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The Taper

April 01, 2021

beach_running

Updated by Rosie Edwards

One of the most important, but often overlooked, components of training for a goal race is the taper.  The hard work has been accomplished and all that remains is to rest and sharpen up. Confidently easing off the gas pedal and arriving prepared, yet rested at the starting line is a crucial component to racing success.  Here are a few things to consider when race day is in sight, but still a couple weeks away.

 

You don’t have to push hard all the way up to race day in order to preserve your hard-earned fitness.

Just as it is important to heed the scheduled call for recovery days in your regular training, the last 2-3 weeks of a half or full marathon training cycle is a singular opportunity to allow your body to be as rested as possible before going to the well on the big day.   While there have likely been times where you have had to push yourself to finish the last few miles of a long run or get out of bed when a hard session is on the schedule, enjoy the reduction of miles over these last couple weeks, reminding yourself that you have the physical ability to go farther and the mental confidence from those workouts that will carry you through on race day.

 

The last few weeks are a great opportunity to focus on healthy living as you prep for your race.

If it is difficult to keep your sleep habits as you would wish for months at a time, this is an opportunity to get maximum impact from a few weeks of slightly increased sleep.  Likewise, you can make a difference with a few weeks of healthier eating habits.

 

Many of us have too many obligations and commitments to live a daily life with the healthy habits we’d hope for, but many of us (and our families) can get on board for a few weeks as enthusiasm builds for race day.  Maximize the rest you are getting from shorter workouts with an extra half hour of sleep per night and increased hydration and healthy food choices.  This will allow you to arrive at race weekend without feeling the needing to cram hydration and nutrition concerns into a two day period when that may not provide the advantage you seek.

Keep your body in the training rhythm to which you are accustomed.

Tapering doesn’t mean change everything. What it does allow you to do is keep your body and mind focused while requiring less strain and allowing for more recovery.  Your training schedule will follow a similar pattern with slightly easier tasks.   Continue to take your workouts as seriously and resist the urge to over schedule your life now that you may have a bit more time to play with than in the last few weeks.  For example, continue to allow time for the stretching you were so diligent about when the workouts were really tough, instead of dashing off in the car now that the workout wasn’t as taxing.

 

As your body will require less fueling to accomplish these workouts, the temptation may be to continue eating as though your long runs are still at maximum length.  Consider your current fuel needs and adjust accordingly to allow yourself to maintain the spring in your step you are trying to gain by backing off the volume.

 

Use the taper to make final race day plans

The taper is a great time to break in the fresh pair of shoes you plan to use on race day.  This will allow you to make sure you are past any risk of blisters or other problems, but won’t put that much wear on the shoes before you need them to really go to work.  Similarly, consider your race day attire, pre-race food consumption, and mid race fueling.  While your workouts are a bit easier, you can let yourself make final experimentations with these things to ensure you aren’t showing up to race day doing something for the very first time.

 

Don’t worry if you feel “flat” during your taper

Feeling a bit sluggish even while you are doing easier workouts can be a function of many things, but is quite common with recreational or pro runners alike.  If you continue the good habits you have tried to implement throughout the training cycle, be mindful of your relative consumption as your volume decreases, and follow your schedule, you take confidence that you have done what you can.  Yes, your body is used to a different level of activity and that may leave you feeling a bit off.  This is why it is important to maintain a similar training rhythm so you can keep your body doing familiar tasks.  Once the gun goes off, your months of training won’t betray you, and next time, you’ll recognize that flat feeling if it occurs and be even more confident.

 



Have active friends at your company or know coworkers who want to move more? Invite them to join the Movecoach Challenge.   Here's how:

On your mobile device:

1. Tap the Me icon (on the bottom-left corner of your phone screen).
2. Select "More."
3. Select "Invite Coworkers."
4. Send your coworkers an invitation to join Movecoach.

From the web, on a computer:

1. Login.
2. Click on the arrow next to your profile photo on the upper right-hand corner of the screen.
3. Select "Invite Coworkers" from the drop-down menu. 

Click here for tips on how to help a coworker start exercising regularly and stick with it. 

Any questions? Contact us.



When should I change my running shoes?

This is one of the most common questions among runners of all levels. The condition and life within your shoes have a huge impact on your body, and quality of your training sessions.

