Tapering can feel weird..
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During your taper, it is quite possible (perhaps even likely) that you will feel odd at times and not great overall. What your body is undergoing is actually a really complex thing and while you may think that since you are running less and resting more that you should by default feel energized and fresh.. seasoned endurance athletes know this is not always the case (and for some it is never the case).

The hope (and the design of a good taper schedule) is to get you to feel great at the starting line, but as counter intuitive as it may seem that may mean that you feel (physically, mentally and even emotionally at times) like crud during it. Some athletes feel better and better every day as they get to race day, but I would venture to say that this is the minority and for most of us it is varying degrees of ok to not real good.

On this Monday (I was on vacation), I woke up at my normal time but within an hour had to take a 1.5 hour nap. I never take naps! Not that naps aren’t very useful things (many of the worlds best athletes include them in their weekly schedule and rightly so), it is just that I don’t take them and don’t generally feel like I need them. I was just exhausted and it wasn’t from extra hard training (obviously as I didn’t even run that morning) but from my body doing exactly what I was programming it to do.. and that is repair itself as fully as possible. I was already in taper mode and somehow (maybe there is even a subconscious aspect to it) my body said “Fine then I will do what I have to do to get your ready.”

Then on Tuesday (before my 5 miler at pace), I woke up and my right foot kind of hurt (not injury hurt but not right and felt wrong even walking on it for a few minutes) and my left knee felt a bit loose (once again not injured or hurt to the touch.. just not right). Then when I did my run my calves (first the right and then the left) felt a bit weak and sore. These are all examples of some of the “phantom” pains that you can get when you taper.

phantom-pain

It is a really strange phenomenon and I don’t believe has ever really been scientifically studied (would be challenging to do it empirically I assume) but many experience them during a taper (in all sports.. I know swimmers that get them pretty bad). They can happen almost anywhere on your body and 99% of the time are actually nothing to worry about, but they are sometimes a bit startling and confusing and you never really expect them. My best guess as to what may be happening is it is once again your bodies reaction to the repairing that is taking place. It really is almost like your body knows that it needs to go into overdrive to get you as good as you can be, and that can produce strange sensations apparently.

Many also get emotionally out of sorts. It can be anything from getting upset easily, losing patience more quickly, feeling down for no good reason. These all refer to another potential aspect of tapering that is referred to as “taper tantrums” (I wish I could take credit for the term because it is pretty funny.. but I can’t). Once again it is hard to know exactly why this happens (it doesn’t happen much to me) but it must have to do with the intense chemistry that is happening in your body while you taper.

But then you can also have great days where you feel like a champion. My 30 minute run this morning on HWY 190 here in Furnace Creek, CA felt effortless and almost perfect.

So in summation, tapering can feel weird.. but done correctly it should help to bring you to your best when the gun goes off!

Best of luck in your training!

Chris

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