Taper tips: Swimming through the Struggle

It’s no secret that the taper is one of the most difficult aspects of competitive swimming. Training all year for the big competitions always comes down to this challenge. You may be cutting down on the mileage, but now the speed takes over. While some swimmers look forward to this part of the training program, there are some who absolutely dread it. So, how do you survive the struggle that comes with the uncertainty of the taper?

taper#1: Taper Journals Help. Many competitive swimmers will keep a taper journal. This is a place where they record their experiences while swimming as fast as they can for small amounts of time. There will be ups and downs in speed and also in the psychological reactions to those speeds. Anxieties often build up during the time and it is easy to get caught up in them. With a taper journal, you can record what it going on in your body and mind and learn from the experience.

#2: Respect the Aches & Pains. It is a good idea to understand that the way you feel during the taper will change from day to day and moment to moment. This can become frustrating, but knowing that the body is constantly changing will pain-tempkeep your sanity in check. There will be muscle tension and occasional issues with your body that did not pop up during the rigors of the regular training schedules. As long as the pains are not excessive and keeping you from swimming, you shouldn’t worry much about them. Using your taper journal will let you see how quickly those sensations disappear. The body will not feel perfect during the taper. It just won’t. So don’t become anxious about the small issues you might experience. Remember that swimming at full speed is a workout in itself, so it is expected that your muscles will respond.

#3: Recognize the Challenges. Tapering is tough. And, as you are working on your speed, you might want to make a few little tweaks to the training that you just completed. It is best to avoid this. You have trained and the odds are good that you trained well. There is no reason to swim an exorbitant amount of miles to make a change to something you notice in your taper. This time in your training program is meant to let your muscles calm down a bit so you can go all out while you race. If you need to see how many miles you have really covered in your training, go ahead and do the math. Once you see how much you have covered in the pool, you will realize that you do not need to swim any more miles.

coach#4: Trust Your Coach.
If this is the first time that you have tapered, then you may not realize that there is a tapering plan in place. It is best that you do not stray from it. If this is not your first time tapering, then you know that there will be moments when you want to stray from the course that your coach has set. No matter what, do what your coach says. Do not convince yourself otherwise. Your coach has a reason for creating the taper at just the right time. If you are doubting the reasoning, it is a perfect time to talk to your coach so you can be reassured that what it going on is the best thing for you right now. You should trust everything that you have completed, because your times in your races will show the hard work that you have completed. If you feel exhausted, it is perfectly ok. Your body will recover. If you feel excessively energized, remember that your body will get back to homeostasis. The extremes will stop and you will be ready.

It is important to remember that the taper is part of every normal training schedule. It is vital that you trust what is happening, despite the way you feel. Your body will be ready to swim as fast as possible so you can win.

School Swimming makes great swim sense.

Learning to swim is really a life-or-death situation. Because of the fact that 60 percent of children in Victoria, Australia cannot safely swim, the government agency responsible for decisions regarding education decided that students must learn how to swim prior to graduation. The Education and Emergency Services Minister understands the importance of knowing how to survive in the water, which is why they want all children in Victoria, Australia to know how to swim, too.

Proving Kids Can Swim

swiming-in-school-2Children in this Australian state will need to prove they can swim 50 meters in order to earn their Victorian Water Safety Certificate. This certificate shows that the child has passed a handful of water safety tasks. Children who earn this certificate have to be to prove they can use rescue skills and that they can properly survive using a sequence of abilities that they learn in their coursework. This course was selected because children will needing to learn how to be safe in the water. This life skill was neglected for too long and too many children were developing water safety skills. The Education and Emergency Services Minister decided to make swimming mandatory for safety purposes. One child dying from a lack of water safety skills is one child too many. The Education Minister understood the fact that swimming lessons are just as important as learning to read and write.

Despite the fact that students must take courses in swimming, students will not have to retake classes if they do not succeed. Each school has to set up their own lessons and courses for this new mandate. And, the local schools will decide what consequences happen for students who do not master the skills.

Prioritizing Funding for Swimming Lessons

Unfortunately, those local schools are going to be given any additional funding for this added mandate. This makes it difficult for schools that do not have swimming pools to teach their students how to swim. Schools that do not have swiming-in-school-4pools will have to decide where they will teach the lessons. They can be taught off-site, which can result in extra fees for students and schools. To supplement the costs of implementing a swimming program, the government has established a grant program for schools.

