SWIMMING SCIENCE BULLETIN
Produced, edited, and copyrighted by
Professor Brent S. Rushall, San Diego State University
TAPERING CONSIDERATIONS FOR BIG MEETS
[This is an update of an article published in NSWIMMING Coaching Science Bulletin: Volume 1 Number 8 - February, 1993.]
Table of Contents
- Factors To Be Considered
- Length of time
- Work volume
- Type and intensity of work
- Physiological effects
- Psychological content
- Factors which moderate taper effects
- Self-questions a coach should ask
One of the most common discussion topics among swimming coaches is tapering for important competitions. The concept of tapering is a legacy of an outmoded training model that is gradually being replaced as coaches embrace periodized training principles. However, that comment aside, there still is a need in many swimming pools for swimmers to recover from extensive periods of general and specific fatigue so that all the body's resources can be applied to competitive events.
The coaching strategy of working athletes hard and keeping them fatigued for many months was shown to be useful in the days when training usually did not fully stimulate or tax the physical capacities of individuals. As "hard work" seemed to pay off, coaches logically assumed that if hard work produced desirable results, more and harder work would produce even better results. In swimming, and indeed in sports in general, that approach has been taken to extremes and no longer is supported by research evidence or the practices of very successful coaches and athletes. The underlying belief that has been touted among swimming coaches is: although swimmers are always tired, training hard, and performances are not changing or are even getting worse, good things are still happening to them. That is a false belief. Better swimmers come from stepped-improvement programs, with demonstrable training effects being derived from the judicious use of work and recovery throughout the year. The introduction of a taper period prior to competitions is essential when the training program experienced has been of the "old" format.
Even if a coach still believes in the "always keep them tired and then taper" approach, there are actions which can be taken that will go a long way to maximize the investment in training. Most taper programs consider a few changes in programming. There are more variables which will produce even heightened benefits over "simple" tapers.
The purpose of this Bulletin is to summarize what is known about traditional tapering and how that knowledge can be applied to enhance the prospects of serious swimmers achieving performance goals at important competitions.
There are two basic research findings which should govern the underlying considerations for developing a taper program.
- Many coaches fear a loss of conditioning and performance if training is reduced for a long period (at least two or three weeks) before a major competition. Research has clearly shown physiological gains achieved through extensive training are retained even when work volumes are reduced by amounts greater than one half. For some capacities, such as strength, the volume can be reduced to one tenth and the capacity level will still be retained. Even days off are helpful rather than a hindrance (Costill, 1985; Wilmore & Costill, 1988, p. 198).
- The major benefit from a taper is the recovery and restoration that it facilitates. The feature that actually influences the competitive performance is the quality and type of training that has preceded the taper. A competitive performance is best considered to be an indication of the training program that the athlete experienced, not some magical activity that occurred during the taper (Troup, 1990). The nature of long-term training governs the type and level of performance that will be exhibited in serious competitions. If that investment is not correct and ultimately specific, high level performances will not ensue no matter how good the taper.
These two principles set the basic guidelines for tapering; (a) allow rest and recovery to occur fully without confounding the procedure with the irrational fear that conditioning will be lost, and (b) perform specific performance tasks that will replicate the demands of the intended competitive effort and competition conduct.
A modern interpretation of why tapering works is that only neuromuscular and psychological factors recover (Rushall & Pyke, 1990, p. 69; Wilmore & Costill, 1988, p. 198). There is little to no change in physiological status. What happens in a taper is that neural and cognitive capacities increase in use efficiency. Strength and power (neuromuscular functions) increase markedly, and the propelling efficiency of strokes (largely a cognitive recovery function) also increases. For these reasons, it is futile to attempt to get extra physiological capacities during a taper. Its programming should allow neural and cognitive performance factors to recover and become more finely tuned.
Factors To Be Considered
Length of Time
Research at the International Center for Aquatic Research (Rushall, 1992; Troup, 1990) has shown the maximum length of a taper to be three weeks, with the possibility of it being extended to four weeks. There are a number of factors which modify the actual length.
- There is considerable individuality in the tapering response. It should not be assumed that a planned taper will be appropriate for all swimmers. For those who recover very quickly during a "group" taper it may be necessary to re-institute several days of quality training to delay the peaked state. While that form of training is being followed by some, others might be working lightly as their slower recovery occurs. To accommodate individuality, a coach must be prepared to offer varied programs for at least subgroups of swimmers so that peaked performances will occur according to the individual needs of athletes.
