Tapering for an Event

By Peg Labiuk | 07/02/12
Tapering for an Event

Photo © Jonathan Devich/epicimages.us

We’ve teamed up with Marilyn Trout, certified USA Cycling Elite Coach to answer Voler Newsletter List members’ training questions. You can view her coach profile at http://www.linkedin.com/in/mountainpedalscoaching80903 Send your cycling inquiries to Marilyn, and for a limited time, if yours is selected to be answered in our Training column, Voler will send you a $20 gift certificate that can be used towards any purchase from the Voler Store at http://www.voler.com. To submit your inquiry, e-mail her at Marilyn@MountainPedals.net, and type “Voler Training Question” in the subject line of the e-mail.

The following question was answered by Peg Labiuk (nee Peggy Maass), a colleague of Marilyn Trout, and a certified NCCP level 3 coach with a career in international road and track racing. She is a World Championship medalist, World Record holder, U.S. Olympic Team member, former British national team coach and Kreb's Cycle co-founder (British Columbia, Canada).

Tapering For An Event

Hello Coach,

I had a question about tapering for an event. For example, I've been riding 200+ miles a week, doing intervals and even added weight lifting to my program. How long before an event should I start tapering? How low do I lower intensity? miles? intervals?

Thank you in advance!

Hi Peter,

Tapering is about resting without losing the training edge you've worked hard to gain. To keep the edge, you don't cut back in intensity, just in volume. For example, if you have been doing say, 6 intervals in a workout, you'd reduce by 30% when tapering. You'd do only 4 intervals but at the same effort level. The reduction in training stimulus translates as extra rest. It lets your body recover and reload, bouncing back to a supra performance level. Next, you want to time that extra rest so that you are rested, but not lethargic on the big day. In my coaching experience, this is where most uncoached riders fall flat. They rest too close to the event and don't peak on the day, but feel great a day or two later. They have just proven a peaking pattern works, but they timed it wrong. To avoid that pitfall, make sure you have a few days to "rev up" before the event.

It's easiest to plan backwards from the big day. The day before, you want to do some intensity, get up to race speed to get your body ready. Two days before, start that process with a gentle, but longer ride. The ideal scenario is to test a peaking pattern three months prior. That way you have time to adjust if you find you feel better after a longer rest like 5 days off, or three days, or if you feel best two weeks after that rest. Also, your body will respond to the rhythm of training and resting, so the more times you go through a peaking pattern, the more likely you'll have a positive peak. There is a great tool available now with the SRM power meter. It's called the Workload Tracker. The meter is measuring your power output and cumulative effort. The tracker compiles that information on a daily basis. Your score climbs until you rest, which takes it down some points. The objective is to track your training and resting loads until you hit the optimum load for peaking. Then you would use that load number as your goal for your big event.

The recovery is what makes you feel great on the day. If you haven't had a rest break in over 5 weeks straight (and by rest break I mean at least three days in a row off), then you are due for a rest. For most riders, that is best about 3-4 weeks before your event. For your July 22nd Criterium Series Final, you could rest the last week of June then resume training for the first two weeks of July. That is when you can also taper off in volume, but keep the intensity.

Your final, taper-peak week might look like this:

  • July 16 last training
  • July 17 rest
  • July 18 rest
  • July 19 rest
  • July 20 long, easy ride to gently get back in the groove 2 hrs
  • July 21 pre-race ride, like your race day warm-up and effort like the first 1/3 of the race

That should get you rested and revved!
Coach Peg

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