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Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Harvesting Your Best

I am not a taperer... I am a running harvester.

Prepare for Success (don't rest for failure)
I feel my way to the starting line, just as I have felt my way along during training. While I don't subscribe to hard and fast training plans I do work under a few basic rules for training and tapering... I mean harvesting...

Here are some truths The Sean sticks by:

  1. Be consistent. Anybody who has ever had success has followed this rule, in any arena, especially running. Consistently ask of your body what you expect it to give to you, anything else... is unfair.
  2. Go Hard. Fast, long, hilly... hard. Don't wreck yourself but push beyond the current perceived limits. Run a variety of distances, terrain and efforts. You will find a new horizon and wonder why you ever muddled in that old place for so long. So, push through that wall and Go Hard...
  3. Then, Go Easy... with my schedule between work and family I like to gradually wear my body down with consistency, varying paces, distances and terrain to tap out what is there over a 10 day block and then... rest. A day off, two days off... whatever I think I need. This allows me more family time, more household chore time and packs a punch in training as well while keeping me injury free. Do your work and reap your rewards, go easy, it is liberating and relieves training stress!!
  4. Follow your cravings. Have a hankering for a large pizza and a beer during you last few runs as you find yourself tiring? Well, guess what? I have great news. Stop by your favorite spot and fuel up. Your body is making a request so fill it! Follow your cravings!
  5. Cravings are important (and tasty)
  6. Don't "taper"... but do be rested for your key race. I continue to run hard, and up to 80 minutes until 10 days out. Once at 10 days out from goal day I will cut back the volume daily for one reason only... no further adaptations will take effect by race day. But- that doesn't mean that your work is done. Now is the time to harvest the yields of the season. The crop won't harvest itself so don't taper, keep moving, keep working.
Harvesting Your Race
I find the "traditional" taper to be boring, I get antsy, I feel flat, I feel worried and stiff and slow and fat... I feel sabotaged when my race is a huge disappointment when I don't run my best... and yet it is all my fault. Yup, I trained for months on end and then- Poof! I blew it by causing my muscles and mind to be stale and unresponsive, sound familiar? If you taper by the book- then you've probably been there.

Instead of over resting and suffering from race day disappointment and the subsequent and too common over training/ over resting cycle, maybe we can try something new?!? We can listen to our bodies

Don't be this guy...
Wilted Races
Recently I was speaking with a local runner, a BQ runner, and he was describing this scenario following a local 7 mile race. He said he had run something like 40% of his normal mileage to prepare for this 7 miler and then when the gun went off... he was like an engine missing a piston... he had gears that he couldn't access. He just couldn't get going... His crop was useless. Why?

Well, we know he had not lost his fitness and the distance was not the issue either... and he surely believed he could run well... but, he had rested too much- and his crop had wilted. The traditional taper method had failed, again.

He lacked the necessary balance between stress and recovery- he was over rested and out of rhythm.
Relaxed... but, Race Ready??
I suggested he follow a different plan for his next race. That he continue running to best prepare for, well, running. Maybe a little less here and there, but just as hard and just as consistently as he had been in training. I asked him to feel his way into his next race in the days leading up. Do his hard work still, just a little less volume and maybe a little more speed. Run his easy runs easy, and maybe cut these short a few minutes, not by 50%... then go home and spend some extra time with the family... showing up at home10 minutes early can make a BIG difference... you can get things done on your "list", give your partner a deserved break from doing "everything" and have life stress squared away BEFORE your race weekend arrives... (and you might be more pleasant to be around too).

The Bountiful Runner
What is a successful Run?
I saw this local runner a few weeks later and he ran a much more challenging course for a 5 mile event. Despite the increased challenge of the terrain he decided to try to harvest his fitness and arrived feeling sharp and ready to compete. 

At the finish line he was all smiles, he had felt strong and ready from the start. On the climbs he was snappy while swiftly covering the descents... he had a successful race and did not leave feeling let down... rather he was joyful and motivated to get out there again! Sounds like the perfect race to all of us!

Don't hold yourself back. Keep running, but temper this will self knowledge. You know when you are running too hard, so have the discipline to correct this. You know when you are feeling over rested, I read about it ALL THE TIME as we blogger folks taper- so, get out there and run a couple of fast miles 5 or 6 days out- it won't destroy your race. In fact, it might even save it. 
Success looks pretty good!
By correcting your muscle tension and your mind frame you can have the greatest yields on race day, so don't blindly taper, don't be an over rester... Be a runner! Find your balance and run your way to your best race every time! With experience and self knowledge it is possible.

Happy Running!


  1. I agree entirely with this approach. I've learned the hard way with the too much rest method and got rid of it! Good post.

  2. Funny, but I do all my "training" by feel, and then for some unknown (to me) reason, use the standard taper. Your approach makes *so* much more sense! Not that I'm competitive in any way in my races, but this approach will allow me to drop the "fat" feeling I have the week before the race. And maybe even drink the beer with no guilt (love that Sierra Nevada).

  3. Perfect advice, wish i had done this in May. Lesson learned though! I mean harvested!

  4. I also agree , I have learned that too much taper is just a bad way to let the body get use to doing less. I know people that have done much better doing a mileage Increase before a race then 1-2 days of rest.

  5. Agreed, too much taper can result in dead legs on race day. I've had a few setbacks due to injury lately and it is so surprising to me how different (and inefficient) I feel after taking a week or two off from running. Whether tapering for a race or not, consistency is the key to maintaining running success.


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