Tapering and Massage
The last few weeks - tapering and massage for a marathon
Marathon season is upon us once again, the roads and parks are full of people training hard for one of the longest races of their lives. Here in the South East we have the Brighton Marathon on 6th April 2014 and of course, the famous London Marathon on 13th April 2014. By now, competitors will be doing some long runs before they taper off their training in preparation for the big day.
Why taper your training?
At this stage in your training, just weeks away from race day, it is believed there is little you can do to improve your performance when running the marathon - the hard training and long runs should have been done, so now it is time to taper. Tapering means to wind down the training allowing any muscle damage to heal, and to spend the last few weeks before the race building up reserves and strength, to be in the best possible shape for the day. This may feel counterintuitive after all those months of hard training and increasing mileage, you may be afraid of losing fitness but research has shown the reverse, it is the rest rather than the runs which will make you strong - runners do not lose fitness in three weeks of tapering neither will their aerobic capacity change at all.
What is actually happening during the taper is that muscle glycogen, antioxidants, enzymes and hormones are returning to optimum ranges after being depleted by high mileage runs. Any muscle damage has time to repair itself, immune function improves as does the actual strength of the muscles. Emotionally, it may be difficult to slow down your training, muscles may ache or twinge with the rest and you may even feel sluggish - tempting you out on another long run. Try to resist the urge and remember that ‘less is best’ in those last few weeks.
Regular sports massage can give your training a boost - it is not only used by runners with sporting injuries. Regular massage as part of your training schedule can help prevent injury and repair damaged muscle tissue as well as stretching muscles and improving elasticity. Massage can also reduce any anxiety which could be hampering your training.
During these last few weeks a couple of massages will really benefit your performance. A massage timed close to your last long run allows your body plenty of time to recover and feel back to normal before resuming your tapering schedule. The last massage before the marathon should be at least 3 - 5 days before the race (7-10 days before the race if you are not used to sports or deep tissue massage) - the deeper the massage, the longer it takes the body to recover and respond - just like your running workouts! It is usual for your legs to feel a little heavy and lethargic the day after a massage - this is why it is important to schedule at least one easy/rest day between a massage and a long run. Drinking plenty of water after the massage session will help flush out any toxins and waste products released from the massage itself.
Good luck everyone to everyone competing! Please do contact me so we can discuss your training needs and I will tailor a massage programme personally so that you are at your peak performance on the day.
Wednesday, 12 March 2014