The Taper: Is it affected by our age or the time of year of the race?

author : Amy Kuitse
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BT Member Question:

"Does our age and the time of year effect our taper?"

Answer from Amy Kuitse
USAT Level 1 Coach, D3Multisport Coach and Triathlete

Tapering can be a very tricky phase of ones training plan.  It is not as simple as putting together easy workouts to rest up the body for race day.   Rather it is about how you, as the athlete, have responded to your training throughout the process leading up to the point of taper.  Keys in this are communication with your coach, filling out your logs, following the schedule as written, etc, all so that your preparation can be evaluated to determine the layout of your taper.  Even with the details of your training leading up to this point, you may still find your taper changing from week to week based on how your body responds to the actual taper itself. 

Race length and priority

The length of your taper may be determined by several different things, but two of these weigh in on the decision-making process more than the others.  First is the length of the race and second is the priority of the race within your season. 

In most cases a half ironman and a full ironman are long endurance events that are not easy or likely to be "trained through" by most age groupers.  The half ironman is more likely to have a little more “play” in the taper length than the full and this may look something like seven days versus 10 days of taper.  Leaning toward six to seven days may occur when looking at a HIM that is a lower priority race. 

The iron distance is a very different situation because of the sheer volume of training that goes into preparing for race day and in most cases you will see 14 to 21 days of taper. 

Taper, defined

The biggest consideration is what racing a late season event means for our body.  For instance, those people who may be preparing for Beach to Battleship half iron or full iron distance in November may have already put in six to eight months of training and racing.  The accumulation of the racing and training volumes may require a need for a three-week taper simply to allow the body to rest from all the work it has done up to this point.  Going into a three week taper does not mean we are training less frequently, but with less overall volume.  Each week would still continue to have specific training sessions in each sport while decreasing the volume to allow for mental and physical recovery. 

Taper plan

A taper typically follows a pattern something like this:

  • Three weeks from race:  30 percent reduction of volume while continuing with specific training sessions in each sport at race pace or slightly faster.
       
  • Two weeks from race:  another 20-30 percent reduction of volume with continued race pace or slightly faster sport specific workouts.
       
  • One week from race:  another decrease of 30 percent from week two, with daily workouts in two or three of the sports daily.  A day off would be recommended early to mid-week or may not be taken at all.  This is likely to be determined between the athlete and coach.

Ability level

We have talked about determining the length of taper based on the time of year, but you have also asked a good question about the age and whether the athlete is mid-pack, back-of-the-pack or an elite athlete. 

To this question I respond to the athletes I work with the same way I respond to comments about individual speed.  It is relative to you.  Your taper is the same thing; it is relative to you and the training you have done up to this point. 

Age

We know based on research that the older athlete requires more time to recover from hard training sessions as well as the higher volume training days.  How we train remains relative to who we are.  Our training factors in our age, the time we have to train, how we respond, and more. 

So, yes, age is going to have an effect on your taper, but your training program will also have taken this and other above-mentioned things into account.

Different coaches will have different opinions and ideas on how to approach your taper for a late-season race.  They will likely base your taper on things mentioned in this article response such age and what your season has been like up to that point and other things they see as key to working with their athletes. 

The key remains that the taper is written or customized for you and based on your needs. 

All the best for your late season race and, most of all, enjoy the challenge of it!


Amy Kuitse, USAT Level 1 Coach, D3Multisport Coach and Triathlete

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date: December 27, 2011

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Amy Kuitse