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The Triathlete Blueprint Newsletter #58- How to Taper in 2024: Optimize Your Race Performance






Read time: 3min.

By Coach Yan Busset



Caution Triathlete in Taper!


Tapering before a race is crucial to master for peak performance. Many athletes struggle with managing their tapering period effectively. They often fear losing their fitness, over or undertrain during this phase, and lack structured strategies. Let’s check together what is the state of the art in 2024. By mastering these techniques, you can prepare to perform at your best. A well-performed taper can increase your performance by up to 8% compared to a random one. Follow these tips for an effective taper.


Reduce Training Volume

That’s a given, you need to be fresh on race day by decreasing your overall training volume by 40% to 60%. The goal is to reduce fatigue while maintaining fitness.


Maintain Intensity

A common mistake is fearing intensity during tapering. Athletes think they must avoid any hard efforts, leading to detraining. Remember, tapering is about reducing volume, not intensity. Keeping some high-intensity sessions helps to stay sharp.


Duration of Taper

Ideal duration varies according to your training volume; there is also an individual component to this, as some people respond faster to rest than others. I have great results with my age group athletes with a 14-day taper for their “A” race. The best overall results are found in an 8-14 day period, but if you have a high volume and packed lifestyle that doesn’t allow you to recover optimally, you may consider extending that period.


Preserve Training Frequency

Maintain your usual training session frequency to keep the neuromuscular system engaged.


Make it a pre race routine

Incorporate familiar key sessions to reduce psychological stress and mentally prepare for the race. Why change something that works? Keeping the same key sessions routine during your taper weeks will have the advantage of getting you mentally in “race mode.”


Limit Long Workouts

Stop long runs and reduce the length of long rides at the start of the taper period.


Avoid Heavy Weights

Avoid heavy strength training or even no weight training at all during race week to minimize muscle fatigue.


Focus on Recovery

Ensure adequate sleep and recovery. That’s a tricky part, as reducing training load can sometimes disrupt sleep patterns.


Monitor Hydration and Nutrition

Maintain good hydration and balanced nutrition to optimize energy levels and recovery. Eat normally, but remember that your training load is lower, so your calorie needs are lower as well. 2-3 days prior to the race, do a carb load phase that will help you store as much glycogen as possible for race day. Carb load doesn’t mean carb overload; eat more carbs in proportion, but don’t binge eat to overstress your liver and upset your stomach.


Manage Stress

Be aware that race stress, training changes, and possible lack of sleep can affect mood. Stay positive and relaxed. Warn people around you not to take it personally if your mood fluctuates, but also remind yourself that it’s “just sport,” so take it easy.


Common Mistakes to Avoid

A frequent error is reducing intensity too much out of fear of injury or fatigue. This can lead to detraining. Tapering aims to lower volume, not intensity. Don’t be afraid to push during high-intensity sessions; they’re crucial for maintaining fitness.


How Often Can You Taper in a Race Season?

You can’t taper for every race; otherwise, you will detrain. Think of tapering as a silver bullet that can be used only for your A-race. You can’t perform at 100% every weekend. You may do the taper twice a season if the two races are far enough apart that you have time to recover from the first one and ramp up training again. If you race very often and want to maintain a good level of performance, then you need to have a good volume of training and just ease the training for 2-3 days prior to the race. With high training volume, you won't be able to be at peak form—maybe just 80-90%—but you will recover faster from the race.



References

- [The Science of Tapering](https://bettertriathlete.com/science-of-tapering-improve-performance/)

- [National Strength and Conditioning Association](https://www.nsca.com/content/Developing-Endurance)

- [Meta-analysis of Tapering Strategies](https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0118025)



 

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