How to Tackle A Taper

by FINIS 5

December 07th, 2012 Gear, Swim Often, Swim Smarter

Taper can be an extremely stressful time for swimmers. Whether you are new to swimming or a veteran of the sport, there is a great amount of time and effort invested into each season. It is extremely hard not to let nerves get the best of you. In fact, some of the top swimmers in the world still have their doubts when it comes time to rest. There a few techniques that you can follow to help keep your eye on the prize during taper time.

First and foremost, trust your training. By the time that taper rolls around, the fitness aspect of your training is long gone. Staying in the water longer to do an extra aerobic set may put your mind to rest, but you may actually be hurting your end result. Instead, take the time to pinpoint a few key areas of your workout, such as carrying speed into your walls or the way your kick feels underwater. Make it a point to keep things sharp and technically sound throughout the taper process. Focusing on these small victories will be better for both your physical and mental state leading into the championship season.

Second, try using visualization or meditation to alter your conscious state. People are extremely different when it comes to their ideal racing mindset, so take the time to consider whether you benefit more from thoughts of relaxation or of intensity. If you are becoming anxious or nervous during taper or before your races, you will definitely want to use this as a calming exercise. Focus on your breathing, allowing for each breath to be drawn from the pit of your stomach. Clear your mind of all outside thoughts and concerns, focusing on your breathing until you are perfectly calm. From there, you can either direct your thoughts towards specific races or feelings, or to something more relaxing like a stretching routine or the appearance of the pool. It is not uncommon for swimmers to complete this exercise 2-3 times a day leading into their bigger meets.

Third, take care of your body. Due to the way that swimmers train, the body actually goes through immense changes during this time of rest. Many people are known to get sick or have sore joints during taper. This is entirely normal. In fact, most swimmers will tell you the lack of a bad day or “funk” is more worrisome than a few days of sniffles or slow times. Be stingy with your time during taper, making sure to eat well and get enough rest.

Finally, have something to hang your hat on. Let there be some measurement that you can match, regardless of how you feel. Whether you are broken down from hard training, feel better than you ever have, or are experiencing mid-taper blues, there should be a process that is representative of the swim you are dreaming of that can be replicated. The Tempo Trainer Pro is a great tool for matching your stroke rate between practices and meets. Simply set your desired tempo onto the device and “obey the beep.” The underwater metronome allows you to focus on other aspects of your stroke and technique while you train your body to swim at the correct rate. You can start this process early on in the season and carry it all the way through to race day.

Regardless of how the taper period goes, there are no limits as to your success. Be confident in your ability and trust your training. Take care of your body and use visualization to keep your mind in the game. And finally, hang your hat on the FINIS Tempo Trainer Pro, a product that will take you the whole way – from day one, to first place.

Your friend in swimming,

David Seiler

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AJ Reid
9 years ago

Thanks for this! I’ve got my taper meet starting today and this is the week that my body decides to catch a cold, so it’s reassuring to see that it’s normal.

10 years ago


10 years ago

Thought this might have a little more definitive info, as tapers can be dangerously tricky to get right, depending on fast/slow twitch fibers (sprinters or distance or a mix), muscle composition, and a whole host of other factors. That being said, sometimes the best thing is to trust in it an go out there and race hard no matter what.

Case in point, the bronze medal swim in Gold in the Water.

Reply to  Brian
10 years ago

What/who was the “bronze medal swim from Gold In the Water?”

Reply to  liquidassets
10 years ago

Tom Wilkens 200 IM at the 2000 Olympics, if I recall correctly. The book is great. I think it might be out of print though.