Before an endurance race, one thing I always do is tapering. Tapering is when you take a break and let your muscles heal to it's 100% so that race day comes, you'll be ready to hit the road running your best times. When you taper, you gotta do it right. There's a lot of ways you can do it wrong, but in order to get optimal performance you need to A) lower your exercise level, B) eat balanced meals, and C) sleep. Since my marathon is coming up, it's important to me to take that break and taper so that I would be able to work pretty hard. However, since this marathon is more of a training run to me, I didn't do the usual 21 days of tapering that some experts suggest (actually, in all my years of running marathons, the longest tapering I did was 14 days).
Tapering allows your body to store energy to it's maximum capabilities, repairing the muscles so that the muscle damage that has been accumulated during the sustained exercise would be totally recovered. Up til now, even after a day of recovery, your body is still not totally recovered because there is a need for rest since running endurance events means that the training continuously wears down the muscles during practice. Due to the carbohydrate intake, energy has started to be efficiently stored, and with the protein and water that you consume, the muscle begins its journey to its full recovery.
As for me, I'm only doing a slight tapering because I'm using this marathon as a speed workout, going for 1st place in the 12 hour race. I would like to get to a point where I could cover miles in that 12 hours I have. I believe I have a good chance of getting first place in that, but I won't know for sure til I try it, so I'll train hard to get to that point. Right now, I'm only semi-tapering for the marathon, but the real tapering will be the 2 weeks before June 2nd. The marathon is only the beginning to a series of long runs, and I'm hoping to be able to use that to push myself as far as I possibly can. Today, I just ate... a lot. Haha, I ate a lot of carbs as well as protein, and I feel great from all that.
Everyone needs a break, not just one day, but maybe a week or two. We live in a world that's filled with so many things to do that we sometimes forget to slow down. Taking that break may not seem productive in the now, but looking forward, taking a break benefits the individual to go stronger and further than before. It's important to be able to have that break. Taking time to stop pushing, and just figure out where you are and what you can do, changing plans if need be, or maybe just putting your resolve together, and getting ready for the final assault.
Tapering isn't just for endurance athletes, it's also for every individual that has a lot of things to do in life. Take that break and grow exponentially from it.