April Zilg: Keep Calm and Enjoy the Taper

For those training for the Carolina Cup, the essential tapering weeks are almost here!

If you’ve been training for the Carolina Cup and you’re wondering, “what’s tapering?” then you may be new to training. At about 2 weeks out from your goal event, you’ll start to reduce your time on the board, or “taper” your training. By reducing your training you are letting your muscles recover (and even get stronger) and allowing your body to store up some energy.

Tapering is a hard thing to do

With a race 2 weeks out, there is an overwhelming feeling of “catching up” especially after a winter like we’ve just had where many of us couldn’t get out and train as much as we’d like. Some elite athletes don’t taper at all, although this is rare. Research, however, suggests that doing a taper can improve your performance up to 6%! In a 3-hour race that is a 10-minute improvement, and when it comes to paddling that is a huge gap. Most people that do a taper accept 3.5% as the improvement in performance for us regular folk. This is still better than no improvement at all. If you haven’t been training as much as you’d like, and it makes you feel better, you may consider a shorter taper using an additional few days to do your long and hard workouts. Don’t prolong the workouts for too long, and don’t read into this if you merely “feel” like you haven’t been doing enough. If you’ve been able to stick to a plan within reason, trust it, and start your taper.

But what about endurance?

You won’t lose what you’ve worked so hard to accomplish. A proper taper does not impact your VO2max. When you do a proper taper, like those built into a Riding Bumps training plan, you’re still keeping your systems active and strong. “Training Taper” and “Relax on Couch” are not synonymous. You’re still active, and you’re still on the water training. The main difference is the training load. It is about 60% less than you have done at your peak. You’re muscles won’t become “flat” either, because in a proper taper you still do intensity workouts like sprints and intervals, just modified from your peak training regime. Going too slow and resting too much can reduce your muscle tension; this results in the “flat” feeling. Adding in short, fast bursts can keep your muscle tension up, increase your blood’s oxygen-carrying capacity, lower your stress, and store more fuel in your muscles!

What you should be doing.  

Enjoy your reduced training. Don’t ignore your training plan taper. Take time to fuel up with healthy, nutritious meals. Practice some breathing and relaxation exercises to use on the start line. Visualize the race-course, visualize your pace, visualize yourself doing well. Review your strategy: fast to start? Building up to pace? Slow and steady? Whatever it is, review it and stick to it. If you have the time or the opportunity go out and check the course, paddle it slowly, learn the water. GOOD LUCK!

 

Two weeks to Carolina Cup

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