Tapering refers to the reduction of exercise before a competition or race.This is essential for best performance.It helps to reach the starting line at peak fitness and with maximal energy reserves.For full marathons, a taper period of 3 weeks is recommended. During this period, levels of muscle glycogen, enzymes, antioxidants, and hormones, return to optimal ranges.Muscle damage that occurs during sustained training is also repaired. In addition immune function and muscle strength improve. The general rule is to reduce the weekly mileage to 80% or 75% with three weeks to go,60% with two weeks to go and 40% on race week.
The taper workout should be similar to what you’ve been doing the rest of your training plan but with reduced mileage. Stay as close to your typical schedule as possible (same pace on your runs, same types of workouts), just with less volume. It’s the rest more than the work that makes you strong. There is a tendency by runners to imagine that their fitness will be compromised. Studies show that fitness is not lost in the in 3 weeks of tapering. In fact, studies show that your aerobic capacity, the best gauge of fitness, doesn’t change at all. Runners targeting a time goal should do three to five miles at goal pace during a long midweek run—key workouts like this will keep the body and mind tuned into race pace.
Take in a lot of protein this week to aid in the repair and recovery of muscle tissue damaged during the high-mileage phase of marathon training-(Take about 75 to 100 grams of protein per day).If you don’t eat meat, fill up on protein from eggs, beans, dairy, and soy products. The proteins should be low in fat, such as chicken, fish, lean meats, beans, and legumes. Modify the carbohydrate-based diet you’ve maintained throughout your marathon training since you will not be needing the same amounts of carbohydrates as you did during the high mileage weeks.To decrease calories but keep up carbohydrate intake, you will have to trade some of the calories coming from fat for more carbohydrates. To rebuild your literally “run-down” immune defenses and possibly prevent a cold or flu, load up on Vitamin C. Kiwis, orange juice, red bell peppers, broccoli, and strawberries are the very good for this
It’s important to approach your core, resistance, flexibility and cross training in the same way as running. Keep these to a minimum in the last 10 days and eliminate them before the race. If you are used to a few (say 10 min) minutes of stretching before taper, don’t suddenly devote half an hour to it. Do not introduce any new exercises at this point