Taper Tips

March 14, 2012 · 30 comments

Tapering, for those of you who don’t know, is a period of time when “the volume of training is reduced in the days or weeks leading up to a key event to prevent training-induced fatigue from impacting your performance on the day.” Basically, it’s crunch time before a marathon or half marathon. Tapering is awesome and awful for so many reasons. According to a Runner’s World poll, 40% of runners enjoy taper time, while 19% “find them to be simply excruciating.” I fall under both schools of thought.

Runners World says research has shown those who taper properly perform better than those who train right up until race day. So read up and taper right.

The Truth About Tapering


  • Carb intake is supposed to increase by 25% (oh, twist my arm…). Do so with all whole grains, and don’t skimp on the protein and healthy fats. As always, chicken, fish, lean meats, beans, and legumes are great protein sources.
  • Increased rest. Which can be a double-edged sword… but let’s be honest, it’s mostly awesome. Rest builds strength, so this is important.


  • You feel like you want to do everything you can to beast the race, so scaling down on mileage by 60% on your runs makes you feel like a lazy bum. The urge to cram in a few extra miles is a hard one to fight.


  • Sleep should become priority (too bad I haven’t slept well this week)
  • Hydration is essential the week before training

For a half marathon, your taper should be 10-14 days long. The key workout during this time is a 2-mile run at race pace. For other runs during taper time, mileage should be drastically reduced and intensity levels should be around 50% (I always struggle with this and have to reel myself in).

For a marathon, tapering should last 14-21 days. That key workout at race pace should be aĀ  5-miler.

What I’ve been doing for Taper Time:

  • I sold out gave in. I went and bought the very item I used to snark when I truly was a newb runner.

With my unrelenting shins, I knew it was just a matter of time before I’d have to lock down a pair of compression sleeves. I went with Zensah compression sleeves, and I’ve been told these will be “life-changing,” make my calves and shins feel “sooo much better,” and make me skip on rainbows and trail sparkles everywhere I go. Since I only bought them yesterday, I’m still waiting for all of the above.

My prior issue with the running sleeves was due to my first experience spotting them. When I ran the Grand Strand Turkey Trot 5k a few years ago, a lanky lady (no judging here… look at me) was wearing a spandex tank and shorts combo, had compression sleeves on her legs, arm sleeves, and sports sunglasses. She looked like she thought she was such a badass, and my cousin and I snickered as we stretched by the starting line in our Target running gear.

Let’s be serious. I in no way try to look like a badass when I run. In fact, I generally go the opposite route, as you well know.

Clearly, I have no intention of ever appearing like I think I am a badass. Before, I felt like sporting the compression sleeves would give me that air of badassery I’d rather not show off.

So, I was originally intending to grab some black ones. Understated. Just servin’ their purpose, just helping my shinskies out. But after looking at my color options and comparing what would look the best with my beloved Brooks Pure Connects, I figured I may as well go all out with the neon version. I wanted the bright yellow, but there weren’t any in my size, so I opted for hot pink.

And those Balega socks? They were on sale at the running store, and I snagged two pair. In bright colors, obviously, since yesterday’s theme was apparently “go bright or go home.” I ran a 3-mile taper run in the yellow ones yesterday, and I think it marked the beginning of a beautiful Balega relationship.

Since I’ve been told to wear the sleeves as I’m resting as well, I’m wearing these pink compression sleeves to work. Underneath my dress pants. It’s like a little secret no one knows… until I show a little ankle in the school hallway and blind everyone by my neon calves. The high schoolers will love it.

  • More carbs – a little whole wheat pasta on my lunch salads, brown rice with my dinner, you know the drill.

That’s a BBQ brown rice tilapia bowl.

  • Strider runs – I have trouble forcing myself to take it down a notch for taper runs. So, I channel my inner high school track runner and do “strider” runs. Our track coach used to tell us to take the longest step forward our legs could reach, then repeat. Turn that into a comfortable run (not a stride sprint), and you have my favorite strider run. I look like I’m jumping over puddles the entire way, but it feels good on the legs and keeps me from speeding up too much. Let’s reiterate the fact one more time: I clearly don’t ever look cool when I run.

What’s your favorite/least favorite part about tapering? Any favorite tips you’ve gotten for taper time?

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{ 21 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Lauren S. March 14, 2012 at 12:24 pm

I have the same hot pink zensah. I too used to snicker at people with all their fancy running gear. I wouldn’t be able to be training for the 10 mile cherry blossom race (and eventually my first half) without those though! They made 10 mile + runs bearable and running possible 4 times a week for me!


2 Janine @ThePurpleGiraffe March 14, 2012 at 12:44 pm

I have the neon yellow Zensah – and definitely rock them under my dress pants!
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3 becca March 14, 2012 at 12:49 pm

I have a pair of zensha leg sleeves and love them. I was having shin pain as well and they really helped me! I hope you have the same success that I did with them.
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4 Alyssa March 14, 2012 at 1:04 pm

I am finishing my tapering week right now, running my first marathon (DC Rock & Roll) in 3 days!! There’s a bagel by me as I type…


5 Jenny March 14, 2012 at 1:11 pm

I think I just realized “Increasing carbs” is like the #1 reason that race training appeals to me right now?
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6 Heather@Just a Colorado Gal March 14, 2012 at 1:12 pm

I have a tendency to go hog wild when tapering and do a bit TOO much of nothing. And yeah, that’s not so good either šŸ™‚
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7 Easa March 14, 2012 at 2:20 pm

Did you have a reference for this: “intensity levels should be around 50% “?

