HOW TO TAPER FOR SWIMMING
Tapering is arguably one of the most important parts of swimming. We all train to perform and tapering is a big part of having a great performance. However, for many, the word taper seems to be an very elusive term. What is tapering exactly? The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines it as “a gradual decrease.” This gradual decrease usually start 2-3 weeks before your competition date. This means that 2-3 weeks before a competition is the time to start doing your swim meet preparation. However, and this is true for all types of swimmers, there a 2 things you need to keep in mind when going into a competition. No.1 Your recovery should match the intensity of work in practice. No.2 . In all cases you should try your race speed in training prior to the competition. A great way to practice your racing speed in practice is to do something call “one on, one off”. This is where you swim fast (swim your race or efforts) one day then you swim easy the next day (recovery day). This should be done for 2 weeks leading up to the competition. I have used this technique myself going into several competitions and it’s definitely one of the best ways to get ready for a competition, practice you race plan, increase your speed, and not over taper. Below, I have written tips on bodily somatic, aerobic exercise and nutrition. These are common mistakes that athletes make that can affect their performance. Rest assure, your competition will thank you for not giving 100% after the race. So give it a read and swim like a shark is behind you.
Get some rest. If you can walk don’t run, if you can drive don’t walk, if you can get driven don’t drive and most of all try to stay off your feet as much as possible. Get a massage. A massage reduces stress and relives unnecessary muscle tension. Be sure to let your masseuse know that you want a Swedish or sports massage (it helps relax and energy you). If you are unable to get a massage from a masseuse or just don’t like the idea of someone rubbing your body you can use a Jeanie Rub Massager- Variable Speed Pro. It vibrates your muscles to remove lactic acid and essentially has the same stress reducing and relaxation effect of getting a massage from masseur. If you’re like me and would like to have massages regularly but don’t want to have to pay for it every time, because it can get expensive quickly, the Jeanie Rub Massager- Variable Speed Pro will work wonders for you.
Get some sleep. Getting a good night sleep is probably the most important thing you can go to increase your performance in the pool. According to the U.S. Department of heath and human services sleeping promotes the growth and repair of cell tissue(muscles), regulates hormone release and increases energy level. Your peak hours for sleep are between the hours of 10 pm and 2 am so try to go to bed early and aim for 8-10 hours of sleep for maximum recovery. You can take Nature’s Melatonin-Quick dissolve Tablets to help you get a more restful sleep at night. It is fairly inexpensive and works great- just be sure not to overuse it. Click on the video below to find out about the 6 secrets to get to sleep faster.
AEROBIC EXERCISE |SWIM PREP.
Warm down after your race/practice. According to Enhancing Recovery-preventing under-performance in athletes, warming down after racing tells your body that it is time to relax. It reduces the lactic acid levels in your muscles which prevent cramps, lowers your body temperature so you can get a better sleep, and acts as a transitioning point so that you can perform well the next day. I recommend warming down a least 2000-3000 yards/meters after competing. If you are interested in finding out more on how to enhance your recovery you can find this book at your nearest library or through the link provided above.
Stretching before you compete in a swimming event is bad and can even have negative effects on your performance. What? It’s true. Researchers have found that stretching 1 hour before competing in a race temporarily slows muscle activity and reduces strength for 1 hour. So you can either wake up early and stretch 2 hours before your race, stretch after your race, or stretch the night before your race. I stretch the night before because it gives me a little bit more flexibility while still leaving time for my muscles to recover and rebuild during the night. Visit my blog on How to warm-up for swimming -top 5 stretches to get some great stretches that does not require any equipment. I recommend getting the book High Performance Sports Conditioning. It has a lot more great stretches that you can go to increase your flexibility without losing you strength.
You are what you eat. Taper nutrition is important.This is especially true when going into a competition environment. So make sure to eat the right foods to fuel your body for at least 2 weeks leading up to a race. Just eating healthy on race is not going to help improve your performance. Keep in mind that carbohydrates are your body’s primary fuel source for high-intensity exercise and fats are your body’s primary source for low-intensity exercise. For high-intensity exercise (sprint events) your body requires 5-7 grams of carbohydrates per kg of body weight (per day). For low-intensity exercises your body requires no more than 10% fats of your total calories intake. So if you are getting ready to swim a sprint event make sure to eat pancakes, pasta, etc to fuel your race and if you are going to swim a longer racer maker sure to start filling up on nuts, potatoes, etc. 2 weeks in advance to fuel your race. Also, the morning of your race make sure to eat a light breakfast so that you don’t go into your race feeling heavy and sluggish.
Water and electrolytes are the most important nutrient factors during physical activity. You can experience early fatigue, weakness, heat cramps, and nausea which can negatively affect performance if you are not well hydrated. The 3 most common electrolytes lost in sweat are sodium, chloride and potassium. These electrolytes can be found in Gatorade, Powerade and vitamin water. ASCM hydration recommends hydrating 10-15 minutes before exercise with 8-12 fl oz (1-1½ cups) and at 15-20 minutes interval during exercising with 3-8 fl oz (³⁄8-1 cup). A combination of water and an additional beverage with electrolytes will greatly enhance performance. I recommend getting the book Nutrition & you (3rd edition). It has a lot of great information on nutrition that can be helpful to better your performance. If you have any question on tapering please put it in the comments below and I will get back to you in 24 hrs.