Below is an exchange between Coach Hiruni and Runcoach Athlete and avid endurance runner Andrei Marinus.

Andrei: I run over 200k per month, and a good pair of shoes (even on sale is easily over 100USD). So here’s the million-dollar question… When do I have to change them again?

Coach Hiruni: Excellent question. Most folks who take running seriously search for an answer to this question. There are general guidelines some shoe manufacturers have (400-600km or 250 – 400 miles) for wear and tear, but not everyone wears shoes the same way.

Andrei: Yes, I noticed very few of them mention a higher mileage. It could be the shoe company tries to sell as much as they can. But I also understand the reasoning - after a certain mileage, the shoe loses its advertised features, and stop protecting the runner.

Coach Hiruni: As a coach I am also reluctant to recommend running high mileage in one shoe, because I have the best interest of my runners at heart. I want you and my other runners to be protected when you leave your door for a run, and continue to stack up days, weeks, months of consistent training. There are aspects on your shoe and within your legs you can use as a guide to know it is time to upgrade your footwear.

Andrei: So it seems, the best judge should be the runner? I should listen to my body. Once I start to receive signs of pain or discomfort or simply just not the same bounce as before, it is a signal.  Though pain is universal, everyone experiences it differently. For me it is usually a bit of tightness in the ligaments around the ankle. I have ignored this in the past, telling myself that some Kenyan runners are doing marathons on bare feet, so if I keep running in worn out shoes, I would still be protected. How I wished I didn’t do that … I ended up at an orthopedist who promptly put me offline for two months. Imagine how I felt going from over 200km to zero … Let’s just say I had learned my lesson, and ever since I am really listening to my body.

Coach Hiruni: Agreed. Some of the best lessons are learned the hard way. Most people can also tell by simply looking at the bottom of the sole of the shoe. The tread (just like a tire) should look fresh. If you notice pieces missing, or the shoe just looks “old and tired” that’s a red flag! For some people this can happen as early as 200km into wearing a shoe.

Andrei: Right on that point. Look at the sole of the shoes that I ran in when I got my marathon PB and my first ultra-marathon. They will be always close to my heart, but I know they have to go. There is almost nothing left at the back the shoe, right where I land.

 pic1   pic_2

I am running in zero drops, you can imagine with no sole left at the heel, I kind of converted them into negative drops…



What would happen if you ran the same pace over the same distance every day you went out to run?  Many people do it, and you may have even been that person yourself at one time.

You may have also wondered why your Runcoach plan has workouts at various paces and distances on your way to your goal race. We wanted to take a few moments to explain a few objectives to changing pace within workouts and/or running intervals.



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Written by Runcoach Marketing Expert Kristin Martin.

You wanna know how my race schedule was in 2020? Nada. Zip. Zero.

I originally planned on Fall 2020  "post-baby 70.3 vacation in Mexico" and perhaps even chase a PR half marathon. But like many of you, the conditions – cancellations, pool closures, personal COVID protocols, etc – led me to decide in June that I wouldn’t be able to formally in-person race till 2021. So, did I do a virtual half marathon to prove myself? ...I’d like to say that I did (I wish I had!) but with the poor air quality in Denver last fall and some lingering calf issues, I bailed on that too.


2021 is a new year, and with the continued slow start to events (or the deferment of many races), it’s easy to keep the calendar free of racing commitments till later this year. However, by following the simple steps below, you, like me, can stop with the excuses and be successful at a virtual race this Spring.


  1. PUT IT ON THE CALENDAR (and commit!) - Looking back, this was probably my number one  mistake. When I decided to not participate in the triathlon, I mentally changed my goal to general fitness and cleared my calendar of running obligations. My running became more haphazard. While it's fun to run when the spirit moved me, my runs weren’t focused or structured in a way that built up to feeling comfortable in completing a race of that distance. By putting it a goal on the calendar and telling your partner, friend, or Coach, you increase your commitment to your race goal. This doesn’t mean that if you wake up and it’s a downpour or an extreme heatwave you can’t tweak your race date, but it helps to make sure you stay accountable and schedule or reschedule it for the best date.


