Tapering, a deliberate process, involves lowering the amount of training and tailoring workouts to the stresses and demands of competition. Preparing for a swimming competition or tapering optimizes prerace physical and mental health. The rigorous regular training schedule builds exercise tolerance and endurance. Tapering allows athletes to repair stressed tissue and rest without sacrificing fitness.
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Intensity Levels Remain
Although coaches limit the amount of time swimmers spend in the pool for tapers, the intensity level of workouts stays the same. Demanding swim workouts keep athletes at peak fitness levels. Speed and sprint sets keep the cardiovascular system working hard. Working at peak intensity means different things for individual athletes. Elite competitive swimmers function at a higher level than older Masters swimmers, but each needs to maintain speed and fitness while resting the body and mind for the meet.
Work Load Goes Down
Although swimmers maintain the intensity level of their swims, coaches reduce the frequency with which they train. Team members who usually have a morning and an afternoon workout six days a week might reduce the workouts to one per day or on alternate days. The taper schedule is as much art as science, and athletes react differently to changes in exercise regimens. Adults on swim teams such as Masters swim clubs require different tapers according to age and fitness levels. In addition to reducing the number of workouts per week, coaches usually reduce the volume or length of workouts. For example, if a pretaper workout usually averages 7,000 meters, a taper workout might only top out at 3,400 meters.
Four Days to Four Weeks
Tapers last from as little as four days to as much as four weeks or more, depending on the individual athlete and circumstances. During the taper period, focusing on mental health and preparation for the competition is critical. Keeping a positive attitude and meditating or doing prerace visualization helps competitors keep focused on goals and helps keep nerves in check. Ideally, at the end of the taper, swimmers emerge physically refreshed and mentally rested.