.
OK, actually that’s from Mexico last year. But, fun fact, all-inclusive resorts usually give you as many drinks as you want in tiny little cups, but they’ll fill up your bike water bottle with margarita if you ask. And, then you don’t have to go back-and-forth from the beach every 20 minutes.

I’m letting you know that’s what it should look like, because a lot of people do this wrong. For some reason, most athletes hate tapers, because it involves time off of training and, generally, a feeling of restlessness and inadequacy. These people are stupid. Taper is just shorthand for having more free time. Are you really so Type A you can’t deal with free time? Let me give you some pointers:

Step 1: Buy a TV
Step 2: Turn it on.
Alternative Step 1: Pick up a book.

If you’re like super ambitious, then you can always do laundry too or make a doctor’s appointment. Or, you can do my laundry and make my doctor’s appointments, because I’m busy watching TV.

During tapers, I typically: 1. Watch TV, 2. Work, 3. Read (sometimes I do all three of those at the same time and it goes badly), or 4. Shop. Actually, usually, I just talk a lot about how shocked I am that I ever get more stuff done with less time, because where did all the free time go? I also start obsessively reading all the details about the upcoming race and judging everyone on the internets and moaning about how I ran such-and-such loop 30″ slower than I did two weeks ago, I’m going to do terrible, because I’m slow and I suck and I’m never going to be as good as what’s-her-name and everyone online is better than me, etc, etc.

And, then I go back to drinking wine and watching TV. Actually, I do that always, not just during tapers.

7 thoughts on “Tapering: The Art of Doing Less

  1. I’m with you on the taper – they are awesome. And I’m also really good at them because…well…I’m good at watching tv! 😉 Happy taper and hope that foot is feeling awesome by race day!

  2. I love the taper! For years I didn’t do enough training to actually need to taper, but would anyway. Because, you know, it’s important to. Now that I train enough, I so appreciate the extra time during the taper to waste thinking of all the stuff I should be doing with my extra time.

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