Tapering for competitions – things to think about

Tapering isn’t a science it’s a process. How do you get it right?

Response to Taper Effect

Musculo-Skeletal

 

Resting the physical part of the body allows muscle growth to occur. Tapering results in more than just recovery and repairs, it gives the body a chance to improve and build.

 

Neurological

 

Mitochondrial connections between neurones in the brain are reinforced through repeated actions i.e. repetitions and practice. A period of tapering that comes too early or lasts too long or fails to recognise the need to maintain some skills levels could lead to a diminution of a skill. Thinking through an action or activity, without engaging the body in the action, may help maintain, even improve the way in which the body responds come competition time.

 

Psychological

 

By doing something different to the regular slog of training the athlete feels as if they are preparing for something big and therefore get keyed up for it. However, depending on their experience and self-awareness they may feel the taper is too long or too much, or that it is leaving them feeling weak, or out of sorts. They key is for the coach to ‘play it by ear,’ and to tailor the taper to the athlete not the athlete to a prescriptive taper.

 

Carbohydrate Intake

 

Weight gain would result if the same carbohydrate quantities are consumed during a taper as during the intensive training. Advice of a nutritionist should be taken.
Intensity of Training

 

Will vary from swimmer to swimmer, based on their biological age, gender, levels of fitness, the event/s they are entered for and specialisation (or not), as well as their response to the taper and any other factors that may come into play simultaneously such as injury, illness, bereavement, the pool being closed … your name it!

 

Duration of Training

 

As above, though it is reasonable bearing in mind the physiological capacities & abilities of swimmers, that age groups swimmers only need a short taper (if any), while senior/mature heavily muscled sprint swimmers tend to benefit from more.