Coping Strategies for Taper Anxiety

I am heading into my second week of taper leading up to the Bozeman marathon and boy is the anxiety setting in. Taper week(s) are meant to be time for recovery and allow all those great weeks of training you have put in to solidify and be ready to throw down! However for many of us it is a perfect recipe for disaster, combining pre-race jitters + extra time from dropping mileage. For me this often results in questioning all of my training, life decisions, general existence, and “discovering” new “injuries” I didn’t even know I had!

There are infinite ways of coping with taper anxiety – and some of them are far more detrimental to the taper process than others. Here are a few examples:

Not helpful:

  1. Filling the time you should be resting with other demanding activities – this could be cross training, spending significantly more time on your feet during the day than you normally would to “make up” for not running as much, or abandoning your taper plan and continuing “last minute training” all the way up to race day (hint – 1 rest day before a big race doesn’t count)
  2. Stop running completely – To give credit where it’s due, I once had a very active patient that coined the term “radical rest” after a bone injury. Once she was cleared to start working out again, we joked that she had transitioned from “radical” to “relative” rest, which is now how I like to think of my taper. It is not a time to completely drop your training, but walking a line between keeping our legs and minds fresh and focused while cutting back on overall volume to be prepared for the big goal that all of this work was done for in the first place. 
  3. Letting your imagination run wild – I swear every day of my taper I wake up with some new “injury”. This is often attributed to race anxiety and overanalyzing how we feel at all times, wanting to be perfectly ready for race day. Not that you should ignore any injuries you may be dealing with, but don’t let minor aches and pain derail you the week before a race. 

Helpful: 

  1. Getting extra sleep – Sleep is such a vital part of our body and mind’s recovery process, and just because you might not be getting up as early to run as you usually would doesn’t mean you should stay up all night. Take advantage of a little less run time to give your body the sleep it needs.
  2. Occupying your mind in healthy ways – while still letting your body rest. Rather than taking on a new lifting routine or going to a bunch of spin classes to offset less mileage, pick up the book you’ve been meaning to read, spend a little more time at the park catching up on a podcast, or my personal favorite of setting up my hammock somewhere and calling friends I haven’t had time to touch base with in a while. 
  3. Sticking to your original running plan – Taper is not the time to add last minute mileage, “make up” missed workouts, or only run at slow/easy pace. I like to spend short bouts of my runs throughout my taper at race pace, reminding my body what that feels like and getting a little confidence boost from the speed. It also helps keep your legs fresh and ready for a quick turnover when your race day finally arrives. Remember you are dropping run volume, but don’t ditch the intensity.
  4. Making a race plan – It helps to make yourself familiar with the course map and spend some time visualizing and preparing for when emotions start running high. 

Need more help structuring an effective taper? I got you! There are so many tricks for managing what otherwise can be the most stressful 2 weeks of training. #trustthetaper