I’ve always been told and have always coached for an increase in intensity during the taper. One precursor to every big full/half PR I’ve reached has been a particularly intense Tue/Wed session. The tradeoff is giving up miles but mixing in a higher percentage of quality. Or, in essence, the training drifts from pushing endurance limits to pushing speed/economy limits. This satisfies the mind and gives the body the rush it needs without reaching exhaustion. Some good race week workouts are 200’s and 300’s, stuff the body can recovery quickly from, but which allows us to work hard and puts the pain of a half or full into a different perspective.

I may very well be in the minority with my approach, though, I’m not very well read on the topic.
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8 Yellow Haired Girl March 14, 2012 at 2:40 pm

Personally, I think the leg sleeves are a great look šŸ™‚

I’m not a runner, but this was a great eye opener into “your world”, so to speak. I’m clueless when it comes to race prep. But I like this while carbs thing haha
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9 Chelsea Brown March 14, 2012 at 2:50 pm

I think bright colors just make everything better. Especially when they’re bright sports bras and socks. I went nuts at target the other day and bought a couple compression sports bras that are ridiculously bright. Love.Them.

And if training for a half/marathon means I can up the carbs in my diet then I might sign up for one ASAP. I’ve been eating way too much peanut butter cap’n crunch…at least I would be able to use the marathon as an excuse for my poor eating..right? hahah


10 Theresa March 14, 2012 at 3:07 pm

i’m a dork and completely love the bright colors šŸ™‚

tapering is tough for me since i’m such an endorphin junkie. for some reason, its just hard for me to relax..
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11 Carrie @ Lift Eat Repeat March 14, 2012 at 3:22 pm

I wish I would have tapered when I did my half marathons! A couple years ago I ran 4 half marathons in the month of October for a charity & I didn’t taper at all. I think the Saturday before my first one I ran like 12 miles or something stupid crazy like that. I will probably never run one again cause those did damage to my knees, but if for some reason I do I will def taper!
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12 Talia @ Bite Size Wellness March 14, 2012 at 3:52 pm

I def want a picture when you start skipping on rainbows and throwing fair dust around! Sexy! šŸ™‚
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13 Lindsay @ Fuel My Family March 14, 2012 at 4:08 pm

Its hard to not think “oo i just need 1 more really good training run this week” when in fast resting will help even more. I think its just the excitement of the race. But I listened to the experts (since I am certainly not one when it comes to running), and rested up, carb loaded, and ended up with a time and experience I was very happy with!
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14 Alyssa @ Fit and Fun in Third March 14, 2012 at 4:14 pm

Favorite part – MORE CARBS!!! šŸ™‚
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15 Kristen @ notsodomesticated March 14, 2012 at 4:31 pm

So will you actually wear the compression sleeves while you run, as well? Just curious because I hear mixed opinions of that. And I’ll be interested to hear how they work for you, since I have that pesky shin pain, as well!
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16 lindsay March 14, 2012 at 6:05 pm

ya, you feel lazy and tired. But that means your doing it right… right? well it better be! ha.
Happy Taper Tuesday….err…. Wednesday.
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17 Lindsey @ Happy or Hungry March 14, 2012 at 10:57 pm

I like the pink ones! I think they suit you and are more funny than black ones.
I also love all your race outfits. I too prefer the look opposite of badass, and you are NAILING it!
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18 Lena @Fit on the Rocks March 14, 2012 at 11:23 pm

I LOVE balega socks. In terms of the sleeves. I haven’t used mine since about January. It felt nice to have them on, but they weren’t particularly life-changing for me. Hopefully they work out better for you.
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19 Ricole Runs March 15, 2012 at 12:23 am

You’re ready! Nice taper activities! I also am obsessed with compression sleeves, though I don’t think mine are tight enough? I always have left shin issues and will do anything preventative. not sure if they really help or it’s all in my head?!
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20 Lauren March 15, 2012 at 11:38 am

Balega socks are my new BFF. I finally cracked and bought a real pair of running shoes this past weekend and the guy was like “you MUST be these balega socks, they will change your life.” And after running two 15+ milers this week I totally agree!! I will never go back!

So torn on compression socks…please keep us posted on how they work for you! I just can’t get myself to shell out the money for them but I do keep hearing good things…


21 Katy @ HaveYouHurd March 16, 2012 at 12:22 pm

Wow this post just made me feel SO MUCH BETTER! I am running in a Half Marathon tomorrow up in D.C. (by the way, good luck in the ShamRock, I know a ton of people running in that guy to!) and I haven’t had a good long run since like 2 weeks ago. I have been working out and running about 3 miles multiple times, but I was a little worried that wasn’t enough. Little did I konw I was tapering without even knowing it…YAY! My confidence level just freaking skyrocketed..THANK YOU šŸ™‚
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