Within the hard, strenuous, and rough season of swimming, all swimmers aspire for that one point in time where they can finally rest and recover. That rest and recovery is known as taper. Taper is a huge component for swimmers of every level. On a basic level, taper is a period before a swimmer’s biggest swim meet. But what is taper, and what does it do for the swimmer? Taper is a period of rest, recovery, and sharpening. It mostly occurs one to three and a half weeks before the swimmer’s meet. Within this time period, the swimmer will gradually come down in yardage and begin honing in on their skills. The training period of a season is used to learn and adapt. Coaches use vigorous methods to try and teach the swimmer to utilize certain skills when his or her body is beat up. Thus, when taper comes around, the swimmer will be able to put all the pieces of the puzzle together, performing everything that he has learned to a perfected level. Even though taper has many components that are associated with the water, it also has components outside of the water. From gathering some information, here are some tips to help improve a taper outside of the water:
Stay Off Your Legs
Laziness is key. Everyone knows that a coach ALWAYS demands the swimmers to stay off their legs as much as possible. This is for a reason. The legs are the strongest muscles in the body. You need them to get you that last half of a second drop at the end of the race when you are going for a best.
This one is my personal favorites. Stairs are any athlete’s worst nightmare. When an athlete has put all of her effort into a grueling practice or lift, just the sight of going up stairs pains her. Going down stairs is perfectly fine because gravity will help anything going down. But, going up is a different story. This tip goes hand and hand with the first tip. Resting your legs more will equate to better swims when the time comes.
Find Something To Relax With
Although taper is a period to physically restore your body, there are mental components as well. Stress, drama, sadness, or any other negative emotion will lead to a numerous amount of problems. The body physically reacts to these with the use of hormones. These hormones can make the body tense, raise the heart rate, etc. However, when you have an outlet to let your mind turn off, you will improve your body’s recovery.
Do Not Make Any Major Changes In or Out of the Water
For the multiple months before taper, you have been training yourself for a race. Think of a race like a routine: it is a process. Within every process, there are steps before and after the race. For example, if you typically eat a certain way, don’t change it two days before the swim meet. In the water, do not try to incorporate a new, major skill during taper. It is something that can be dangerous for the swimmer during the actual race. You want your body to be as comfortable as possible. You cannot predict how your body will react to new or foreign aspects both in and out of the water.
Visualization is the process of imagining how you want something to go. Originally, when I tried this, I thought it was kind of bogus. It was a waste of time because it was like a false dream. However, visualization does show improvement. When I learned to take five to ten minutes out of my day to get in a comfortable position and visualize my race, it helped me out tremendously. Out of the five tips, I believe that this one is the most important. It helps you focus on what you are aspiring for. If you believe in it, you can do it. Therefore, visualization is like a confidence booster to help you believe that you can achieve your goals.
All in all, taper is much more than just a time where you are finally not tired from practice. It is something more than just recovery. When someone is studying for a big final in school, breaks are needed to be comfortable with the information. The same thing works with the body. When taper comes, it is a break from all the VO2 max sets, the lactate sets, the grind your heart out sets, the hypoxic sets, and more. Therefore, with the usage of these five steps, your taper will improve to help you achieve your goals at the big meet that you have been training for.