Schools Implementing Swimming Outside of Australia

Fortunately for children around the world, Victoria, Australia is not the first government to mandate swimming lessons for children. Bangladesh is one of the most recent governments to do the same thing. In this small Asian nation, children have to learn how to swim in a way that will prevent lives from being lost. Schools all throughout the country taught their students to stay alive in the water.

swiming-in-school-1Schools in the United States have also been slowly focusing on water safety training for children. On the west coast of the US, two schools districts have begun requiring swimming lessons for their students. Wenatche School Board in the State of Washington has been requiring all high school freshman to swim in their physical education courses. In California, San Castro Valley High School is doing the same. In the California school district, students who do not take the lessons fail their physical education class.

Why Adopt This Important Class?

The plans of these schools should be adopted by all schools all over the world. Water safety is a serious issue and too many children leave school without learning how to save themselves in the water. With the ever-decreasing budgets in US schools, the once mandatory swimming lessons have been disappearing.

At one point in time, schools swiming-in-school-3taught all children in one grade (usually in the upper elementary grades) how to swim. Since most elementary schools in the US do not have indoor swimming pools, children were bused to the nearest school with a pool. With budget cuts, many schools have stopped using their pools and they have stopped with intra-school busing, too. This has left too many students vulnerable to the potential dangers of water.

USA Swimmer to Know: Leah Smith

Olympic gold medalist Katie Ledecky quickly became a household name after her speedy races in the Summer Games. While it is easy to share the accomplishments of the swimmers who finish first in their races, all too often the swimmers who finish in second place are ignored. Finishing second to Ledecky is nothing to be ashamed of, which is why it is a good time to take a look at Leah Smith.

Leah Smith is best known for being an leah-smith-4Olympic swimmer who won a medal in the 800 freestyle relay along with Ledecky, Miya DiRado, and Allison Schmitt. She raced in two other events: the 800 free and the 400 free. She finished in 6th in the 800 free and in 3rd in the 400 free, earning a bronze medal.

But for Smith, the most exciting moment in her racing career was during the Olympic Trials in Omaha, Nebraska where she finished second to Ledecky in the 400 free. Ledecky always dominated the races, finished many body lengths ahead of Smith. But, in the Olympic Trials race, Smith finished in a close second place. And, she realized the power in that finish.

Smith is currently a senior at the University of Virginia. As a Cavalier, she is the defending champion in the NCAA 500 and 1650 freestyle races. In fact, she has won those races for two seasons in a row. She is working on her media studies major. In her final year of college, she hopes to lead her team to the top of the NCAA swimming ranks. Her goal is for the team to finish in the top four and she personally wants to break the speedy time of 4:30 in her championship 500 race. As an Olympic and collegiate swimmer, she hopes to become a professional as soon as she receives her degree from the prestigious university created by Thomas Jefferson.

leah-smith-2Smith is already planning on racing in the Short Course Worlds in December and the World Championships in Hungary that will take place in the summer. Her eventual goal is to swim again in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. After seeing Michael Phelps swim in his fifth Olympic games, it is easy for swimmers to recognize that they have the same potential. Smith wants to continue swimming for as long as she can, making it to the 2020 Olympics without any doubts.

The advice that Smith believes made a big difference in her ability to finish successfully in the 2016 Olympic Trials and the Games themselves was to swim her race. Instead of focusing on the races that the other swimmers were swimming, she just needed to focus on her lane and her ability. This advice is definitely worth sharing – because, in reality, swimmers are always swimming against themselves as well as the clock.

Through her swimming history, she has made many good friends, some were swimming in their final Olympic races and others were just getting started, like Smith. She also was able to make her family proud, as she comes from a family loaded with athletic talent. Smith’s father was a pole vaulter on the track team at the University of Virginia. She also has a great uncle who was a World Light Heavyweight Boxing Champion. It was in 2013 with Smith made her own legacy when she was added to the U.S. National Team.

Smith won her first National Championship medals in 2014 when she swam in the 200 and 400 freestyle races in the Phillips 66 USA events. Her bronze finishes gave her the opportunity to swim in the Pan Pacific Championships in 2014 and in two more events in 2015, the World University Games and the FINA World Championship races.

leah-smith-3Her best finishes were at the , where she won two gold medals in the 400 and in the 800 freestyle relay races. That same summer, she swam in Russia on a relay and also won a gold medal with her peers. All of her racing in the previous years paid off when she swam in the Olympic Trials against Katie Ledecky when she earned a spot on the Olympics team and was invited to the big show in Rio.