Taper Time!

 

Is Taper Really Just Rest?

 

Every swimmer looks forward to the championship season, including that exciting and welcome relief called “taper.” Swimmers adjust to reduced training volume and emphasis on meet performance at the end of a season. For most swimmers, this adjustment is both physical and mental.  This adjustment is not automatic and takes some time. Typical signs of this adjustment may include trouble falling asleep, some sore muscles, reduced appetite and/or feeling nervous. This is normal and expected. Always encourage your swimmer to discuss any of these issues with their coach.

 

Moms and Dads can assist the process by avoiding placing undue pressure on the upcoming meet. Most young athletes are competitive enough to want to succeed and find it difficult to distinguish between judgment of abilities and judgment of self-worth.

 

Follow these guidelines:

  • Ask yourself: Does my child have to excel to “feel loved?”
  • Offer encouragement and support 
  • Praise for persistence and effort. Don’t punish for failure
  • Don’t demand or expect certain performance levels. Avoid undue or harsh criticism. 
  • Teach them to enjoy and have fun regardless of the outcome. 
  • Be sensitive when talking with your child after a poor performance. Help the athletes realize that the consequences of failure are temporary. 
  • Take pictures of them and their friends. In the long run it will mean more than any medal or trophy. 
  • Keep things in perspective. The sun will be up tomorrow, and life goes on!

Great nutritional habits should be part of a swimmer’s everyday activity. Nutrition can positively impact daily training and have swimmers better prepared to perform at their best at the end of the season.

 

Taper nutrition for age group swimmers and senior/elite swimmers needs to be viewed differently. Age group swimmers have significantly briefer and smaller changes to overall training load during taper. Considerations for optimal taper nutrition for an age group swimmer would include;

  1. A good healthy nutritious diet high in fruits & vegetables.
  2. Minimize junk food (foods high in simple sugars. Processed foods)
  3. Ensure that the swimmer is well hydrated
  4. Get appropriate amounts of carbohydrate, fat and protein in the diet (60%, 25%, and 15%)
  5. At the competition do not rely on the concession. Bring healthy snacks to the meet.
  6. Eat during the meet. Especially between events (if time allows)

For the senior swimmer taper represents a time of decreasing training load. The reduction in load should be followed by a reduction in caloric intake. Age, gender differences, maturity and individual metabolic rates should be considered in determining appropriate reductions in caloric intake. Throughout taper swimmers should make sure that they are taking in adequate carbohydrates, fats and protein. A simple ratio of 60% carbohydrate, 25% fat and 15% protein are a good guideline. After training, swimmers should be sure to eat a recovery snack of carbohydrate and protein in a ratio of approximately 3:1 – 5:1. Studies have shown that small amounts of protein increase the absorption of carbohydrate. Timing is everything. The best time for a post workout or post-race snack is 30 minutes to 60 minutes after the activity. Studies have shown that absorption rate of carbohydrates into the muscles is highest during this period. Some recommendations for optimal nutrition during taper for senior swimmers would include:

  1. A good healthy nutritious diet high in fruits & vegetables.
  2. Minimize junk food (foods high in simple sugars. Processed foods)
  3. Reduce caloric intake appropriately with guidance from a professional. 
  4. Ensure that the swimmer is well hydrated
  5. After practice eat a carbohydrate and protein snack within 30 minutes to 60 minutes
  6. At the competition do not rely on the concession stand. Bring healthy snacks to the meet.
    1. Eat during the meet. Especially between events (when time allows)
    2. Follow up with a good healthy meal after sessions

When in doubt about best nutrition practices seek the advice of a professional. Registered dieticians can make great recommendations to assist with nutritional decisions that will help to optimize training throughout the year. A dietician may also give more specifics regarding individual caloric reductions requirements during taper.  Great nutrition is not just something to think about during tapering. Nutritional habits are developed overtime. Great practices fueled by great nutrition create an opportunity for a swimmer to perform at their best.

 

So, if you want to have the best chance to finish the season with a flourish, pay attention to your amount of rest away from the pool, your feeding and hydrating amounts and schedule, trust your season of preparation, go to the meet with confidence and look forward to the opportunity to RACE!