So you want to “taper”?? Ok cool, now do you want fries with that? Sounds silly I know, but your taper depends on you and the event or meet your looking to do. Tapering is a very hard thing to get right at times there are two ways of looking at, one you can turn into a stress monster or two you can relax, chill and laugh at everyone else that is still killing themselves at training.
Well first off, what is a taper? During your training season you build up to certain intensity and distance then when you get comfortable at that intensity you build again and so on during the training plan. Then when it’s comes time to compete you keep the intensity but drop the workload. So in theory you are well rested and your muscles have recovered from the constant work load. That’s the basics of a taper in basic terms or my version at least, if you want you can research the topic for more detail but, the topic of this article is to see how to personalize a taper to suit you.
Tapering is a trial and error type of thing, if it’s your first time doing a taper than the best idea is to do a practice a taper 2 or 3 times before your race or event but make sure you are doing these trail tapers a fair while before your event so that you know how your body reacts. For instance say you are training for the 100m and 200m fly or an Ironman triathlon event. Let’s start with the first person who is training for the two fly events, the big event that you are training for is in August then you would try to find another event in about January and then March. Because they are doing short events they program will be a lot different to the person that is doing the Ironman event. So in their taper they will also change a few things. The person training for a smaller distance would be building there sets and intercity, then once comfortable they would build again and so on till the possibly the last two weeks or week before the “event” (swim meet) and then change to high intensity and and lower repetitions.
The distance swimmer would also have to do a similar type of preparation however they would not get the chance to do as many practice tapers as the 200m fly swimmer, due to the very nature of the distance they are training for. The recovery time needed after a long distance race is a lot greater than that of a smaller distance. They would need to plan better and further ahead, for example if there was a half Ironman event or 5km swim they are training for in early November then I would like to seem them do their first practice taper about December the year before, and then another one about 6 months before. This way you can study the effects of the taper and you can adjust a few things for the next time and you will know how your body reacts to the taper. For example 1 week may not be long enough especially if you have been working really hard over the weeks before the taper, your body may need more time to rest so you might need your taper to be 10 days or 14 days. If you plan your first test taper and you get to your test event and it goes really well then you can adjust the next taper to maximise results. Conversely if you crash and burn in your first taper then you can adjust or rethink and have more time to fix it.
Once you have set your “test” events and planned your taper then you can really start to personalise it to what event or events you are doing. If you are doing a distance swim don’t go out and try to half the distance of the swim in your taper. For example if your doing 1500m swim then in your taper, you reduce the distance of the sets too, so in normal training you might do 10 x 200m on the 3.00 or 5 x 400m on the 60, each of these sets are 2km. Now in your taper you would still do your 2km set but you could 10 x (2 x 50m on the :45 then 1 x 100m on the 1:30) or for your 400m a set in your taper could look like 5 x ( 1 x 50 on the :45, 2 x 75 on the 1:15 then 1 x 200 on the 3:00) this way your distance would be the same but the intensity would increase and after the set you give yourself more time to recover. You need to keep in mind that your body has been working like a tractor and is used to high torque pulling, long strokes, and not just ploughing through the km’s. So you need to turn your tractor into a Ferrari so increase you speed work on top of the normal speed work you do during the normal training period.
Well that’s a bit on personalising a taper, so just keep in mind that your taper depends on the event you’re doing and like all things practice makes perfect and having a good training plan is just as important as a good taper.