Most athletes with a structured training plan are familiar with the idea of ‘tapering’ for an event. Tapering is where you reduce training stress prior to an event, timed right so that you maintain all of your fitness, but arrive at your event as fresh as possible, with the objective of peak performance.
Feeling Fat and Slow
One of the downsides of the Taper Phase is that athletes often report a feeling of lethargy, ‘feeling fat’, ‘feeling slow’ or a range of symptoms that can come under the heading of ‘Taper Blues’. It seems counter intuitive doesn’t it? Shouldn’t you feel fresh, fast and ready to go? Isn’t that the whole idea of tapering? What’s going on?
There are two main reasons why this happens. The first and most important of these is because you are reducing exercise volumes and not producing as many endorphins. Endorphins are neuropeptides and peptide hormones produced in the central nervous system and pituitary gland when you exercise. They reduce pain and make you feel euphoric in a similar way to opioids, like morphine. It’s what causes people to get addicted to exercise – it’s a real addiction – the same as any other chemical addictions and if you don’t get your fix you can feel miserable.
Muscular Fluid and Glycogen Retention
Another reason you can feel different is from muscular fluid and glycogen retention as a by-product of tissue repair during the taper. Ultimately that’s a good thing, because your body is repairing itself, but it could make you feel a little more heavy and sluggish than normal.
All you can do is remember that these feelings and sensations are normal, and are a sign that your taper is having the desired effect. If you understand that, you can go in to your event confident that you will perform and know that these sensations will go away as soon as the gun goes off!