HOW TO MANAGE YOUR TAPERING ?

If you want to be in top form for your triathlon, a tapering period is in order. But do you actually know what tapering involves? And how you can make the most of it so that you're in peak condition come race day? All will be explained!

You're nearly there: the pre-race prep is coming to an end and there's just one week to go before you throw yourself in at the deep end! The long weeks of fitness training are now over. Physically, you're ready. As the weeks have gone by, your training has increased your strength and got you in shape for your race. But if you've been doing things right, all this training has led to a lot of physical and sometimes mental fatigue.

So if you want to be in great shape for your competition, you need to "recover" while retaining the benefits of your prep. This is what is commonly known as "tapering".

 

THE IMPORTANCE OF TAPERING

gerer-affutage-tri

Tapering is the last part of a classic training plan. It is a short period (between one week and 10 days) just before your competition.

The aim of tapering is simple: to reduce the fatigue that has built up while retaining all of your physical abilities.

And therein lies the problem. Noticeably reducing the amount of training you do right before your race seems counter-intuitive to most triathletes. There is an inherent fear of losing the benefit of those long weeks of training if you slow the pace.

But it's actually essential!

It's a bit like building a house. You do everything in the right order - starting with the foundations, then the walls and finally the roof - so that it's fit to live in. Think of tapering as the roof of your house. You could build the nicest house in the world, but if you don't put a roof on it you'll struggle to live in and enjoy your new home.

Basically, you could do the best training in the world but if you don't take the time to let your body recover physically, your results won't live up to your expectations and you won't be working at 100% of your physical ability.

You should therefore give your body a rest before the race, which will do you a world of good.

So what are the principles of tapering? How can you make the most of this period so that you're on top form come race day? Is there anything you shouldn't do? That's what we're going to try to explain today.

First of all, we'll take a look at the notion of “supercompensation”. It's a word that lots of triathletes are familiar with and that explains the importance of tapering.

Next we'll discuss some tips and rules to follow for good tapering, such as the method, amount of training, diet and rest.

 

Quels sont donc les principes de cette période d’affûtage ? Comment optimiser cette période pour arriver dans une forme optimale le jour de la course ? Y a t-il des erreurs à ne pas commettre ? C’est ce que nous allons tenter d’expliquer aujourd’hui. Nous parlerons d’abord de la notion de “surcompensation”. Ce mot que beaucoup de triathlètes connaissent et qui permet d’expliquer l’intérêt de la période d’affûtage. Ensuite nous parlerons ensemble des astuces et des règles à suivre pour réaliser un bon affûtage : méthode et volume d'entraînement, alimentation, repos.

SO WHAT IS SUPERCOMPENSATION ?

surcompensation

To understand supercompensation, you need to understand the point of a training plan.

The aim of the training plan is simple: to improve physically. It means getting your body from its initial state (A) to its final state (B).

Your performance in state B will be much greater than your performance in state A.

And to get there, nothing could be easier! Your body is full of resources.

Let's take the example of running training at your vVO2max. Doing this workout will put your body into a state of physiological stress. At the end of the session, it'll be in worse shape than at the start of the session.

And that's when the magic happens!

Your body now enters a recovery phase. During recovery, your body will go through a number of physiological changes that will help you "put up with" the physiological stress if you do the same session again.

In short, this means that your body will be in better physical shape at the end of the recovery period than it was at the start. This is what we call supercompensation.

This physiological principle lies at the heart of every training plan and explains the point of the tapering period.

During their preparation, triathletes tend to "overdo" their training sessions, particularly by stringing several of them together. They really put their bodies through their paces by barely allowing any recovery time. And although this overtraining will lead to the physiological changes that will eventually improve their fitness and performances, they need to let their bodies digest all of that training if they want to fully benefit from it.

As you've seen, lightening your training load between 7 and 10 days before your race is therefore a huge benefit! It's a chance for your body to recover, put in place those physiological changes, and enter the supercompensation phase just when it's time to race.

 

En effet, pendant sa préparation, le triathlète va avoir tendance à “charger” les séances, et surtout à les enchaîner les unes après les autres. Il met donc son corps à rude épreuve en lui laissant à peine le temps de récupérer. Toutefois cette sur-sollicitation entraîne des adaptations physiologiques qui vont, à terme, améliorer l’état de forme et les performances de la personne. Pour autant, pour bénéficier pleinement des bienfaits de son entraînement, il faut laisser au corps le temps de digérer la préparation.

Vous l’aurez donc compris : alléger son plan d'entraînement entre 7 et 10 jours avant sa course est donc tout bénéfique pour le triathlète ! C’est le moment où on laisse notre corps récupérer, mettre en place toutes les adaptations physiologiques et entrer dans cette phase de surcompensation pile au moment de la course. Comme pour le plan d'entraînement, la période d’affûtage sera à faire en fonction de la personne. Il y a cependant des règles qui s’appliquent pour la réussir.     

