Tri Challenge: Tapering before the race
Dr. Tom Hackett is an orthopedic surgeon at The Steadman Clinic in Vail, Colorado. He also serves as the head team physician to the U.S. Snowboard Team, assistant team physician to the Colorado Rockies and medical adviser to the Major League Baseball Alumni Association.
The word taper refers to a gradual narrowing or thinning of an object and has direct implications to race day preparation. Several scientific studies and years of experience with athletes from all walks of life have shown that a well-thought-out and executed tapering program can improve performance on the big day.
Essentially it means giving your body rest but at the same time maintaining your fitness level. You need to be fully recovered from your training so you can give it 100 percent through the finish of a race and let all that hard work leading up to the big day payoff.
It’s a time to decrease the mileage and intensity of workouts and to remember that no one workout the week before a race will really enhance preparedness all that much. However, plenty of rest leading up to the race can improve your time up to 3-5%. I’ve worked with several champion Hawaiian ironman and Xterra winners who have emphasized that a proper taper is as important as proper training.