Since all of the swimmers going to the Youth Regionals (15 & Older) have started their taper and some of the Age Group Regionals swimmers are starting this week, I thought it would be good to talk about the concept of Taper.
Taper is probably the sweetest word known to any swimmer! It's the time of the season where they 'taper' off of the hard work they've been doing for the past weeks and months. But it's widely misunderstood. While swimming is quite science based (for example, taper works much better for the swimmers with the most attendance and hard work - the money in the bank theory - so they have more to withdraw at the Championship Meet), it is also very art or 'feel' based by the coach. Over the years, I have refined and revised my tapers with the swimmers I've coached. Sometimes I have even revised the taper DURING the taper for some swimmers if I feel they need more or less rest!
A taper is team based (depending on the season - summer in the US has much different training as the swimmers have no school for three months and their training really intensifies), group based (Distance swimmers taper much differently than Sprinters) and even event placement based (if a swimmers best event is on the last day of a seven day Nationals, they may start taper the first day of the meet!). This explains why some Age Group Regional swimmers will start their taper at different times. Some have their best events on the first weekend and others on the second weekend.
Though the basic idea of the taper is rest from hard training, just easy swimming during the taper will make swimmers lose their sharpness and feel sluggish. Many swimmers want to just swim easy after all the hard work and are surprised that we still go really fast during the taper - just not as much as earlier in the season. While every coach has their ideas and protocol for taper (the coach of the best University team in the US rests his swimmers for 3-4 weeks and frets that that's not enough), there are basic tenets of every taper:
1. Swimmers feel weird as their bodies are adjusting to the drop in workload. This results in sometimes being cross with parents or siblings and short tempered..
2. Worrying about the Championship Meet after months of hard training also puts swimmers on edge. That's normal - everyone wants to do well at the end of the season.
3. The swimmers now have an abundance of energy that they want to burn off. They should NOT do this as that energy must be channeled into the Meet. Keep bedtimes the same and keep them from the football pitch or basketball court.
4. An even better diet must be adhered to. They will most likely eat less as they are training at a third to a quarter of normal but it must be super healthy.
5. And most important, they must have faith in the training they've done as that's over. The refining will get them the rest of the way so believing in the coach and the taper is paramount.
This is an exciting time of the season but also a little nerve wracking for the swimmers. I believe that they'll all do great so break out the racing suits, shave down and prepare to swim FAST!
29 April 2019