- The competitive schedule of the swimmer will also determine when a taper should start and what are programmed as training items. For a swimmer who will compete in the most important event on the fourth day of a championships, the taper should start later than one who has to compete on the first day. However, the opportunity to do controlled convenient swimming is rarely afforded at a championship meet. Thus, even though it seems logical to delay the late performing athlete's taper, the nature of the work that can be done over the crucial last three or four days at the competition site may require compromised planning. Usually, the commencement of the taper should be delayed even longer if quality work and volume cannot be fully exploited at the competitive arena because of the extended rest that will occur there.
- The length of time that a swimmer has been in hard training is proportional to the length of time allocated to a taper. When a season of training is uninterrupted, the taper will be longest. However, when interruptions occur, for example, a swimmer is selected for a touring team, goes on vacation, or is injured or ill, those interruptions should affect the length of a taper. Generally it can be assumed that the closer the interruption to a championship meet, the shorter will be the taper period.
- After the recommended maximum of three weeks for a taper, performance potential gradually decreases due to the less than adequate volume of event-specific training. Performance standards can remain very high past the three-week period but the swimmer gradually loses fractional performance capacities.
The general length of a taper should be three weeks but certain events can intervene and warrant shortening its duration.
- It is possible to extend the effects of a taper by alternating short bursts of intense training (actions which re-stimulate the specifically prepared physiological and biomechanical functions) with recovery (Rushall & Pyke, 1990, p. 57). This occurs when there are a number of important swimming competitions in close proximity (e.g., Commonwealth Games followed within a month by World Championships). That alternation of competitive experiences requires at least maintenance physical training to occur in the intervening time period. Of paramount importance between competitions is the opportunity for psychological unloading after each meet.
As an example of the above, the following is quoted from Rushall and Pyke:
Only a small amount of training overload is necessary to maintain fitness once a high level has been attained. . . . Another example of the ability to maintain peak fitness over a lengthy period without being involved in large amounts of hard training was shown in the performances of the Russian national swimming team in 1978. After performing creditably against the East German team, the Russians traveled to the USA and two weeks later recorded a number of Russian national records. They were achieved without any volumes of demanding training between the two competitions. The same team then traveled to Canada and 10 days later set 17 Russian records. Those improvements in performances were achieved without returning to sustained hard training. It seemed that the stimulating effects of hard competitive efforts and reduced interim training were sufficient to maintain previously attained levels of fitness. After a high level of fitness has been developed, the same amount of hard training is not necessary to maintain those peak fitness levels. A reduction in training frequency, but not intensity, to about one third is considered suitable for maintaining endurance capacity. It is suggested that even greater reductions could be tolerated for strength and power activities. (pp. 56-57)
Taper effects can be extended by the judicious use of quality training stimuli on a maintenance training schedule.
The volume of work should be reduced to at least 60% of that which existed during heavy training (Troup, 1990). However, for programs that have had excessive volumes of training (e.g., 11 sessions per week, 12 km per day) the reduction could be to a level as little as 30% to maintain aerobic adaptation but that value would be too low to retain power (Neufer, Costill, Fielding, Flynn, & Kirwan, 1987). The principle of individuality has to be considered as a major moderating variable for determining the appropriate length of the training volume reduction.
Higher volume training in the immediate days preceding an event may be detrimental to performance while a slow decay in volume will have a beneficial effect on maximizing competition preparation (Zarkadas, Carter, & Bannister, 1994.
Some form of consistent performance measurement on at least an alternate day schedule can be performed without any undue effect on ensuing competitive performances. Times should be expected to gradually improve as a taper progresses. An example of a measurement set would be a broken 200 IM for a 200 IM swimmer. Split and accumulated times should improve in each repeated "test set."
For a taper, training volume should be reduced to 60% of normal heavy training volume.
The nature of the volume reduction should be by session. Eleven training sessions a week should be reduced to six or five (Houmard & Johns, 1994). It is erroneous to continue an excessive number of sessions while performing smaller training session loads. Some reasons why sessions should be reduced are: (a) the sessions off allow for greater recovery and energy restoration, (b) the added rest time allows stresses from sources other than swimming to be tolerated, and (c) there is a greater potential for restorative sleep to occur. Morning sessions should be eliminated. Their removal allows a circadian rhythm that better matches the competitive program to be established. Since swimmers perform better, that is, they are stronger and more enduring, in the late afternoon (Reilly & Marshall, 1991), it is advisable to retain late-day sessions rather than mornings.
