If your loved one has chosen a life of endurance sports, we award you *this* medal. But really, supporting an athlete who dedicates hours of his or her life to training is no small feat. And that’s never more evident than during the infamous taper. Before we go any further, just what is a taper exactly? Tapering, simply put, is when a runner reduces their mileage before the big race.
Tapering before a goal event is almost always a time of stress for a runner, novice or veteran. Runners can experience phantom pain, or in some cases, twinges of real pain; they worry they didn’t put in enough training or train hard enough; they’re hungry and tired and cranky.
If you’re reading this, you are likely at your wit’s end and wondering how you can support the endurance athlete in your life, because frankly, you’re tired, too. Here are three ways to ease the taper tantrums, and having a glass of wine is only one of them.
Put Yourself in Their Shoes
Okay, maybe not literally, because they’ll get really mad that you’re in their race-day shoes, which have to remain just so. Regardless of the event your runner is training for, it has taken up a lot of his or her physical and mental energy. Maybe your athlete is aiming for a Boston-qualifying time, tackling a new distance, or returning from injury and this race is the first test of health.
It’s best for everyone if you take a step back and try to understand what might be stressing out your runner. The taper period can be a time of massive jitters, but having support can help your runner remain confident in the work he or she has put in and focus on rest before the big day. And after your athlete crosses the finish line, you both should be rewarded.
Reassure Them That Their Training Is Enough
Assuming your athlete wants to talk about the upcoming race—and runners almost always do—it might be helpful to look back at the weeks and hours of training to reassure him or her that they are suitably prepared, and trying to cram in more training during the taper is not a good idea.
Get together for a low-key evening with a glass of wine or seltzer water and review training logs. Talk to your runner about how he or she felt after a good workout and point out how good workouts happened even after bad workouts created doubt.
It might also help to shift the conversation to race-day strategy. Help your athlete get into the right mindset by going over fueling and pacing plans. Discuss what Plan B might be if the weather or an achy knee threatens Plan A. Maybe you can even build a playlist together of power songs for the race.
Don’t Talk About the Race at All
Wait, what? You might be saying, “That goes against what you just said completely!” We know. But everyone is different and sometimes runners just need to take a break. And you can help.
Sir Roger Bannister was the first person to break four minutes in the mile, and do you know what he did for several weeks before his big race? He stopped running. He went hiking. He didn’t think about the race.
Training takes a physical and mental toll on an athlete. And sometimes the best thing he or she can do during the taper is to just not think about the race. Go to the movies, book massages, sneak away for a long weekend.... Take advantage of the downtime you have together now that the weeks and weeks of high-mileage running are over.