HOW TO TAPER FOR AN EVENT
“a short-term reduction in training load during a period leading up to a competitive event”
A good training program delivers the final significant training stimulus far enough out from your event to allow for both adaptation and complete recovery. For the majority of amateur cyclists, this means normal training should stop 7-10 days from your event and be followed by a short taper. Remember, training is stress, and in the short term it causes fatigue, which suppresses performance. The only way to reap all the benefits of your program is to significantly reduce your workload and let your true fitness rise all the way to the surface.
Since fitness changes somewhat slowly, it’s important to realize that no matter where your conditioning is with one week to go, that’s what you have to work with. In the time you have left, no combination of workouts is going to significantly boost your sustainable power over 1, 5, 20, or 60 minutes. That part of the equation is now fixed, but you can still control how rested and fresh you can be on the starting line.
THE WEEK BEFORE
A week of great sleep, easy spins, and good food would ensure you’re rested for race-day, but to be fresh you need some intense workouts. The two seem at odds but tapering is all about reducing the overall training workload while retaining just enough stimulus to keep the body primed and ready to go.
Reducing your training load is as simple as cutting back on the hours and miles and also reducing your pace. If your rides are normally 90 minutes, this week they’re 60. Hour-long rides go to 45 minutes. They don’t have to be complete recovery rides, but you need to resist the urge to test yourself every time you go out. The fitness is there, but you have to trust it.
After months of training the final week is where paths diverge: confident athletes rest easy knowing they’re as fit as they’re going to be, and insecure ones second-guess themselves. Know when to say when. You’ll gain more from being fresh and rested than from anything you could add to your training within five days of your event.