The number of training sessions should be reduced in a taper rather than reducing session loads.
The way the volume decrease should occur is not clear. Houmard and Johns (1994) after reviewing the literature concluded that an incremental, stepwise was preferable. However, Troup (1990) showed that neither a sudden nor gradual reduction over a three week period appeared to be more related to ultimate performances. It was suggested that tapering really only allowed recovery and that the final performances were related more to the type of training that preceded it rather than what was done in the taper itself. This is a plausible explanation. It is hard to imagine how a few isolated events that occurred during a taper would be strong enough to override the conditioned strength of responses developed through very extended periods of demanding training requiring specific adaptations.
The major purpose of a taper is to allow athletes to recover from various forms of fatigue.
Type and Intensity of Work
The most important variable for influencing competition performance is the specificity of work that precedes the taper (Rushall & Pyke, 1990). That work should: (a) be of the same pace as the anticipated performance level so that biomechanical patterns can be refined under varying levels of fatigue, (b) be of the same energy demand ratio (aerobic:anaerobic) to that demanded in each event, and (c) require the same psychological control functions that will be needed in each race. If a swimmer has several events, then each should be trained for specifically. A taper should continue specific training stimuli and should eliminate all non-specific demanding training experiences. Doing other activities in taper is a waste of time and may impede recovery benefits (Houmard, Scott, Justice, & Chenier, 1994). There is no support for any form of cross training in taper.
Irrelevant training (e.g., slow swimming, kicking, use of swimming paddles, flippers, etc.) should only be used to provide variety and low-demand recovery activities. During a taper, the body should become highly sensitized to the specific qualities required for targeted events and desensitized to irrelevant activities. That desensitization is important. When a swimmer is tired in a race, the body has to determine which established forms of activity will be recruited to assist in performance maintenance. If there are slow-swimming patterns that are high in conditioned strength, they will be recruited and performance will suffer. If the body only knows fast-swimming patterns, then its selection options are limited to them and consequently, fast swimming will be maintained. The activities programmed in the taper should always reinforce race-specific movement patterns and energy use.
There are principles that govern the quality of pace work conducted in a taper (Troup, 1992).
The work performed in a taper should either be race-specific quality or of a recovery nature.
- For events 200 m and longer, specific sets should be performed at the intended race pace. Although it is convenient to average the pace for an entire event and term that "race pace," such a procedure is misleading. Races usually comprise a variety of paces with the first non-fatigued portion usually faster than the rest. It is important that specific training in a taper embrace this range of paces so the body will be fully rested and primed to perform the restricted varieties of paces that will be executed in a race. This variety is termed the "range of taper paces for a specific race."
If a swimmer intends to seriously contest several races, the demands of training will be more complex as the set of paces of all events should be trained. The difficulty with meeting this criterion is that excessive training is possible when ideally the training load of the taper should be reduced incrementally. To compromise this dilemma, any paces which are common to several events should be accommodated before a pace which is unique to a single event. Event preferences will also determine the importance of the selected specific training paces in the taper phase.
- For events 100 m and shorter the speed of repetitions should be as fast as possible.
- Interval training work (>90% VO2max), with sufficient recovery between bouts to maximize exercise intensity, is desirable. This may be necessary to maintain training-associated adaptations with the reduction in training volume (Houmard & Johns, 1994).
With respect to the need to train specifically earlier than the taper period, Costill, Thomas, Robergs, Pascoe, Lambert, Barr, and Fink (1991) made the following comment:
. . . our knowledge of the need for specificity in training might lead us to assume that such training may not provide the adaptations needed for optimal swimming performance. Since the majority of the competitive swimming events last less than 3 min, it is difficult to understand how training at speeds that are markedly slower than competitive pace for 3-4 hr/day will prepare the swimmer for the supramaximal efforts of competition. (p. 376)
A taper will allow the specific training effects that have occurred, particularly in the late specific preparatory and pre-competition training phases, to emerge. The continuing of only race-specific training will heighten an athlete's and the body's awareness of the qualities of race requirements. That heightened sensitivity will increase the consistency of competition performance quality.
