All the hard work has been done – your longest run completed four weeks before your marathon. The most important thing to do now is to allow your body to recover from the previous three or four months of hard training. It’s time to wind down! Your aims over the next four weeks are to:
- Reduce or eliminate muscle damage resulting from the high-mileage marathon training.
- Maintain the fitness produced by that training.
- Increase glycogen stores.
- Arrive at the start line fully refreshed and rested.
In the first three weeks of taper sustain the high-quality training while cutting away the long miles. Reduce the weekly mileage quite dramatically. Keep up the speed work, fartlek and threshold sessions to maintain fitness. Reduce the number of repetitions and give yourself longer recoveries between the repetitions. Keep the repetitions short. It's too late to be doing mile reps now. Hill training, the strength building part of your marathon training, would have been dropped four to six weeks before your marathon date.
The final week is spent taking it extremely easy, with two or three short runs consisting of a few strides to keep the sharpness in the legs, without over stressing them.
Eat plenty of protein for muscle building and repair, carbohydrates for glycogen storage and drink plenty of water to stay hydrated. Plenty of rest and sleep. Regular sports massage also helps to remove toxins and soften and realign damaged tissue.
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