Tapering, or the act of reducing training in the immediate time leading up of a race, is an extremely important part of every athletes plan. The goal of the taper is making sure the body has enough recovery time to absorb the training block leading into the race. The taper should leave the body rested so that it can perform at its peak on race day. A tired body will always be slower than an over rested one.
The other aspect to consider is how an athlete feels on race day. We want the athlete to be confident and feeling race ready, as well as actually being race ready (sometimes these don’t always go hand in hand). We need to keep in mind though, even if the athlete feels sluggish from too much rest, they will still out perform a tired athlete. So, we cannot sacrifice the body for the mind.
Coaching today is full of metrics. We have training peaks WKO with TSS to create optimal training stress for the current CTL come race day. HRV and RHR analysis and sleep monitoring to help determine an athletes readiness to train and race. HRV and RHR even can help show the effect of travel and pre race nerves ignored to plan for those stresses. But, the total package on how to go from adequate training stress into travel and pre-race leaving an athlete fit and rested on the start line is 100% an art. These data points are great, and can be helpful along the way. How an athlete responds to travel, rest, and taper itself influences the structure of a taper for each athletes.
When tapering, stress from children, work, and life also need to be taken into consideration. Is the week before a trip to a race more stressful because you are trying to get ahead at work? Is this trip going to be harder than usual because you are traveling with a 5 month old? Then the standard travel questions: Are you changing time zones? Going out of the country? Have a long travel day? Are you in general a stressful traveler?
All of these factors plus a million others need to go into how much rest you have in your taper. Remember if you are fit ten days before, your most important job is to show up to the starting line rested a ready to go.