Race-specific training sets have been described in the first three editions of the ICAR annual reports and the NSWIMMING Coaching Science Bulletins over the past six months. The exact sets that yield specific skill and energy benefits which have been determined and are listed below.
- For 800 m race repetitions to be performed at target race velocity:
- 6 x 200 m - 1:2 work:rest ratio.
- 12 x 100 m - 1:.5 work:rest ratio.
- 24 x 50 m - 1:.5 work:rest ratio.
- For 200 m race repetitions to be performed at target race velocity:
- 12 x 100 m - 1:2 work:rest ratio.
- For 100 m race repetitions to be performed at target race velocity:
- 10 x 50 m - 1:4 work:rest ratio.
Houmard and Johns (1994) summarized physiological effects which have been studied along with the taper phenomenon.
- Improvements in performance during taper occur without changes in VO2max. This suggests that the primary physiological changes are likely to be associated with adaptations at the muscular level rather than with oxygen delivery. VO2max does not reflect the positive effects of taper in swimmers.
- Taper does not affect submaximal post-exercise measurements (lactate, pH, bicarbonate, base excess) and heart rate.
- Blood measures have not been conclusively documented as being related to the taper phenomenon.
- Although not measured in swimmers, muscle glycogen and oxidative mechanisms have both been observed to increase in tapers.
- Improvement in power is probably the major factor responsible for the improvement in competitive swimming performance through taper.
It is too late to attempt to correct any physically conditioned state or biomechanical flaw during a taper. It is detrimental to institute a short period of intense quality training in the belief that a "little more" physical capability will be developed. The only option for training during a taper is specific work that yields positive affirmations of an athlete's readiness.
Psychological factors are the major ingredients of performance that can be changed and improved during a taper.
- A central theme of coaching communication should be positive recognition of admirable performance factors and achievements. Negative reactions serve no valuable purpose. Since positive thinking is a major influential factor on performance standard (Rushall & Potgieter, 1987; Rushall & Shewchuk, 1989) the atmosphere of swimmer preparations and interpersonal relationships should be dominantly positive. A convenient method for assessing the progress and improvement of a taper is to perform repeated test sets of swims. Since the major effect of a taper is the recovery or increase in swimming power (functional strength), sets of repetitions which exploit that capacity (e.g., 25 or 50 m) can be used to indicate improvements and cause increased confidence and performance expectations.
Positive thinking, self-concept, self-efficacy, and performance predictions should be developed to assist in developing a healthy approach to recovery and the impending competition.
- The tough coach who badgers swimmers to do better by threats, intimidation, and coercion may be successful on the first occasion that it occurs. The shock content of ferocity and unusual actions does cause desirable reactions in some swimmers. Unfortunately, others are destroyed by this approach. Often the "improved" performances overshadow the failures. However, when this form of aversive approach is repeated, particularly during competitions, its partial and occasional "benefit" wears off very quickly and more and more swimmers succumb to the negativity. It is a procedure that is dangerous and of very limited value. Intimidation only works with some individuals and is an unwise approach for groups of athletes.
Intimidating athletes to perform better is a risky strategy that can often have more detrimental than positive effects.
- Apart from positive thinking and its concomitant effect of increasing self-efficacy, other factors need to be stressed that contribute to the psychological structuring of a swimmers. They are: (a) the preparation of pre-race and race strategies which feature specific, behavioral, and process-oriented content, (b) the construction of coping behaviors for handling possible disruptive or problem situations, (c) social skills training activities (e.g., how to handle the media, rumors, the uniqueness of the geographical and competitive location), (d) the performance of mental skills activities (e.g., commitment, specific focus, performance enhancement imagery, relaxation), and (e) team-building. Activities and exercises to develop these activities and skills are contained in the manual, Mental skills training for sports (Rushall, 1995).
Mental skills development and refinement are the major activities of tapering that will have the most direct transfer to the competitive situation.
- A large amount of time at training, and in particular at the competition site, should be spent honing mental control skills, for example, practicing activities such as warm-ups for specific races, focusing, controlling simulated race segments, evaluating segment goals, and rehearsing mental control content.
