The Lowdown on Reverse Tapering
We’ve covered tapering before and the importance of allowing your body to recover and prepare before a big race, however, one thing left to cover is the reverse taper! Have you ever trained for months for a big race, followed your plan every single day, and then afterwards been left thinking, “What’s next?” If so, you’re not alone (there should be studies done on how many people sign up for another marathon in the days following a big race)! Having a post-race plan scheduled as part of your race training is important in order to help your body recover and can also give you a sense of purpose in the days and weeks following a race.
First and foremost, it is important to prioritize this recovery period! When you train hard for a big race, especially longer distance and/or high-speed races, there is a lot of wear and tear on your body not only during the race but also in the training period. During this time your muscles are being broken down which can cause inflammation, and overall, it can be tiring on your joints and muscles throughout the entire body leading to fatigue and soreness. Ignoring the recovery period afterwards can lead to injuries and overall burnout/fatigue.
One of the main reasons I hear from runners as to why the recovery period is skipped is because it “feels strange not to train or have a plan”. As runners we are used to being active, and inactivity feels like wasted time! So, by incorporating a reverse taper into your training plan, you’ll be able to check off the boxes just like you would any other training run.
Now, you may be thinking, “what does the reverse taper entail?” Below are a few tips on how to successfully reverse taper!
- Take a few days off of all exercise. The exact number of days needed will vary based on race distance and experience level, but in general runners should take at least 1-2 days off to completely rest following a race.
- Take a week (give or take) off of running! The exact number of days needed depends on your level of running experience and how your body is feeling, but the importance here is that once you have taken off a few days of all exercise, ease yourself back in by walking or cross training, and continue to rest from running. Plan to start by walking, biking, completing an upper body workout in the gym, swimming, etc.
- After a few days of rest paired with a few cross-training workouts, you will be ready to start easing back into running! Plan to run every other day starting with a very low-mileage and slower paced run. From there, begin building mileage gradually! It is important to avoid going from 0 miles to 30 miles in one single week, so think about how you can slowly build up your mileage back to your average over the course of a few weeks.
- Once you are back to your normal mileage, a few weeks should have passed and your body should be feeling recovered and ready to tackle your next training plan! During this rest period, your muscles will re-pair and re-build, coming back stronger! However, if you do not give your muscles time to do this, that is when injury, overtraining, and decreased performance over time can occur.
Last but not least, this recovery period is a good time to check out any pains or nagging injuries you might be feeling with your doctor. All in all, giving yourself time and also giving yourself grace with lowered expectations will pay off in the long-term. One month of lower mileage and recovery is much less time than having to go out in order to rehab an injury! Invest in the time up front, follow through on your reverse taper, and your body will thank you later.