  1. PICK A (safe) COURSE YOU LOVE - We can all picture races we love for their scenery, elevation profile (up or down!), or running surface. You have the power to plot out the course that fits you best. You can also stock your course with your favorite fueling gels or drinks. Will you run along a nearby stream? Around that favorite park in a loop? The possibilities are endless to construct your new favorite race map.


Safety tip: Check out your race course or train on it to know how crowded it will be (wear your mask) and make sure to follow appropriate traffic signals and other signage. Give your map to your family or friends so they know where you’ll be -- and can even cheer for you!


  1. TALK TO YOUR COACH - Even your trusted is experiencing the same adversities as you. Having to work thrrough similiar things mean first hand experience and great tips on how to adjust an outlook when you might not be feeling it or your schedule if your plans change. Maybe you want to switch to a 5K instead of a 10K, or you want to run/walk your first half. Take advantage of the flexibility that virtual racing offers with the expertise of coaches who can get you there safely.


  1. HAVE FUN - Ultimately, we run and participate in races to enjoy ourselves and a virtual experience is no different. I’m never the first one to cross the official finish line, but you better believe that I’ll be the first one to cross the streamer finish line held up by my husband and toddlers! Many years from now, we’ll look back at this pandemic time and "have all the feels" when it comes to thinking about quarantining, zoom meetings, and virtual learning. Let's make sure to have a bright spot when we think about our virtual race career. 



What To Do When Your Goal Race Gets Delayed?
Don’t Give Up.

amanda_2As the global pandemic nears year one, the mass participation road racing scene is still far from normal. The optimist in you hoped 2021 would finally be the year in which live road race returned to its full glory. Still, races are getting postponed (with valid reason) to the second half of the year. How long should you hold out hope?  What to do with extra time?


First and foremost, absolutely hold on to that optimism! Your favorite road race, standing among strangers, butterflies in your stomach, and the minty muscle cream scent in the air will return. But I empathize with you, as my own race opportunities dwindle away each month. You’re allowed to feel disappointed. Allow yourself the time to go through the stages of coping using the techniques below.


1) Work On Weaknesses

Life is all about perspective. In any circumstance, the way you frame it allows you to move forward. I encourage you to see the delay as extra time to prepare (different from extra time to wait to start).

We all have areas of opportunities to develop and refine. Whether it’s physical (shin splints, weak glutes, runner’s knee, tendonitis), a target weight-loss goal, or mental (anxiety, mental strength to dig deep when it feels hard) the additional months can be invaluable to prepare your body and mind to have an exceptional race when it’s “go time”.


2) Scale Back

A common topic I discuss with my athletes is over-training. It’s the quickest way to kill your joy for running. If your goal race is a half marathon or longer, and the race is postponed, there is no additional benefit to keep loading up on miles. Instead, shift your focus to maintain fitness and find smaller goals to excite you.


3) Setup Time Trials

If this is a new word for you, think of a “Time Trial” as a practice race. Having a goal that you can chase on your own terms can be a big win (especially given the uncertainty  in today’s world). Time trials can help to gauge your fitness, practice pace, try out race tactics, go through race day logistics like type of breakfast, and hone in on the mental side of racing.

Jeff_brune_boston_2Runcoach athlete Jeff is in a similar situation to many BQ athletes. He was hopeful Boston 2021 would go on in April. Most of his preparation in 2020 was done with hope of running a memorable 26.2 miles from Hopkinton to Boston. With the recent news of Boston getting pushed back to the Fall, he’s once again reassessing his training.

Jeff wrote, “I want to chase a half marathon PR, even at altitude I think my old PR is vulnerable”.  That’s all a coach needs to hear, a spark of motivation. We decided on a half marathon time trial about a month out from the initial discussion, with training specifically focused on crushing his current personal best.


4) Explore Off-Road

Without a tight timeline to get ready for “race day” you have a free pass to run on trails, grass, packed snow (stay upright though!). Simply do something different to shake up your usual routes.

Doing so will not only help you see some different scenery, but it will challenge your body to activate muscle groups you don’t normally use while running on a flat road.



In short, when things change... don’t quit. Instead adapt and move forward with your running shoes ON!



Use this powerful and effective exercise to activate your glutes. 

When you lower  the body on one leg it requires serious control and stability. This act allows you to build lower body strength.
The movement also fires up smaller muscles challenging the core and hip.