- The nature of the group atmosphere should also be changed. In group situations, stress is reduced and personal control is heightened. Team-building and group activities should be emphasized to a greater than normal degree so that benefits can be derived as the competition approaches and stress/pressure builds.
A large section of taper program content should focus on psychological skills, specific mental control rehearsals, and the development of a group or team orientation.
Since no further biomechanical or conditioning changes should be attempted in a taper, it should emphasize psychological activities and effects to maintain the seriousness of application and focus of swimmers.
Recovery should be emphasized during a taper: (a) complete recovery should occur between training sessions, and (b) athletes should be taught recovery activities that can be used between races and sessions at competitions.
Activities that assist recovery between races and competitive sessions/days should be planned and practiced during the taper period.
- Between training sessions recovery will be facilitated by the reduced number of training sessions and, in particular, the extra sleep/rest that will be provided by reducing early morning training demands. Swimmers should never be allowed to accumulate fatigue across training sessions during a taper. If excessive fatigue was to occur, regression in skill efficiency, tissue restoration, and self-efficacy might occur.
- Skilled activities that foster recovery at competitions are essential behaviors for performance excellence to occur. They need to be practiced during the taper so that they will be effective and used naturally during competitions. Opportunities to do them at training sessions should be programmed and encouragement should be given to experiment with them to determine what does and does not work. Some suggested activities that could be employed are listed below.
- Activities to assist between event recovery. The following are some activities that might be considered.
- A 15 minute swim down at A2 pace to remove accumulated lactic acid.
- Replenishment of fluids and carbohydrates with fortified drinks.
- Brief bouts of resting on the back with legs extended vertically against a wall alternated with active stretching.
- Mental imagery of a positive nature.
- Sweeping massage.
- Alternating cold and hot showers.
- Relaxation exercises.
- Total body activity of a mild nature.
- Keeping warm and avoiding total cooling.
- Reduced warm-ups for subsequent races.
- Ingestion of carbohydrate-rich foods.
- Change of environment (e.g., walk outside in the open air, go away from the crowded competition area to where races and other competitors cannot be seen or heard).
- Race strategy review and rehearsal.
- Review of intended performance intermediate goals.
- Alternating lying down on a comfortable surface with walking or walking and stretching on a 10 to 15 min basis.
- Activities to assist between sessions/competition days recovery. The following are some of the activities which might be considered.
- A 15 min swim to warm-down after the last event.
- Alternating hot and cold showers prior to leaving the swimming arena.
- Eating carbohydrate loaded meals.
- Maintaining a high fluid intake.
- Soothing massage.
- Easy rhythmic exercise (e.g., walking or jogging) as a means of tension release; use of positive imagery to precede resting or going to sleep.
- Taking of vitamins (primarily B-group, A, and C).
- Preparing to perform a session of relaxation exercises if sleep or rest is disturbed.
- Sleeping/resting with the foot of the bed slightly higher than the head of the bed.
- Upon waking, alternating warm and cold showers for revitalization.
- Isolating oneself to rehearse the plan of activities and race strategies for the next session/day.
- Preparing activities to be performed while traveling to the competition site.
- Performing a full body stretching routine if physical activity is needed.
Factors Which Moderate Taper Effects
There are a number of factors that also moderate the effects of a taper and warrant adjustments in planning.
- Young swimmers require a shorter taper period than do older swimmers. Growing children and adolescents tire and recover more quickly than do mature adults. Adjustments in taper lengths should be made according to the developmental age of each swimmer.
- With the reduced load (energy demand) associated with tapering, swimmers have to reduce their food intake. If normal eating habits and volumes are maintained, weight gains are possible which, although minor, could have a slight detrimental effect on the swimmer.
- The first stage of a taper often produces a "bloated" feeling because of extra water retention in the muscles. For every gram of glycogen, 3 gm of water is stored. This often produces a feeling of being heavy or sluggish. (Houmard & Johns, 1994).
- Shaving has been shown to have mechanical and consequent physiological benefits.
- An increase in the number of high-carbohydrate meals should occur, particularly as the competition occurs. This "loading" should commence before travel (it will assist travel and travel fatigue recovery), and be maintained throughout the entire pre-competition and competition period. High-carbohydrate diets assist athletes to tolerate stress.