HOW TO MANAGE YOUR TAPERING ?

Like with a training plan, the tapering period will vary from person to person. There are however a few rules to apply.

 

1)     Reduce the amount of training

You should be reducing the amount of training you do by 40 to 50% during the last week.

Are you in the habit of doing 4 to 5 sessions per week, amounting to 10 to 12 hours? For the tapering period, 2 or 3 sessions will be enough - no more than 5 to 6 hours.

The aim of these sessions is to simply keep up the pace while having fun.

How about a bit of speed? No harm in that! But don't force yourself as you'll feel worse.

At the end of these sessions, you should feel good and like you haven't overdone things. In no case should you work your body too hard. Don't forget, you're aiming to recover and have fun!

Finding a happy medium isn't easy, but resorting to extremes isn't worth it:

Overtraining: Do you feel like you haven't done enough work before tapering? Sadly, it's too late now. The tapering period should never be about catching up on a big session you missed the week before.

So avoid all kinds of threshold, vVO2max, or specific pace training. If your legs are really itching to do something, pick up a bit of speed on your bike or when running. Be patient: you need to perform next weekend.

Not training: don't cut back on your training entirely! Not training the week before the competition isn't the answer. For one thing, you risk losing the benefit of your hard work if you stop training.

To help your body recover more quickly from these last sessions, you can use the Aptonia compression stockings. Compressing your legs will help with blood flow and therefore improve your recovery after each workout. This kind of support is even more welcome when the aim of the last week is to recover!

And of course, I also recommend taking advantage of these stockings AFTER your race ;-)

 

triathlon-affutage

2)      When to train

There's no right or wrong time to train during the tapering period. It will really depend on your feelings and wishes.

At any rate, here's an idea for a training plan to follow during the last week (if the race is on a Sunday)

 

Monday : Swimming, technical session with a bit of speed: 1 hour

Tuesday: REST

Wednesday: Running: short session with 3 or 4 "finishing straights" with gradual acceleration: 1 hour

Thursday : Bike ride on the small chainring, without forcing things, just to turn your legs: 1 hour or 1 hour 30

Friday : REST

Saturday: Rest (or 30 min cycling + 15 min running if you're feeling jittery ;-) )

Sunday : COMPETITION

Based on this, you can mix up your training as you like but make sure you follow this rule: two days before and the day before, make sure you rest and prepare for your race.

 

3)     Training and more!

Making a success of your tapering therefore means managing the volume and intensity of your training, among other things! Rest, hydration and diet are the other little details that will make all the difference on race day.

 

 

DIET AND HYDRATATION 

 Start eating hyperglucidic meals for lunch and dinner 3 to 4 days before your race. In layman's terms, this means things like pasta and chicken. You really can take this literally as the aim is to load up your body with energy from carbs.

To optimise energy storage, you can use maltodextrine. It's designed to hydrate you AND boost your energy reserves. It comes in packs of 6 sachets which you should take during the 3 days leading up to your competition (T-3 / T-2 / T-1 day). Take one sachet with 500 ml of liquid, twice per day. I use it before each of my competitions and I'm totally won over by it!

Rest: my tip is to focus on the penultimate night before the race. If you're racing on a Sunday, this means the Friday night. Make sure you go to bed early and enjoy a nice long sleep.

You're probably wondering why I haven't mentioned the night before the race.

It goes without saying that it's important! So don't go out partying and indulging on the night of your race. But most of the time you'll find that you sleep badly that night as you're mulling over the upcoming race and have probably got an early start in the morning, which means being awake at the crack of dawn.

As you've seen, tapering is therefore ESSENTIAL if you want a successful race.

I can only encourage you to stick to the advice as closely as possible: gentle training, having fun, eating properly and resting are the aim for this final phase of your race prep.

And as I said in the introduction, giving your body a rest before the race will do you a world of good.

 

redacteur-cedric

Cédric

Je pratique de triathlon depuis 15 ans. Plus qu'un sport, le triathlon est une philosophie de vie. J'ai eu la chance de connaître toutes les distances en triathlon, du XS au L.

Meilleur coureur que nageur, j'ai eu l'occasion de participer au championnat de France de D2 puis de D1 en duathlon avec mon premier club (TRIMOVAL). Je renouvelle l'aventure cette année en D2 de duathlon avec mon club de Champigny

Mais surtout, je réalise cette année mon 1er rêve : le triathlon Ironman® : je suis inscrit à celui de Vichy, le 26 Août prochain.

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