Coach Tom demonstrates two variations to include in your injury prevention or pre-run routine. 

Variation 1 = For Beginners
Variant_1


Variation 2 = For Advanced Runners
variant_2



Audrey successfully completed the Marine Corps Marathon a couple times, but kids and life kept her busy and away from marathons for almost 21 years. This year, she virtually completed MCM using Runcoach training! 

“ I am a respiratory therapist and this pandemic has been very stressful on all of us healthcare providers. Spending time improving my physical health has helped my mental and spiritual health too.”aud_3

Major milestone:

This was my first Marathon in 20 yrs! The last Marine Corps Marathon was about 21 yrs ago when I was pregnant with my youngest who is now 20. I ran with a running club and all we did was run. I remember in the training we ran up to 24 miles and being so sore after each long run! After kids, I ran 3-5 times a week, but rarely more than 3 miles.

 

What is the secret to your success?

This time I followed Runcoach almost to the letter including the cross training and core. I only ran 17 or 18 miles before the race went virtual. I was worried and emailed coach Tom because I was concerned it wasn't enough running. He said it was, and I ran the virtual MCM with a local run group.

 

What is the biggest obstacle to reaching your goals and how do you get over it?

Since the man who plotted the course was an ultramarathoner, his course had all kinds of hills -- It was harder than the actual MCM course would have been. I was a little scared. Once I hit 18 and could still run, I relaxed a little.. then 20, then 24. It was in the 50s in Maryland, windy and pouring rain all day. I finished in a little over 6 hrs. I didn't think I would have taken that long but those hills were tough. I was prepared to be sore the next couple days. To my surprise, I was not! The training really helped and now my next goal is to run an ultramarathon in March 2021.

 

What’s the most rewarding part of training?

The accomplishments! Doing things, like push ups or planks, that I could never do before. I am a respiratory therapist and this pandemic has been very stressful on all of us healthcare providers. Spending time improving my physical health has helped my mental and spiritual health too.

 

What advice would you give to other members of the Runcoach community?

For those training, follow the program. It helps! And if you have questions the coaches do actually answer in a timely manner and have great advice. I have always had knee pain after running. I learned it was the way I run. I watched a video, changed how I run, and voila... why didn't someone tell me that years ago?

Anything else you would like to share?

I'm using Runcoach to train for the ultra!



As a runner, chances are at some point or another you’ve experienced pain in your hamstrings, knees, or lower back that just won’t seem to let up no matter how much you stretch.
Interestingly enough, this pain may actually be stemming from inactive glute muscles (also known as the ol’ butt).

Luckily, performing a few simple activation exercises pre-run can stop this pain in its tracks, allowing you to run powerful, strong, and injury free.

“So why aren’t my glutes firing?” you may ask.
The most commong reason is that most people sit for long periods of time. The glute muscles tend to stop firing due to a lack of oxygen and tightened hip flexors. This, in return, puts more strain on the lower back, hamstrings, and knees, that imbalanced and stiff feeling when you head out for a run.

Add these simple exercises to your warm up routine and get those glutes firing.
Turn up the intensity of these exercises by adding a resistance band. Aim for 2 sets of 10 reps on each leg.

>> Glute activation video via Single Leg Squat <<

Exercises:

1. Clam shells
 clamshell Lay on your side, with your knees bent at 90 degrees. Keep your feet and ankles together and raise your top knee. Make sure not to raise the knee too high-you should feel a slight tug in the glute area





2. Single Leg Bridgebridge

Keep your one knee bent, and straighten the other legs. Slowly move your leg up and down. Make sure you aren’t feeling this in your hamstring, you want the glutes to be doing all the work.







3. Prone Leg Liftsprone

Lying flat on your stomach, focus on raising first one leg at a time. If the knee bends you are using too much hamstring.










4. Fire Hydrantsfirehydrant
Place your hands underneath your shoulders and your knees underneath your hips. Flex your feet and keep both your feet flexed even as you raise one leg.

Then raise one leg out to the side, keeping the knee bent to 90 degrees. Lift it as high as you can while keeping your arms straight. Try to not let the foot get higher than the knee or the knee get higher than the foot. Really squeeze the butt cheek as you lift.

Hold for a second or two at the top. Lower down and then repeat. Complete all reps on one side before switching.



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