- Athletes will usually increase their own internally-generated pressures to improve performance. The more important the competition, the greater will be the level of self-imposed pressure. Since all athletes have a limited capacity for handling pressure, it usually is wise to attempt to reduce external stresses (i.e., those which emanate from parents, officials, the media, the coach) so that total pressure is manageable. It seems to be beneficial to heighten self-generated pressure, which is usually positive and facilitatory, and to lessen externally-generated pressures to achieve high levels of performance (Rushall & Sherman, 1987).
- An important psychological theme of a taper and competition preparation should be to remove uncertainty. That can be achieved if the coach increases his/her own level of planning and communication. The better a swimmer is made aware of what will happen and how things will be organized, the less stressful will be the impending travel and competitions. If the coach changes to a noticeable elevation in preparedness and communication, a positive model will be provided for athletes of heightened preparations and better forms of conduct as the competition approaches.
If athletes are expected to prepare better and pay attention to important details of their everyday life during a taper, the coach should model similar alterations and increases in attention to detail by planning better and communicating more frequently with swimmers.
- The main performance attribute that changes during a taper is power. Wilmore and Costill (1988, p. 200) reported increases in the range of 17-25 percent. Consistent measurement of that capacity, by performing short distance time trials, can be used to indicate positive effects of a taper to swimmers.
- The pattern of daily activity that is established in the body, the circadian rhythm, through normal training usually does not match the timing of activities at a serious swimming meet. Circadian rhythms significantly affect the ability of an individual to perform at a particular time. Adjusting training times to better match the timing of activity that will occur at the competition as well as time-changes that occur through travel, is something that should be attempted. When times for heats and finals are known and time adjustments made, training at those times is desirable before going to the competition. Performances are not maximal when an athlete has to fight circadian adjustment stress during an important race. Rushall and Pyke (1990, pp. 140-146) discussed travel fatigue and jet-lag effects and adjustments.
Circadian rhythms need to be synchronized with the demands of the competitive schedule for maximum performances to be achieved.
- Training at altitude prior to an important competition has been proposed as a method of increasing ultimate performances at sea-level. That has been shown to be incorrect (Troup, 1992). The physical requirements of altitude performance are markedly different to those at sea-level. Consequently, training at altitude does not prepare a swimmer for maximally efficient sea-level swimming. It takes as much as three weeks for altitude trained swimmers to readjust to efficient sea-level swimming. However, if a competition is at altitude, training there will assist the body to adapt to unusual performance demands. It is very unlikely that an important international swimming competition will again be held at an altitude that will cause performance degradation.
Training at altitude as part of or for the full taper will not enhance performance and is more likely to cause it to be degraded.
Self-questions a Coach Should Ask
A taper period and competition preparation phase are stressful for athletes but often more stressful for coaches. Heightened self-monitoring by coaches of their decisions, programs, and actions should occur. Radical alterations in behavior can signal panic to swimmers which, in turn, could destroy their confidence and self-efficacy. To ensure that the coach is a constructive rather than inappropriate model, the following considerations should be contemplated daily.
- With regard to the type of swimming that is being performed, to what is the swimmer's body adapting? Nonspecific work will have no value and can be counterproductive. Setting swims at 90% intensity is meaningless to the body. The swimmer's mind may know that intention, but the body will only practice the neuromuscular patterns and stimulate the energy supply that facilitates performing at that less than race-pace speed. Only race-specific paces that require exact energy components and stimulate competition-specific mental control will have beneficial effects on performance. Any other form of swimming should be used for recovery purposes and should not be associated with serious intentions.
Remove all non-specific training activities so that maladaptation will not occur.
- Are each swimmer's personal needs being accommodated? Be prepared to rest swimmers at odd times, to program separate activities, and to attend to personal requirements. The taper is too critical to persist with the convenience of group programming. Because it is easy for a coach to set a single program for all swimmers to follow, does not mean that it is best for all swimmers. During a taper and at competitions, coaches have to be prepared to work harder than normal, for individualized attention and programming are more demanding than singular group control actions.
- What assessment swims have been performed to detect malingerers and over-zealous swimmers? Gradual recovery, with increasingly better levels of performance, particularly in activities which require a power component, should be expected. If changes are too rapid, then a slowing of the improvement might be achieved by increasing the daily training load. If performances are poor, even though increased rest has been programmed, malingering or outside-of-swimming intrusions should be investigated. Measurement is an essential feature for judging tapering progress. It will NOT consume a swimmer's potential to perform well in a race.
