Phase 4 (Weeks 13-16)
Marathon focus: Taper
Training focus: Maintenance and Recovery
With the hard work in the bank, the Taper Phase of marathon training is meant to give the body some time to recover from the intense training while still maintaining a high level of fitness. Long runs are cut shorter. Additional runs during the week may be shortened as well or eliminated altogether. The entire focus is on getting runners to the line feeling strong and healthy.
To complement the Taper Phase, the Maintenance and Recovery Phase reduces the strength-training intensity as well. Runners should simply look to maintain strength and spend the rest of the time on stretching and foam rolling to promote recovery. During this phase of strength training, the focus is not on improving but rather maintaining, as the name suggests. Klein notes that this is particularly important 10 days out from your goal race. According to Klein, "Any hard training that is done within 10 days will not result in a positive outcome of a race. It's important to keep moving with some easy short runs and warmups, but rest should be the most important factor."
To promote recovery while not overstressing the muscular system, runners should shift away from heavily weighted exercises and focus more on body-weight movements like pushups, pullups, squats, and lunges. For those who still want to use additional weight, it's important to keep the load light and avoid hitting failure. During this phase, runners should go back to a higher-repetition scheme (10-15 reps) while keeping sets moderate (2-3 sets) and rest times short (45-90 seconds). Workouts during this phase should also be short to avoid overtaxing the body. The extra time can be spent with massage, ice baths, and other recovery methods designed to reduce muscle soreness and damage.