Tapering for an event, it’s another one of those technical terms that generally you let your coach worry about. Put simply, it’s freshening up for an event. As Bradley Wiggins would say, a taper allows you to ‘absorb the training’.
With the racing season upon us it’s a term you are likely to hear of in the coming weeks as you come closer to your target event.
During a taper your body repairs itself and puts you in the optimum condition to take on your target event. A number of biological processes occur that allow muscle glycogen, beneficial enzymes to increase and muscular strength as well as many other systems improves.
A taper tends to last between 1-2 weeks. There is no set number of days and training to carry out to have the perfect taper. It varies from person to person and is a case of trial and error. Some riders perform better when their bodies are very slightly fatigued, while others preform best when fully rested.
Because a taper goes on for quite a number of days it’s impossible to taper for every event. That number of easy days will result in a loss in form if carried out too many times. As a result, tapers are reserved for your main goals.
In terms of your training, it may sound surprising but intensity tends to remain reasonably high.
The reason behind maintaining the high intensity is to ensure your body can still withstand the punishment it will go through come race day.
It ensures your muscular and neurological systems sharp as well as your Vo2 max. It prevents you from feeling flat for the event.
Unlike intensity, there will be a considerable drop in duration.
It is the drop in duration with provides the additional time for your body to recover for the event. Your body’s ability to carry out the big miles will last longer than your ability to perform at high intensities.
The main goal behind a taper as mentioned is to have your body in the best physical condition possible. With the reduction in duration the onus is on you to do everything you can to rest and recover as well as possible.
Sleep is one of your best tools. Many of your bodies systems are heightened during sleep. Use this extra time off the bike to incorporate a nap in the days leading up to your target event.
Other recovery tools such as massage and stretching can be adopted too.
Just like physical rest, mentally you should give yourself a rest too. Fewer hours on the bike should have you eager to get back as your body feels in great shape and you are itching to make use of your form. You’ll have ‘the hunger’!
In the days leading up to the event, fuelling for the event properly can make or break your performance. You may be training less but there is no need to reduce your calorie intake hugely. Your body won’t put on weight in that space of time. Any weight increases will just be as a result of your energy stores being topped up which are vital to preforming at your best.
As mentioned, tapering is not an exact science. There will be some trial and error to find the perfect combination of the above aspects. Get it right and it is known to provide increases in performance of up to 6%.
In other words a taper is one of the best methods to legally enhance your cycling performance.
Get on it !