Tapering: Dos and Don’ts
So this is it. The BIG one is just around the corner. While nearly everyone I know has spent at least the last 12 months thinking about this, most of you have been thinking of this since it was announced summer of 2015. You’ve invested countless hours grinding away in the saddle, sweating at the gym or on the rollers, early mornings sitting in traffic and time spent away from families and friends. You’ve been invested physically, financially and emotionally to get to this point and now you’re eager to see some returns on that investment. I understand your excitement at the “pay day” at hand, but now more than ever you need to do one thing: stick to the plan and RELAX!!!
At this point in the year especially, the real “work” is done. If there were things in our build up to this point that didn’t go perfectly according to plan (injuries, life events, etc), there is nothing we can do about it and we certainly cannot make it up. Especially when we get to the final taper phase, more is not more. Every single one of your programs has been written in great detail to progressively get you sharper and sharper all the way in to the first day of racing at worlds. A single extra effort, set in the gym or additional time on a road ride are all factors that will impact the effectiveness of your event prep. Let alone going down to the track on unprescribed days and times to do things that are not even remotely in the schedule.
The whole process of tapering is based around reducing the stress/volume and increasing the recovery and intensity. So just because you have more time on your hands now, does not mean it should be spent traveling and doing extra chores just to fill up the day. Now I’m not saying to neglect your life duties of work, family, etc. But now is not the time to take trips to see out of town family. It’s not time to spend extra hours in the car traveling to do “this one more day on the boards”. Use this time to keep your feet up, prepare your equipment for race day and allow the tapering process to do it’s job.
When we are down at the track or putting in our other prescribed training, it’s crucial to make sure every pedal stroke we turn is as perfectly executed as possible. If we don’t get something right, we focus and work to correct it on our next attempt (which could be next week). We don’t go out and “do another one” or “let me try that again”. This is for two reasons 1) see above in regards to more is not more and extra work only negatively impacts the taper plan, and 2) on race day, we don’t get any second chances. If you mess up your start or your flying 200m approach, it’s done and it is what it is. So if in training we don’t get the execution right, the solution is not to keep trying till it is right, instead focus better before the next scheduled attempt to get it right that time. So much of this process and our approach has a larger purpose than just getting you physically ready for racing.
On the flip side of trying to perfect something that wasn’t 100%, is the “wow that felt good, let’s do it again” conundrum. DO NOT DO EXTRA!!! I know, for most of you, that feeling good/fast is not something we regularly experience. And now finally, for the first time in maybe 3 years or longer, you might finally feel those speedy legs you’ve been looking for starting to arrive. Well now more than ever, do not over use them! I promise you, when you feel them start to show up, we have only just scratched the surface of what is in there to come out. So going out and over-testing them will only slow down what is just around the corner in terms of maximizing that speed. Trust in the process and save all the excitement of your new found speed for when we really need it starting October 8th.
Lastly, when it comes to taper time, it’s time to be very sharp and honest with yourself about your nutrition and sleep/recovery habits. This is it, the final 4 weeks. It’s time to turn the TV off earlier, wrap up those dinner meetings by 7:30 instead of 9:30, and while that massive plate of pasta and cheese sound like a great reward for a hard year of work, save it for October 16th people! I know it is the end of what feels like a very long year. We do our best as coaches to try and keep the flow of the year relaxed and on schedule to be ready for a mid October peak, but it can’t change the fact that the days are getting shorter and the temps are getting cooler. Instead of seeing these factors as negatives or things working against us, view them as badges of honor for being the few and the proud that are still treating September like the rest of the world treats July. Coach Giddeon and I know all too well the struggle of keeping the energy high on those brisk fall mornings. But it was also all of those days, when we were the only ones on the track, that we knew we were making the gains everyone else wasn’t.
Be your own champion today and everyday.