Tapering is an event preparation technique in which you implement a decrease in your training volume prior to your event to allow for sufficient recovery from all the hard training you've been doing so that you arrive at the start of your event at peak performance level. Typically, a taper should start about 2 weeks prior to your event.
Below is a plan for tapering for a big event (GORUCK HTL/HTB or Heavy, any event that is longer/more challenging than you’ve ever done, an event where you are racing (like a Star Course), or an upcoming event where you have been feeling a performance decline or any other signs of overtraining/high training load impact prior to the event.
3 WEEKS BEFORE YOUR EVENT - PREPARING TO TAPER
Any last very hard workouts or rucks should be done this week however, this is the week where you SHOULD NOT DO ANYTHING DUMB. Put down the 120-pound sandbag, make PT hard but don’t do any crazy movements or movements that involve any part of you that may be injured or painful, don’t do Murph with a ruck or a marathon ruck, don’t start a last-minute running program because someone scared you into thinking you might have to do a 5-mile slick run during the PT test. Get in the miles, do some challenging workouts, and push yourself, but build up your last bit of training fatigue without doing anything crazy that’s going to get you injured just before your event.
Sleep, stress reduction, and nutrition are keys to optimal performance. This week before taper, think about what you can do now to destress the coming 2 weeks so that you can optimize your recovery and get as event-ready as possible. Get stressful must-do projects done (like finalizing your packing list) and make whatever other arrangements you can so that when you aren’t working out the next two weeks, you can be as relaxed as possible, get a good night's sleep every night, and take the time to make and eat healthy, high-protein meals.
2 WEEKS BEFORE YOUR EVENT
This is when taper officially begins. In the first week of taper, your goal is to start decreasing the volume (amount of time/miles) of your workouts. The example taper plan below is a guide and assumes that your event starts on a Friday. You don’t have to ruck or do certain workouts on the exact days specified below nor do you have to do the exact rucks specified but I do recommend you keep that rest day 1 week prior to your event. If you are a Ruck Strong Athlete, you can do up to 3 Ruck Strong workouts this week, but don’t go all out. Even if it’s a week where we are working on a 9 out of 10 effort level, scale it back to a 6 or 7.
THE WEEK OF YOUR EVENT
Now you are going to really scale back the mileage and intensity and you are going to start paying closer attention to your pre-event fueling. You aren’t going to gain any fitness through working out this week. You are gaining it from the rest and decrease in volume that you will get this week. Less is more with workouts this week. You’re doing just enough so your body stays fresh and in the groove of moving but you don’t want to accumulate any fatigue with your workouts.
Take the rest days on the days I have suggested and make sure that the rest day two days prior to the event is extra restful. Workouts should be light - no rucks with weight above what you will carry at the event. The day before your event, you will do a NO EFFORT workout. You are basically making your body go through some of the motions it will do during your event to prime you mentally but you should not feel like you did any work during this workout.
I want to reiterate that this is a guide for you to use to give you an idea of how to taper down your training prior to an event. You can use it exactly as it is, or alter it as needed. If this seems like a lot of training compared to what you usually do or not much of a decrease, taper it down a bit further. If it doesn't seem like much training, it's probably just right for you.
Stick to what you know before your event. If you have a certain plan for what you eat when prior to an event that works for you, go for it. Just make sure that your pre-hydration plan includes electrolytes so that you aren't just drinking plain water the couple of days prior to the event.
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