Taper Time

in Triathlons

You know how last night I discussed pathetic excuses v. legitimate excuses?  I forgot one really good legitimate excuse for dialing back on workouts:  the taper!

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A taper is a period of time in which you reduce intensity, volume, or intensity and volume of exercise immediately before a race.  There are no hard and fast rules of how long to taper for certain distances, but generally, the marathon taper lasts two weeks.  I’ve read that Ironman tapers may be as long as a month.  Now, don’t be mistaken – this doesn’t mean you skip all exercise for two weeks or a month.  It just means you cut back. 


The purpose of the taper is to allow your body to rest and recover so it’s primed for a hard workout during the race.  If you go into a race sore, it’s absolutely miserable.  I’ve made that mistake a few times, hoping that ‘one last hard workout’ will really make a difference.  But I’ve finally learned my lesson.  Tapers are so important – rest is just as pivotal to training as sweating!  The taper allows you to perform at your best.  It’s so disappointing to start running and realize your legs feel like dead weights or begin to swim and notice that your shoulders are already tired.


How you cut back depends on the race distance, the quality of your training, your age, your fitness level, and how quickly you recover from workouts.  Like I said – there aren’t hard rules regarding tapers.


I usually follow the following tapers:


  • 5K:  Exercise as normal for week of event, make workout two days before event an easy one, and take day before off.
  • 10K:  Same as a 5K.
  • 15K or Half:  Reduce mileage and intensity week before event and take two – three days off before race.
  • Marathon:  Reduce mileage and intensity for two weeks prior to event (I did a three week taper before my first race due to a trip to Europe and it was far too long) and take three days off before race.
  • For sprint triathlons, I take two days off before the race, and for Olympics, I follow the same taper as I would for a Half Marathon.


I’ll admit, my training for this weekend’s sprint triathlon has been… ah… lackluster.  I’ve done a handful of bricks (double workouts) and been good about swimming and running, but I’m pretty much going to phone in most of the race and just have fun.  However, I currently get really sore after all of my workouts – even the easy ones – because I’m just getting back into shape.  I’m sore from yesterday’s run! So a decent taper is definitely required.

Therefore… let the taper time begin.  I foresee a few hours of television in my future.  Winking smile


How do you taper for races?  I think tapers are not only beneficial physically, but mentally, too – it’s nice to have a break.



  • Anne August 23, 2012, 7:56 pm

    Haha taper time is the best!

    I love to do a “shake out” run the day before a race, usually just 2 miles. In theory it keeps me loose and lets me move my muscles, but I think it has become more of a psychological pre-race bolster than enything else.

    You are so amazing for racing so soon after having Henry, Kudos to you!

  • HTPGDad August 23, 2012, 7:58 pm

    taper, right, that’s what we were doing today…

  • laine August 23, 2012, 8:24 pm

    When I was doing my triathlon training, my trainer said there was no physiological benefit to increasing training about 2 weeks out, which I took to mean “begin taper.” I did my last brick about 2 weeks before, and then just did a little running and biking and yoga.

  • Christina August 23, 2012, 8:33 pm

    I taper pretty much like you- though I’ve never done a marathon! I’m not really following any plans right now and I have to remind myself to take off a few days before the race. Actually I have a 5k on Saturday so this is a good reminder!
    Anyways, good luck at the triathlon! I’m so excited to hear how it goes.

  • Katie @ Peace Love & Oats August 23, 2012, 9:07 pm

    I definitely taper – it’s so important to not be sore or tired for race day! For my marathon plan we’re following Hal Higdon, so we do the 20 miler and then the next two long runs are 12 and 8, then the race! So technically it’s about a 3 week taper.

  • Hannah August 23, 2012, 9:23 pm

    I am running my first 5K on September 30, and I cannot imagine having to prepare for it without having read Healthy Tipping Point!

    • Caitlin August 23, 2012, 9:26 pm

      Good luck 🙂 I hope you have fun.

  • Marie-Santé August 23, 2012, 10:48 pm

    Have fun on your race! I’m excited for you and I think you are some kind of superhero…

  • Amy Q August 23, 2012, 10:58 pm

    As I have said before, you are an inspiration doing this race post-partum for fun and for fitness, and not worrying or stressing about how much you have trained, etc. I predict SUCCESS~! SO proud of you, and don’t even “know” you!

  • Annette@FitnessPerks August 23, 2012, 11:10 pm

    Yep, I am in taper time too! Half Ironman on Saturday baby! My last hard-ish workout/training was Tuesday.

    Sleep & foam rolling baby!

  • Katie @ Talk Less, Say More August 24, 2012, 12:50 am

    totally taking note of this as I’m training for a 10k! 🙂

  • Ksenija August 24, 2012, 6:16 am

    Never heard of taper time before! It was just a natural habit to not work out the day before a race and take it easy 2-3 days before this. Your explenations are really great though and I try to follow your rules of thumb the next time.

  • Dannii @ Hungry Healthy Happy August 24, 2012, 7:12 am

    Thanks for the tip – I wouldn’t have thought of doing this. I am training for a 5k at the moment – so this will come in handy.

  • Hillary August 24, 2012, 7:55 am

    Tapering for a half marathon is my favorite part of training: it’s when I can appreciate how far I’ve come and get really psyched up for the race! I usually follow a similar timeline to the one you posted.

  • Amber @ Busy, Bold, Blessed August 24, 2012, 9:10 am

    I did some sprints in the last run before my half… totally didn’t think about it and ended up with some sore legs! I was rolling, stretching, chugging water like a mad woman… I was really nervous that my legs were going to bother me during the race. But they didn’t… thank goodness. Definitely learned my lesson though!

  • Alex @ Healthy Life Happy Wife August 24, 2012, 10:30 am

    I definitely love/hate taper week. I always feel like I should be doing more but at the same time it is nice to take it easy before a race! I like to run a bunch of easy runs just to ease my mind, hydrate like crazy & eat a good amount of easily digestible carbs the 3 days prior.

  • Allison@commitcomplete August 24, 2012, 12:04 pm

    I drink tons of water and panic, thinking that I should be training rather than resting. I am terrible at sitting still.

  • Dunja August 24, 2012, 3:52 pm

    Good luck and a lot of fun for your race tomorrow 🙂

  • Claire August 24, 2012, 11:39 pm

    I really hate marathon tapering, I find I can feel niggles all the time and I hate being out of routine. It’s like my body is primed to run a lot and if I back off too much it all comes unstuck – it’s a wierd feeling. I try to back off on intensity and length of runs rather than frequency during my tapers, and that seems to be better for me.

  • Alett August 25, 2012, 8:14 am

    Love the taper!

    I have my first OLY tri this weekend, gulp! Wee bit nervous about the swim. The hubby will be doing the 70.3 distance of this race.

    Good luck to you!

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