You’ve put in the time, you’ve logged the yardage, your big meet or event is on the horizon…it’s TAPER time! Time to come down in yardage, up the quality efforts a little bit here and there, fine tune the technical aspects of your training and then SMASH your personal best times at the big goal meet. Growing up in the pool, I have always looked forward to taper time, no doubt about it. Conversations with teammates at the wall because of the increased rest periods were always my favorite part…not sure if my coach felt the same way!
When you taper, you want to keep your gains, build on them and simultaneously recover from all the hard work you have been putting in. Under the surface, during taper, you are becoming more powerful, your stroke gets a little longer (distance per stroke is increased), you swim faster, your arms get stronger and you feel a lot better mentally. The major benefit from a taper is the recovery and restoration that it facilitates. What actually influences the competitive performance that results is the quality and type of training that has preceded the taper. The question that gets asked the most is how long should a taper last? It could be anywhere between 1-3 weeks, and even then it could be shorter or last longer. Not every taper should be or will be the same, because we all have different strengths, weaknesses and goals. Your taper response is unique to your training background, your event, and your physiology, among other things. The onus is on you, the swimmer, and your coach to build a taper plan that works best for you and your goals in the water.
Here are a few mental tips to keep in mind during taper time so you are able to enjoy the process of sharpening your swimming so you swim fast when it matters most:
- Do some dress rehearsals – visualize your race, the way you are going to get ready beforehand, how you feel in the water and how awesome it will feel when you hit the wall and see a new best time.
- Relax – mentally and physically. Avoid last minute urges to sneak in any last minute hard workouts.
- Journal your taper – this is something I have never done but think it’s such a good idea. Having this record on hand for future tapers can be invaluable, and you can make changes in the process if necessary.
- Swim faster by sleeping more –be focused on getting a ton of sleep each night to maximize recovery during taper time. Don’t underestimate the benefits of spending that quality time with your pillow.
- Trust the plan – trusting the process is difficult when the results aren’t immediately apparent. Don’t overthink things, have faith in the process, trust that you put in the work during the past months and months of training, and plan to reap the rewards.
Best of luck at your goal meet or event!