How to taper for swimming events

Have you got a big event coming up? Have you heard about tapering your training but don’t know exactly what that is about?

Tapering is not simply reducing your training or not training before a big event. Swimming tapering is different to the reductions you might make for running or cycling.

Plus it’s a very individual thing. It’s different for everyone and every kind of event. Ideally, you need a coach to give you some individual advice on how to taper your swimming and exercise regime as you approach your event.

If you are training for a long-distance swim event (or triathlon) try these 8 tips to adjust your training as the event gets closer:

  1. Tapering or resting? Firstly, ask yourself – have you been training hard enough to warrant a taper? No really, tapering is for people who are training seriously most days of the week and a swimming taper lasts up to four weeks (or more). Maybe you might be better off taking a few days rest before the race. Even then, you are best advised to still go for a swim, but make it an easy one, with a few longer reps with rests, a few drills and short sprints, again with rests.
  2. Get in the water. Tapering still involves plenty of swimming. You need to be swimming a lot in the lead up to an event or you risk losing some of your inherent feel for the water. So, in the last couple of weeks, you lower the intensity of your workouts but still spend plenty of time in the water. Maintain the frequency of your training – if you usually train four times per week, keep it at four or go up to five, don’t go down to three.
  3. Go easy. Double your easy, slow, warm-up metres and double your easy, slow cool-down metres. Cut out some of the hard main-set metres. You can mostly forget about butterfly but dolphin kick is good to keep your core activated and your feel of the water strong.
  4. Swim at race pace: Do a few laps at race pace, as hard as you can. But because we are in taper and going pretty easy, these have to be short with plenty of rest in between. So, sprint for just 25m, do it a few times with plenty of rest between these reps.
  5. Drills. Along with plenty of easy swimming, do all the drills, like Catch-Up, Fingerdrag, pool buoy, one-arm freestyle and kicking sets. You can use flippers and paddles but sparingly.
  6. Yoga instead of weights. Ease off weight training and heavy gym work a couple of weeks before an event. If you are into weight training (not compulsory for many distance swimmers), tone it all down a couple of weeks before an event.
  7. Don’t stress. Distance swimmers are used to hard work and long training sessions. Missing out on hard training can make endurance swimmers stress that they are not working hard enough. You taper your training when you know you have been doing the work.
  8.  Go to bed: Look after yourself in the lead up to an event. Don’t party too hard, eat well and get to bed early for a week beforehand. Try to get one hour more sleep per night than you usually might manage.
Photo by sergio souza on

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