- Have the swimmers been prepared to do warm-ups, recovery routines, and race-simulations before traveling to the competition? A coach should not be afraid to perform event simulations prior to important meets. If an athlete is not practiced at performing between-event recovery routines prior to a competition, why should he/she be expected to be proficient at doing them under the stress of competition? There is a real programming need to perform these activities as part of normal training in the pre-competition and taper phases.
Since swimmers are asked to alter their behaviors and become more serious as a competition approaches, the coach should model those expectations by improved behaviors, planning, self-control, and provision of individual attention.
The taper has traditionally been given more credit than it deserves for effecting performance. It primarily is a period that allows recovery, restitution, specific practice refinements, and planning of competition behaviors. What will be exhibited in races are the beneficial effects of EXTENSIVE training that was experienced prior to the taper.
The psychological activity and state of the athlete becomes increasingly more important as the taper progresses and should be the primary focus of the program. It is incorrect to think that skills can be altered in any beneficial manner or that extra physical condition can be gained by short bouts of intense training. When a taper is started, it is too late to consider any biomechanical or physiological change training.
As the taper progresses, indications that performance is improving and that competition conduct activities are being practiced will have beneficial effects on the athlete's psychological state. If events are predictable, practiced, and accompanied by a self-efficacy of performance excellence, then a successful competition is likely (Houmard & Johns, 1994).
The role of the coach as the model of seriousness, control, planning, and professional competence is important for athletes to witness if they are expected to perform in a similar manner. Positive and constructive coaching exhibiting a capacity to cope with any problem in a competent manner will contribute to athletes believing that all conditions exist for them to perform well.
- Costill, D. L. (1985). Practical problems in exercise physiology. Research Quarterly, 56, 29-33.
- Costill, D. L., Thomas, R., Robergs, R. A., Pascoe, D., Lambert, C., Barr, S., & Fink, W. J. (1991). Adaptations to swimming training: influence of training volume. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 23, 371-377.
- Houmard, J. A., Scott, B. K., Justice, C. L., & Chenier, T. C. (1994). The effects of taper on performance in distance runners. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 26(5), 624-631.
- Houmard, J. A., & Johns, R. A. (1994). Effects of taper on swim performance: practical implications. Sports Medicine, 17(4), 224-232.
- Neufer, P. D., Costill, D. L., Fielding, R. A., Flynn, M. G., & Kirwan, J. P. (1987). Effect of reduced training on muscular strength and endurance in competitive swimmers. Medicine and Science in Sports, 19, 486-490.
- Reilly, T., & Marshall, S. (1991). Circadian rhythms in power output on a swim bench. Journal of Swimming Research, 7, 11-13.
- Rushall, B. S. (1992). Extracted principles and implications for the International Center for Aquatic Research Annual - 1989-90. NSWIMMING Coaching Science Bulletin, 1(6), 1-13.
- Rushall, B. S. (1995). Mental skills training for sports (2nd ed.). Belconnen, ACT, Australia: Australian Coaching Council.
- Rushall, B. S., & Potgieter, J. R. (1987). The psychology of successful competing in endurance events. Pretoria, SA: South African Association for Sport Science, Physical Education and Recreation.
- Rushall, B. S., & Pyke, F. S. 1990). Training for sports and fitness. Melbourne, Australia: Macmillan Educational.
- Rushall, B. S., & Sherman, C. (1987). A definition and measurement of pressure in sport. Journal of Applied Research in Coaching and Athletics, 2, 1-23.
- Rushall, B. S., & Shewchuk, M. L. (1989). Effects of thought content instructions on swimming performance. Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness, 29, 326-335.
- Troup, J. (1990). International Center for Aquatic Research annual - Studies by the International Center for Aquatic Research, 1989-90. Colorado Springs, CO: United States Swimming Press.
- Troup, J. (1992). International Center for Aquatic Research annual - Studies by the International Center for Aquatic Research, 1991-92. Colorado Springs, CO: United States Swimming Press.
- Wilmore, J. H., & Costill, D. L. (1988). Training for sport and activity. Dubuque, IA: Wm C. Brown.
- Zarkadas, P. C., Carter, J. B., & Bannister, E. W. (1994). Taper increases performance and aerobic power in triathletes. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 26(5), Supplement abstract 194.
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