The Swim Brief – Taper Talk

Nico and Chris talk taper – that’s right, we’re talking taper in September, which is probably the least likely month to taper in. That’s why its the best time to discuss it!

We talk about the ways in which the word “taper” itself has become a dirty word, make some book recommendations and share some taper time stories of our own.

Introduction to Taper

High level performance may seem easy to fans of sport; athletes and coaches know that, in fact, it is very difficult to achieve. Furthermore, maintaining high level performance over a full season, several years, or a complete sport career is next to impossible. The most important goal for swimmers is to swim their fastest in the most important meets of the season. This is usually the training element about which coaches feel most insecure.

“Taper is a time to trust the preparation and fine tune. What is most important in the taper often is what you are not doing rather than what you are doing.” -Vern Gambetta

The term taper is well know by all those who prepare athletes for competition, and it is widely used throughout the world in reference to the final training phase leading up to a major race or competition.

Questions & Answers

When should the taper start?

  • Determining the duration of a taper is not easy! Rule of thumb: 10 to 35 days out of major competition.
  • A myriad of factors can affect the delicate balance between the various kinds of training that will produce an outstanding performance. Age, sex, the length of events, the volume of previous training, and individual capability to respond to and recover from training. Therefore, most athletes will need to use somewhat individualized tapers.

How much should the training load be reduced?

  • The training load is markedly reduced during a taper so that athletes recover from intensive training and feel energized before major events. With a reduced training load, however, there may be a risk of detraining. To avoid this risk, training intensity should be maintained during the taper. In addition, high-quality training during the taper can further enhance physiological and performance adaptations. There is scientific evidence that training load reductions of 40-60% suggest maximal performance gains for most athletes. However, benefits may also arise with smaller and bigger reductions.

Which is the most efficient tapering method?

  • Linear taper: the training load is reduced in a systematic (linear) fashion
  • Exponential taper: the training load is reduced in a systematic (exponential) fashion, either slowly (slow decay) or suddenly (fast decay)
  • Step taper: the training load is suddenly reduced by a constant amount

Closing Thoughts

The body AND mind needs to be fresh and ready to go!

Podcast Details Books & Resources
Episode: #6
Host: Chris DeSantis
Guest: Nico Messer
Tapering and Peaking for Optimal Performance by Iñigo Mujika
The Science of Winning:
Planning, Periodizing and Optimizing Swim Training
by Jan Olbrecht
Swimming Science – Written and Produced by Brent S. Rushall, PhD, R.Psy.

Do you have an opinion on this week’s topic? We would love to hear it! Please leave a comment below or send us a message with your feedback for this episode.

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About Chris DeSantis Coaching

There is a lot more to excellence than how you move in the pool. Your mindset determines how much you get out of a practice or a competition. Serious swimmers also know that technical skills make all the difference. Coach Chris can get you personalized workouts that deliver incredibly efficient results. You can get improvement with less time in the water and a better life out of it, keep the sport fun for kids, or take high level performance even higher.

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