If you’re doing the Ben Nevis Braveheart Triathlon on 14th September, here’s some advice on how to taper from Sean McFarlane to make sure you’re fresh for race day…

With race day now less than two weeks (yes, two weeks!) away, it’s now time for the dreaded taper, when you back off in training to rest for the race but try to stop short of grinding to a complete halt. Tapering is an art and many of us stress over how best to do it.

Do you need to anyway? Sports scientists tell us that there’s very little you can do from now until D Day to improve your actual fitness. OK, perhaps true, but there are certainly things you can do in the next couple of weeks to make sure you maximise what you have.

Training reduction

General accepted behaviour when it comes to tapering is to significantly reduce the volume of your training, sometimes by as much as 75 per cent but, if anything, increase the quality. In other words, short and sharp stuff. One key word of caution though: the main thing to avoid now, in the run up to the race, is last minute injuries or, perhaps more likely, exacerbating existing niggles.

Don’t start blasting around an athletics track for short distances if you’ve never done that before. Short stuff is all well and good, but do whatever form of it you can cope with and feels right. That’s really the key in any good taper – properly listen to your body and give it what it needs.

If rest is required, then do just that, within reason. Total rest for many consecutive days is something I never really prescribe or indeed think is actually possible. Taking a break from training to tend to the garden is not total rest!

Use the time now to build into the race. If you feel you’re short in some areas, do what you can to help with that. Things like an extra couple of open water swims and runs with your preferred shoes are the type of things you can do now. I’d stay clear of 100 mile rides and big hill runs though. You do have to accept a good degree of now having what you have and being comfortable with it.

Full recovery at this stage is more important than ever in your training. I like the idea of ‘starving’ yourself a bit from training so that when you get to the start line, you’re like a caged animal, excited and raring to go.

Kit ready

You should have settled on your kit by now and, crucially, have practised with all of it. Don’t use brand new kit of any type for the first time on race day. Make sure your bike is in very good working order but resist buying last minute gimmicky things, like fancy hydration systems, unless you are familiar with them. Confirm now what nutrition you’re using, how you’re taking it on board and check the sell by dates.

I see several people whom at this point embark on more stretching in the next two weeks than they’ve done in the last two years. Stretching in general is something I approve of, especially as we age, but the body won’t thank you for severe change of any sort so don’t overdo it. Again, listen to your body and give it what it needs but, rest assured, you’re not going to become a yoga guru in a fortnight.

Make sure your travel and accommodation plans are in place and good to go. You can be in the shape of your life but, if you can’t get to Old Fort in Fort William on the morning of Saturday 14th September, it’s all pretty useless for this. Similarly, comfortable lodgings, ideally not miles away from race HQ, will be most welcome. I would say good luck but, be smart over the next couple of weeks, and luck shouldn’t have anything to do with it. Well, not much!

For more information on Braveheart, visit the Braveheart Tri website.