Almost every training plan or coach I know includes a taper before the big event. The goal is to recover, absorb fitness, and prepare for a day of super-performance. If all goes well, the athlete will be able to perform at or just above the ability demonstrated in training. But if all we do is cut back on your training load and manage your intensity...ignoring the other 85 percent of your life...exactly how effective do you think that taper protocol will be?
It's Not Just About the Training
From my experience working with athletes, the pre-race period is rife with additional stressors not present in daily life. There's upcoming travel to the event and the logistics associated with family and equipment. There are the challenges associated with walking away from our work and personal lives for a few days. There's the pressure of performance, equally as heavy whether you are a paid professional or a committed age grouper. And let's not forget the fact that you actually need to race
Here are a few tips on how I counsel people to manage the taper period. Take what you can use, ignore the rest, and add your own tips via comments.
The Travel Schedule
Summary: Getting to your event--equipment, family and self intact--is in and of itself an amazing feat. Really. The number of potential roadblocks--from packing to security to food to sleep to directions to money--far outnumber the forces operating on your side. The event itself aside, this is quite possibly the biggest stressor in your season.
Advice: Narrow your focus down to what critically matters. Empower and/or equip those traveling with you to take charge of their own situation, and do as much before you leave the house as possible:
1. Do all your critical pre-trip shopping for last-minute gear and travel food the weekend before your race so you can eliminate last minute dashes to the store.
2. Pack your equipment about 24 hours before you need it, giving you time to shop / fix any last minute issues so you can travel worry-free.
3. Print your travel itinerary, final directions, and any other key logistical information. Then keep it in a manila folder with your name on it; or better yet put it on your smart phone (thanks, Evernote).
The Work Strategy
Summary: Fresh off the sting of you leaving for training vacations, your envious colleagues now have to deal with another absence. Better yet, you are only racing for a few hours but need to leave for five days. And let's not forget anxious clients and the inevitable project that just won't go away. It's a wonder you'll be able to do the race without an earpiece in.
Advice: Set expectations as early as possible regarding the importance of your event and what you'll need to do. This includes for your boss as well as your colleagues; leave no one out of the loop.
1. Give your contact info to those who need it, but stress that your availability is limited.
2. Set an autoresponder and/or voicemail that leaves explicit instructions on how folks can reach others in your absence who can solve their problem(s).
3. Do everyone a favor and don't leave anything until the last minute. At the very least, leave everything with a next action step and a date for when you will get to it (upon your return).
4. Really do your best to get away. It's actually good for you and your team, and you can repay the favor when someone else in the office is chasing a valued personal goal.