“Do you taper for a 5K?” The answer to this question varies depending on your personal approach to training, your goals and timeline going into a 5K race. Running a 5K may seem like a short distance at only 3.1 miles, but, like any race, it takes mindful preparation to compete well.
Before determining if you should taper for a 5K race or not, first, let’s review the definition of taper and what it is in relation to running. Also we will discuss what to do the the day before a 5K.
Do You Taper for a 5K?
What is Taper?
When a runner says they are going to taper, they are slowly reducing their mileage and the intensity of their training in preparation for a specific event, such as a 5K race. Taper allows the muscles to recover and rest prior to peak performance. Taper is not limited to runners. Many competitive athletes taper, including swimmers and cyclists.
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What to Do the Day Before a 5K
My 5K Taper Approach
If you ask me, “Do you taper for a 5K?” my answer is yes. My taper plan for a 5K is to take the day off before the race as a full rest day. I have found I perform best when I rest the day before. If my 5K is on Saturday I will take Friday as a rest day and Thursday will typically be a non-running workout such as strength training, yoga or a group exercise class.
My mileage for the week also winds down the closer I am to race day. I will run my hardest and longest mileage early in the week. By Wednesday I am only running about two miles to keep my legs fresh. Because I only run up to the half-marathon distance, a 5K is a significant distance for me. So this is what to do the day before a 5K.
Reasons to Taper or Not
Taper Based on Distance
If you are an marathoner or ultrarunner, your answer to “Do you taper for a 5K?” may be different. A 5K, in fact, may be a training run or warmup. I know many athletes who run 5Ks for fun and then finish logging their training mileage for the day after the race. They often do this because they are training for a longer race.
Taper Based on Goals
Another consideration involves your goals for the 5K race. When I run 5Ks, most of time I am running competitively and working toward a PR, therefore, I want to be at peak performance. I do not want to be sore from a workout the day before. I also don’t want to risk any kind of sprain or injury right before my 5K race. If you are running a 5K for fun, you very well may run the day before your 5K and omit taper.
Taper Based on Timeline
One last consideration when figuring out “Do You Taper for a 5K?” is the timing of your 5K. If you are running a 5K this week but you are training heavily to PR at a race say, the following week, you may omit taper for the 5K. Alternately, you may decide to play with your training schedule and move your long run or speed work to a different day to adjust for your goal race.
When it comes to running a 5K race, while it may be a shorter distance you can definitely still taper for the race. Tapering for a 5K will depend on your personal running goals, fitness journey and preferences. While those who run marathons or longer distances may find tapering for a 5K to be unnecessary, I have personally found tapering for any race to be beneficial to my running performance.
How do you prepare for a 5K?
*This post was originally published in 2010 and has been updated and republished for accuracy and comprehensiveness.