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How to Properly Taper for a Race with Pro Triathlete and Coach Elizabeth James

Feb 23, 2023

How do you taper for triathlonHow do you taper for Ironman? And how do you optimise your triathlon taper?

I hear lots of mixed messages when it comes to tapering for a triathlon race. You put all this effort into training, not tapering properly can have a massive impact on how you perform on race day.

Pro Triathlete and TriDot Coach, Elizabeth James, recently joined me on the Triathlon Nutrition Academy podcast. She generously shared her knowledge and experience from both the athlete and coaching perspectives.

Tapering is this progressive decrease in training load.

And we got into the details of how to do that and what that means.

  • What is an exercise taper?
  • A gradual reduction in the training load
  • Why do you need to taper? Why is it so important for exercise performance?
  • The gradual reduction provides for the physiological adaptation, or rest and recovery, that allows us to be ready for race day
  • Tapering allows the body to really replenish and regulate itself
  • Allows an athlete to enter a race at 100%
  • From a nutrition perspective, you get to reload your glycogen – a triathlon taper diet of sorts
  • What are some of the common mistakes you see triathletes make when it comes to tapering? i.e. tapering for triathlon?
  • Panic training at the last minute
  • The reverse of panic training – doing no training at all – only focused on rest and recovery
  • Omitting intensity training (which is an important part of getting primed and ready to go)
  • Is there a difference in taper based on training experience? Would a beginner/new to the sport taper differently to someone with many years of experience? Or is it the same?
  • Individualised, athlete to athlete, based on variables that include age, body composition, sport history, recovery rate, injury predisposition
  • Also the taper should be discipline independent – the swim, bike and run have a different impact on the body. The recovery demands from those different activities vary greatly as well.
  • How to choose the best taper for your next triathlon
    • getting to that point of peak performance is much as an art as it is a science
  • What is reverse tapering? Is it something age-group triathletes should try?
  • only recommended for certain cases/situations
  • If you have a full racing calendar – should you taper for all of your races or just one key A race?


Elizabeth also answered our question - how long should you taper for each of the distances?

  • Taper for Sprint distance
  • Taper for Olympic or standard distance
  • Taper for 70.3 or half Ironman
  • Taper for full distance Ironman events



Training Volume: What does that tapering look like? How much should your training volume decrease by?

Training Frequency: What’s the frequency of training sessions during taper?

Training Intensity: Is intensity a part of your tapering?  How much intensity is the right amount without turning up to the start line exhausted?


Take a listen to EP 82 with Elizabeth to get really practical tips to help you implement a nice taper for your next race. 


To dive deeper, listen to the Triathlon Nutrition Academy Podcast, EP 82 - How to Properly Taper for a Race with Pro Triathlete and Coach Elizabeth James  

If you are interested in learning more about the Triathlon Nutrition Academy Program and what it can do for you, head HERE to join the waitlist for our next opening.



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