When writing your seasonal plan you must start with your taper. What dates are your championship meets, yes meets? You don’t train all season/year just for one meet. Tapering is up to a 7 week process that prepares an athlete for multiple meets, not a one or two week resting process after yardage overload and sprinting. We will discuss the training of energy systems and how that works with race pace sets throughout your season and of course the importance of recovery.
Tapering reinforces race pace(goal times), increases aerobic capacity, solidifies energy system demands needed for race pace swims and increases strength. This process also includes tapering your dryland and weightlifting programs. Since you are including these programs for their strength benefits you must continue them through your season and actually taper these workouts as well. You want your swimmers as strong as possible at the right time which makes it a huge mistake to stop strength programs weeks out. Your goal is maximum strength! Coaches must learn to taper these programs and not just discard in order to optimize your training.
A lot of coaches think of the phase before taper as building aerobic capacity or the accumulation phase of training. This phase of swimming needs adjustment as it does not train athletes to swim fast or at their full potential. If you train at slower race pace then that is what you should expect for results.
Most coaches consider the phase before resting as sprinting and usually to exhaustion. Sprinting and recovery are key components but they must have a direct purpose to the events being trained. The emphasis of your seasonal plan needs should incorporate how to train and taper for the best results. The word “taper” means a lot of things to different coaches. Hopefully after reading the combinations of articles it will mean a lot to you. The two most common errors are the lack of detail given to kicking through the entire year and the quest for yardage by coaches.
There are good components listed above but there needs to be a lot more detail. Training sets at race pace, carefully thought out recovery, monitoring of heart rate changes, learning how to train the legs (kicking) through champs and of course strength training. Tapering combines the phases of building aerobic capacity and sprinting while adding energy system work and race pace sets to prep an athlete for champs. This article combines resources from past newsletters to help you plan your season carefully. Future articles will explain how to write each workout in detail.
Tapering is not just resting your body for the big event. It is fine-tuning it for optimal performance. Athletes must be able to practice at a high caliber to perform to expectations. Athletes must be their strongest, sharpest and most focused before taper meet(s). Athletes need to take responsibility for training, “I missed my taper” or “coach didn’t taper me correctly” are just excuses…
To taper correctly your athletes must have goals and the goals must drive training. You must understand recovery and muscle development of athletes and have the flexibility to individualize for a specific athlete and his/her events.
Understanding how athletes respond to different types of training based on slow, medium and fast twitch muscle fibers helps individualize training. Training slowly doesn’t help the athlete who has fast twitch predisposition and resting doesn’t produce optimal performance.
Taper is an in depth process that is a whole lot more than dropping yardage the last few weeks and adding sprints. Most coaches use weight training to cross train and prevent injury then stop weights 2-4 weeks out from championships. The athletes must continue to lift throughout taper in order to achieve strength gains, which coincide with speed and power necessary to perform at meets. If you cross train during the season you must taper the crosstraining to optimize performance.