After a season of 12-32 weeks for a marathon, the last three weeks are geared toward tapering. Initially, it is a relief knowing that the hard work you have gained through training is coming to an end. But also with it comes a new frustration knowing and not knowing how it will not only affect your body but also your mind.
After your final last long run, it is time to rest for your marathon. It is perfectly normal to start to feel the aches and pains from muscles healing as you lessen your intensity, running miles after miles. Feeling down and achy is also normal as your body adjusts to changes from training intensely.
1. Do as much stretching as possible. Runners World, Exrx.net provides great online exercises. Make a commitment to the weekly yoga class you have been faithfully going to during your training more than once a week.
2. Don’t try any new classes at the gym, limit housework to a minimum, and don’t take on new stressful projects. I try to take the extra time to do things I enjoy such as writing, reading, and catching up on my television programs I have been neglecting. It is also a fantastic time to reconnect with family and re-establish non-running friendships.
3. Remember that you will naturally gain more weight during a taper but the extra calories will be burned off during the marathon. Eating healthily, focusing on fresh fruits and vegetables, will help provide the ingredients necessary for recovery and immunity.
4. Plan for eating healthily during and after the marathon. Recovery happens quickly when you have healthy snacks on hand. Choose foods that are high in carbohydrates such as pasta, potatoes, and rice. Make sure you are eating healthy proteins such as chicken, fish, and plant- based protein. But make sure the foods you are consuming are tried- and-true foods that you have consumed before. This is not the time to try something new. Make sure you have a diet that is still 30 percent fat––with an emphasis on unsaturated fat––and limit pizza, pop, and ice cream, which is high in saturated fat.
At the last meal avoid salad, which contains a lot of roughage, and consume water only with the last meal. Pop and other caffeine drinks contain substances that will dehydrate your body the night before. I carry a water bottle constantly with me wherever I go.
5. Don’t limit your salt but remember that you will use those glycogen sources during the race. Consider a little more “C.” Try to add one to two times a day a supplement of Vitamin C. Name brands as well as generic products help as your resistance seems to be at an all-time low after the taper. Continue to take it a week or so after the marathon to continue immunity protection. Bell peppers, kiwis, and oranges are great natural sources of Vitamin C. Don’t limit your salt but remember that you will use those glycogen sources during the race.
6. Inspect your feet by taking care of blisters and long toenails the week or two prior to the marathon. Make sure you have dealt with the aches and pains, and make sure the clothing you wear for the event is free of problems rubbing close to your skin. Buy the final pair of trusted and- tried the brand you have worn in the past.
On the day before the marathon, make sure you have everything out that you will need. Here is a list of suggested supplies you might need for the race.
- Marathon List
- Racing shoes (These must be shoes you have been tested on a long run and have been running in for at least three weeks.)
- Race Socks (Two pairs that have been washed and used in long races in the past.)
- Race Singlet or appropriate race outfit (Avoid 100% cotton; instead, wear fabric with a dry weave wicking or Coolmax clothing.)
- Safety pins to attach your race number
- Racing Bib (Put your name on your bib. It is energizing to hear crowds call you name while you are running.)
- Snack (beans, fig bars, granola bars or your favorite foods tested on a long run)
- Body Glide
- Fuel Belt with Gatorade and Water (The last two marathons I have run in Chicago have run out of both!)
- Race Watch/GPS
- Cell Phone
- Music Apps for Phone
- GPS Apps for Phone
- Belt for holding hydration, phone, supplies, etc.
- Heart Rate Monitor
- Rain Gear
- Sweatbands and headbands
- Change of Clothes
- Sandals/Crocs for after the race
- Bandana, knit cap or racing hat
- Breathe right strips
7. Set out everything and double-check the list the morning of the race. Wear shoes that have less than 200 miles on them and clothing you have worn in the past on long runs that do not wear or pull on your skin. I have my favorite shoe brand and shorts that carry me through most of my races.
8. Set a few alarms. I typically set both my watches, my phone, and the alarm at home. It is better to have more than one in the case of a malfunction of one.
Make sure you eat one and a half to two hours before the race. Relax and go the bathroom whenever you have the urge.
9. The week before the marathon is a time to relax, focus on more reading, and not take on any new projects at work. I use it to focus on things other than my running. Realize you will be nervous, and that is okay, but don’t allow yourself to be around negative people and situations as much as possible.
10. Strive for more sleep the week before. I try to do an hour to half an hour more each night the week before the race. Remember: It is okay if you don’t sleep well the night before if you have gotten sleep during the week and a few days prior.
11. Plan for any kind of weather. The last out-of-town race I did, the weather fluctuated by 20 degrees. It is important to be ready for any kind of weather. Also, carry a double set of clothes in case you spill the day of the race.
12. Vigorous strength training should be avoided the week before the marathon. I have done none and then a light workout, and I think a low-weight one is okay. Set reasonable goals. In my last race, I wanted to do a best or a second best marathon. I knew this was probably not logical because I had not trained at the particular speed. When I realized in my last race this would not happen, I was content to just relax and enjoy the ride.
Marathon Training: http://www.marathontraining.com/marathon/m_taper.html
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