What is tapering?
Taper – to reduce or diminish.
Tapering is the process of shedding fatigue from heavy training loads to be fresh for race day. For endurance sports such as triathlon, this is important to a good performance. The tapering period will vary between athletes depending on the amount of fatigue that has been accumulated and is very individual. Tapering is about providing more opportunities to recover both mentally and physically.
How do you taper?
Remember that taper is about recovery, and during this phase, you are not trying to build fitness. I feel it’s best to maintain a similar routine, but reduce the volume of training. Sessions that are shorter in duration but have some good intensity are well suited to tapering. The aim is to keep reminding the body what it is capable of but allowing more time for recovery.
What my typical taper looks like?
Two pointers I’ve found works well for me. First, when tapering for a triathlon I typically maintain my swimming or even increase the frequency in which I swim. When biking and running less the reduced load allows me to work on my feel in the water more. I will keep the swim sessions a little shorter than typical in taper week.
Second, the intensity in which I do my bike and run sessions is high. Think above race pace efforts. The taper sessions aren’t easy, but I pull up feeling really awake from them and not overly tired. This is because the duration is so short to what I’m typically used to. Doing these types of sessions really helps to get my systems firing and make sure I don’t get lethargic during my taper.
Following is an example of what a typical taper looks like for me.
Don’t neglect to rest yourself mentally during your taper. With the extra time from reduced training, think about getting some extra naps in to aid recovery. Sometimes you can feel horrible during taper week (sluggish and tired), but don’t stress about it. You are recovering, and it is normal, thus why we have some short tune-up sessions!