Why Does Tapering Feel Like Crap and how do you stay healthy?

You have spent months training for your race and most weeks you have felt amazing.  Your mileage was up, and even though you were sleepy tired, the more you ran the better you felt.  Now it is time to rest up for the race and you feel worse.  What the……. What happened, why would you feel sluggish when you rest more?  Why do you feel tight and achy and all of these weird pains show up?  Why are you cranky?  None of this makes sense…….but it does.

Your body works on the fight or flight response.  Anytime you, train you produce endorphins (hormones) which give you a analgesic effect .  It is similar to when you are in stress mode during the holidays, or before exams in college, or a project at work.  You scramble, go into this superhuman mode to get everything done and then crash.  Training taper is very similar.  You have trained for months and your mind has pushed your body hard.  Now you are relaxing and not doing as much and your body finally has a chance to heal.   The immune system now kicks into overdrive.  Your chances of snagging a cold are higher during this time so it is important to eat right, sleep well and take your vitamins.

There is no cause for alarm here.  Feeling sluggish during taper is normal and actually a good sign.  A few things you can do to fill your time and keep your body healthy.

#1 Read a book that you have been putting off
#2 Get a good massage or 2 work out all of the kinks that have popped up during training
#3 Do light stretching even if you feel tigher.  Light relaxing holds for 30s to 1 min will help slowly release tight muscles
#4 Hydrate often 10 days before the race
#5 Keep your intensity up as your volume decreases so you don’t get too flat
#6 Enjoy yourself, have a beer or glass of wine, or play with your kids.  None of this is going to hurt you before a race, just live your normal life, you just aren’t training as much.  Being more relaxed is the BEST thing you can possibly do.

Tom Clifford
USATF Level II Coach specializing in Endurance
USA Triathlon Coach