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.

swimmer sleeping| tapering

swimmer getting a massage

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.


Read more : Supplements for race day



active stretching for swimmers|taper|rest development


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.

swimmer warm down in a pool|starting his taper


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.

spaghetti|great for swimming competition prep

High in Carbohydrates


groceries for swimmers getting read for a big competition|taper food

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.


powerade drink| use in competition



  1. Daniel

    Although I am not a swimmer myself, I love seeing someone put forth the effort in explaining proper ways to go about training and exercise. I can’t even begin to explain its importance. No matter the sport, if gone about the wrong way, may very well be the difference between a good performance and a bad one. May also be the difference between a minor injury or a major injury. I thank you for the informative post! Keep up the good work!


  2. Jeanette

    Hi Caryle! I really enjoyed this post on tapering for swimmers. Great tips for preparing for competition. Massage is definitely great for stress reduction and I truly believe it does increase recovery time. I’ve been a massage therapist for 10 years and I’ve had quite few swimmers on my table. Thank you for this awesome post!

  3. Wing

    It seems what you’re touching on is the topic of overcompensation. It applies to all forms of athletics and it seems you’ve narrowed it down specifically for swimming. Great to see this applied to a specific sport because each sport really requires its own take on nutrition, exercise, and recovery to get the optimum effects.

  4. Matt

    I love to swim but I’ve never done it as a competition. I do it as a great way to get cardiovascular exercise.

    Your article was spot on and I liked how you involved all aspects of training one’s body to perform physically. Exercise, nutrition, rest and recovery. Everything was covered.

    Why is it that stretching too soon before a competition slows muscle activity and strength? Could it be because the muscles are too loose?

    1. Caryle Blondell

      When you stretch before a competition it impairs the muscular activation and contractile forces in the muscles which is essential for muscular quickness and reactivity. I hope this was helpful. Let me know if you have any more question. Thanks for your comment.

  5. Marcus

    Rest is definitely important when you are doing a lot of exercise. Your muscles need time to repair. But I wanted to ask you a question. is it possible to get toned abdominal muscles from swimming? I am trying to get toned abs, and I swim a lot, but it’s not really toning my abs. Am I doing something wrong? I do a mixture of breast stroke, back stroke, and the crawl. I try to swim a mile each time.

    1. Caryle Blondell

      Have you tried doing fly kicks on your back (in a streamline position). This will definitely engage your core muscles and help you gain the abdominal muscles you are looking for. Let me know if this helps you.

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