Race Tip #5: Taper

With less activity, athletes run the risk of defeating themselves mentally. A taper period is a crucial part of training that can make or break your upcoming race. Dr. Hannah DePaul reflects on her time swimming at the University of Michigan where she learned a lot about taper.

Two things that resonated with her: “The hay is in the barn and “Control the controllables.” Her coach would preach that all the hard you have put in is done, and now is the time to recover. Let the mind and body prepare for race day. You will not gain any fitness in the last couple of weeks leading up to your big race.

Some things are out of your control, such as who else is racing or what the weather will be like. Do not waste mental energy on those factors. Control what you have the ability to control…your mindset, attitude, and preparation. Focus on your race, trust your training, and good things will come. Having strategies in place ahead of time will help keep you mentally focused. So acknowledge the taper and embrace it!

Race Tip #4: Sleep

A typical response we hear from athletes – when asked how much sleep they are getting a night – is, “not as much as I would like.” Athletes are great at working hard, but sometimes the importance of sleep is neglected. It’s not just the work you put in, but the amount of recovery you give your body. As an athlete, sleep is the most effective recovery strategy that we can utilize. Lack of sleep can increase risk for injury and affect physical and mental performance. A recent systematic review from Bonnar et al. (2018) found that extending sleep had the most beneficial effects on subsequent performance compared to napping, sleep hygiene, and post-exercise recovery strategies. Also, 7-9 hours of sleep per night is recommended for healthy adults but athletes need 9-10 hours to reach their full potential. Make sleep a priority. Set a regular bed time, avoid caffeine late in the day, and limit screen time before bed. Improving sleep can be difficult, but stick with it! It’s worth it. Train hard and rest harder!

Bonnar, D., Bartel, K., Kakoschke, N. et al. Sports Med (2018) 48: 683.

Race Tip #3: Advice From Us

The Bayshore Marathon provided an opportunity for Dr. Hannah DePaul and Dr. Katie Noble to pull from their own experiences and share some advice with our patients and fellow athletes.

Katie advises that instead of concentrating on the outcome of a race, focus on the process. Set small goals during the race to make the task more mentally manageable. Not every race goes to plan, but stay calm and do what you can in the moment. Every race is a learning opportunity that you can benefit from in races to come!

Hannah found that many endurance athletes put so much focus on just the long workouts (example the 20+ mile marathon prep run), but neglect the consistency and frequency in their training to nail the full race. The hero workouts can contribute to injuries and require prolonged recovery time. Instead, she recommends focusing on consistent training rather than hero workouts. Putting in the work week after week will give you confidence and put you in the right mindset to meet your race day goals!