The Swimming Taper: How to Swim Fast When It Matters Most

Michael Butler
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What Happens When You Shave & Taper

Most swimmers make the mistake of tapers, which may seem like so many swimmers before them had had success with that they assume they will too. But, like many things in life, one man’s meat is another man’s poison. I believe the timing of your taper is the biggest deciding factor in its effectiveness – leading you to a fat and happy swim time or a rapidly declining confidence in the last few days leading into a meet.

In fact, most swimmers I know, including me, were guilty of taper mistakes in the past.

Some of us started tapering too early (at least a few weeks before the meet). Others shaved off too much yardage at a time. Worst of all, some chose to work out too much distance the nights leading up to a meet.

The Two Types of Tapering Swimmers

There are two types of swimmers who will benefit the most from a taper. The first is the individual who needs every ounce of endurance to finish a large endurance event. This athlete needs to maximize their endurance and build muscle tone in their legs to finish strongly. This is the most common type of swimmer who tapers.

The second type of swimmer who needs to taper is one who needs to peak their speed. These swimmers might not need to increase their endurance very much to finish the event, but they will need to produce more power. The athlete who swims short freestyle events is a great example of this.

There is another type of swimmer who will benefit from a taper, but it is very rare. This athlete is very dramatically different from a normal swimmer who goes through a taper. In this case, the swimmer is quickly getting faster and faster after some type of training program. This is the opposite of a taper, but it will do the shredder good to have some time to let their muscles recover so that they are fresh to go at it again in a short period of time.

How to Nail Your Swim Taper

The swimming taper is a supercharged time for training. It’s the week leading up to a big swim meet or event. Not only do you get a week off from hard intense workouts, but you also get the time to swim more and fine-tune your skills.

The purpose of the taper is to reduce stress and fatigue so you are fresh and ready for the competition. Depending on your event, it may also involve some swimming at a faster pace.

When it comes to tapering for a big swim meet, athletes have a hard time compromising. They want to get as much training in as possible in the last week, but the reality is that you have had at least five months of hard training, so you need to back off a bit.

Here is a step-by-step guide on how to swim a taper.

How to Stay Mentally Sharp During Your Taper

The swimming taper is like a gift that swim coaches give their swimmers just before the big races. It’s like a break before the final examination that helps you relax and freshen up.

The physiological benefits of the taper are that your body reduces its production of cortisol and adrenaline. Cortisol is released in response to stress, adrenaline is released before a fight or flight response. Together, they can make you hyperactive and jittery, which is not something you need to perform at your best.

The psychological benefits of the taper are that it helps you relax and refocus on what’s really important – your objective of winning the race. You’re more likely to let go of the little things that don’t matter and find a way to stay mentally strong throughout the process.

So to answer your question—the swimming taper serves to do nothing but benefit you. It’s a gift from your coach, and to get the benefits, you need to relax and focus on the essence of your swim. You can’t worry about things that sow discord and anxiety, forget about the things that matter, and avoid frills during that time.

In Closing

Swimming is a perfect exercise for the fitness enthusiast. It makes your whole body stronger, your core elastic and it’s a great cardio workout.

To begin to enjoy the swimming workout try incorporating these three tips into your workout and see how they help your swimming.

{1}. Flex your arms slightly out during your stroke.
{2}. Don’t think of pushing with your arms
{3}. Think about pulling your arms up and toward your chest.