After walking and running 5 miles recently, our "long" workout yesterday was a mere 3 miles. We were thankful for that, given the heat and humidity, but we didn't cut back out of some sense of discomfort. We have entered a part of the racing process that is known as "tapering."

For moderate distances like the 8k, tapering takes about a week. Full marathon runners can take up to 3 weeks to fully taper in preparation for their race. The science behind it is that you need to reduce your workouts to give your body a chance to heal and prepare for the big race.

Picture your body as a fuel cell that has been heavily taxed by months of high mileage and intense workouts. This week, you're going to recharge your battery.

This does not mean sitting on the couch, or reducing the intensity of your workout. But it does mean shaving some miles off.

The 8k Training Plan many of us have been using trims us down to 20 minute runs/walks twice this week, with one day of cross training, prior to Saturday's 8k. That's about 1.5 miles for most of us.

So this week might look like this: Monday rest. Tuesday, 1.5 miles. Wednesday, cross training. Thursday, 1.5 miles. Friday, rest. Saturday 5 miles.

From everything I've read on the topic - and there have been a lot of studies on the benefits of tapering - where you are in your training today is not going to change by Saturday, so overtraining offers you no gain and quite likely will set you back.

But again, don't reduce your pace. As put by an article in Runner's World: "The scientific evidence clearly indicates that the key to effective tapering is to substantially cut back your mileage, but to maintain training intensity. Reducing overall mileage has the greatest impact on lessening accumulated fatigue."

Interestingly, the biggest risk of tapering appears to be mental. For those who were putting in 3-, 4- or 5-mile runs during their workouts, it can feel like slacking off. If you've experiened that "runner's high" that comes from finishing a good workout early in the morning and letting that feeling of satisfaction carry you through the day, a 1.5-mile run might not feel like much of an accomplishment. You might also worry that you're losing momentum or some of the fitness that you have been steadily building the past 12 weeks.

That's all just one more mind-game that we need to control. Instead of feeling like your slacking off, take pride that you've stuck with your training to the point where you are required to cut back for this brief window. After all, next week many of us will start ramping up again on the way to August's 10k.

Right now, trust in all the investment you've put in your body since April, and be confident that it's finally going to pay dividends on Saturday.

- Paula

This will make you chuckle. To see what a mental drag tapering is on experienced runners, just check out some of these Google images: