How Adding a Taper Day Before Big Events Can Pay Off Big

A Marine stretches before a squad competition aboard Camp Geiger, N.C.
U.S. Marine Corps LCpl. Omari R. Mitchellhoke, with Motor and Transportation Company, Headquarters and Service Battalion, School of Infantry-East, does some final stretching before conducting the squad competition aboard Camp Geiger, N.C., Nov. 22, 2013. (LCpl. Nicholas J. Trager/U.S. Marine Corps photo)

If you have ever trained for a goal, you will be familiar with the backward-moving clock that points to the event date or test day. Whether it is a fitness test or a challenging event on which you want to do your best, a taper week or a "rest day" before game day is always a good idea.

I have found that prior to big events like Civilian-Military Combines (PT, weights, obstacle courses on rough terrain), Special Ops Triathlons or Physical Screening Tests, the following routine of hydration, joint rest, mobility and flexibility has been extremely helpful to performing at your best.

The following are actual back-to-back days we performed recently before we did a double PST; yes, a back-to-back physical screening test. It is a gut check, and you want to be at your best.

The Day Before

Make sure that you eat healthy meals and snacks all day. Stay hydrated, not just with water but by adding some electrolytes if you have been sweating all week and it will be hot the day of the event.

We call this the mobility day. We use the pool to do skills, such as drownproofing, treading and dynamic stretches in the water, or we will do non-impact cardio options (bike, row, elliptical, etc.).

Then we will foam roll and finish with a light stretch from head to toe.

Follow the stretching chart after your workout. Hold these stretches or do these movements for at least 15-20 seconds each:

  • Shoulder shrugs
  • Chest/biceps stretch
  • Forearm stretch
  • Arm/shoulder stretch
  • Triceps/lat stretch
  • Stomach stretch
  • Calf stretch
  • Lower-back stretch
  • Iliotibial band/hip
  • Hamstring stretch
  • Thigh stretch

Game Day

Double PST: This one is the Navy PST, but you can replace it with any PT test you need to master or event you want to do, such as a Spartan race, triathlon or other race.

  • Swim 500 yards
  • Push-ups for two minutes
  • Sit-ups for two minutes
  • Pull-ups max
  • 1.5-mile run
  • Rest 10 minutes
  • 1.5-mile run
  • Pull-ups max
  • Sit-ups for two minutes
  • Push-ups for two minutes
  • Swim 500 yards

Now, after tough workouts or big events, you may have some soreness. Make sure you hydrate, add electrolytes, eat well, stretch and foam roll, too, if you are feeling aches or pains.

Stew Smith is a former Navy SEAL and fitness author certified as a Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) with the National Strength and Conditioning Association. Visit his Fitness eBook store if you're looking to start a workout program to create a healthy lifestyle. Send your fitness questions to

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