While it seems a little strange writing a reminder about taper in December, there are many swimmers, from college age to masters, who will be tapering this month.
Many college swimmers will be trying to make their NCAA cuts, while masters swimmers will be looking for that one last swim in "the suits." With that said, what type of training will you be doing in the next week, or weeks, to prepare for your meet?
There was an old saying about taper, "The hay is in the barn," which means that in the last few weeks before the big meet, it’s too late to train. The training you’ve done is all you’ll be able to draw from during your races. In other words, there’s a point after which you can’t get in any better shape, and the effort to do so can only harm your chances of swimming fast at the meet.
There is a point when taper starts and, when it does, you’ll be maintaining conditioning, but not getting in "better" shape. The question NOW becomes, "what can I do to make myself faster today?"
Each day that you get into the pool, you’ll have opportunities to learn, to view, to experience something that you do, or can do better. The most important aspect of taper is focus. Another old saying is that "all practices are hard; you’re either working your body… or your mind." Taper, or rest time, is mostly about you mind.
Here are a few quick thoughts of what you can focus on… again… QUICK thoughts, not comprehensive.
Starts: Where are your feet placed? What is your initial move when the gun goes off? Do you fly up, or head straight into the water? What’s your time to the flags, half way? Add your own here……
Breakouts: How many dolphin kicks did you take before you reached the surface? Were you flat on your stomach or back, or slightly rotated? Did you make it up before the 15-meter mark? How long did it take you to get to the 15-meter mark using big underwater dolphins versus quick underwater dolphins?
Turns: When do you stop breathing into the wall? How many strokes on backstroke at race speed? What are you looking at as you approach… are you looking directly at the wall, or keeping your head down as you reach? Where do you place your feet on the pushoff?
These are just a few very quick ideas, and what I’d love to see below this is YOUR list of what you’ll be thinking about after all your hay is in the barn. Because, before you know it, December’s meets will be over, and the real taper will be right around the corner. Focusing on these specific aspects of your races EARLIER rather than LATER, will only benefit you more when everything really is on the line in February and March.
It’s never too early to harvest… as long as you’ve planted enough seeds. Hey… I just came up with that one. 🙂