By Team RunRun coach Laurie Porter
Whether you are an experienced runner or a newbie, tapering sets you up for success on race day. It doesn’t matter if your goal is to simply finish the race, or if you are aiming to set a personal record, tapering well is going to help you be your best on race day.
Mileage and Intensity
When tapering for a 10k, the ideal taper begins with a gradual reduction in mileage about seven to ten days before your 10K race. The goal is to stay sharp while feeling rested. This can be a delicate balance, as some people fare better with a minimal taper, while others perform best with a more drastic taper. Knowing this, you want to assess your training and tapering from race to race to see what works best for you. Over time, you will discover and tweak your ideal taper. If you are working with a coach, your coach will help determine your best taper method as you progress through your training.
If you have just been running easy miles, the taper will consist solely of mileage reduction. If you have been incorporating speed work into your training, your volume of intensity should remain high until a week before the race. Your rest intervals between speed reps or intervals should become longer as well to allow for more recovery.
Recovery and Rest
You will also want to ensure that you are getting adequate recovery and rest during your training cycle and taper. It is important to understand that muscles heal, grow and get stronger during rest and recovery, not during the actual training sessions. Active and passive recovery are equally important. Active recovery includes your cool down runs after harder efforts, your easy running days, static stretching (always done after running workouts), in addition to foam rolling, yoga and other forms of low intensity cross training like walking, swimming or biking. Passive recovery is the time you spend sleeping and resting from physical activity. Both forms of recovery play an important role in being ready on race day. So think of your sleep time as training because that is when your body is getting stronger and making all those adaptations from your big training days!
When tapering fora 10k you also want to be dialing in your nutrition. While nutritional needs will vary from athlete to athlete depending on gender, age, size and activity level, you should make sure your macronutrient balance is solid. Macronutrients include: carbohydrates, protein and fats (primarily good fats). The Macronutrient ratio will also vary, but a typical ratio would include 50% carbohydrate, 25% protein and 25% fats. It is also important to make sure your calorie intake is sufficient, which is also determined by the above factors. There is no need to do heavy carb loading before a 10K unless running well over an hour. If you are planning on running the event in an hour or less, ensure that you eat well every day leading up to the event and especially the night before and morning of. If you plan on being out on the course any longer than that, your carbohydrate intake may need to be a little higher. So much more could be said regarding nutritional needs for running and racing, but this gives you something to “chew on” as you prepare. For a deeper dive I recommend checking out Nancy Clark, one of America’s top Sports Nutritionist.
10k Tapering Details
Now let’s get into the nitty gritty. Here is an example of a taper for a 10K race:
An intermediate-advanced athlete training for a 10K who has an average weekly mileage of 30-35 miles with a long run averaging 7-10 miles.
A cautionary note: Don’t try this exact taper if you haven’t done the work necessary leading up to this point! Each of the workouts shown below are designed with a specific physiological purpose in mind. Types of training runs shown in this plan include:
Easy or recovery runs – running that is done at an easy effort where you could carry on a conversation without difficulty if you are running with a friend. The majority of your running should be done at an easy effort which increases your aerobic endurance and allows your body to burn fat as the primary fuel.
Tempo effort runs – running at an effort that is between comfortable and hard, or a pace that you could potentially race for 60-70 minutes. These are important for developing your aerobic capacity which is your ability to run faster for longer periods.
Hill repeat workouts – are typically done as shorter intervals and are usually done at moderate/hard to hard efforts depending on your experience and race goal. If your race involves hills, it is very important to incorporate these into your training, but are not necessarily excluded from flat race training. Hill repeats if done right are beneficial because they help you develop strength, power, speed, and increased stride length as well as improve V02 max.
Fartlek workouts – A Swedish term meaning speed play, are varied workouts that can include a variety of paces and interval times. These kinds of workouts can be done with multiple purposes in mind.
GP or goal pace intervals – are short to long intervals designed to train your body to run a sustainable pace for the duration of the event. Training goal pace allows you to practice the effort and helps your body memorize the pace.
Strides are shorter intervals usually done at but not limited to mile race pace. Strides are beneficial because they help develop quick turnover and top end speed. They should be short enough to not cause fatigue yet keep you in touch with your higher end speed.
10k Tapering Wrap up
When tapering for a 10k, you can see that we still incorporate all the elements of a training plan, but as general rules we:
- Reduce mileage
- Reduce intensity during the week leading up to the race
- Increase our rest intervals between speed intervals in order to optimize for recovery
- Focus on rest and nutrition to be our best on race day
Lastly, there are many different and individual responses to tapering, so what works for your running buddy may not be optimal for you. Work with a coach, pay attention to your training, and find the right recipe that has you feeling your best on race day!
Always enjoy the journey and good luck on your next 10K race!
Laurie Porter is a coach with Team RunRun. To learn more about her or to work with her, check out her coach profile.