Swimming Through Texas: Tapering – Preparing Physically and Mentally for the Finish!

Unlike many collegiate sports, the collegiate swim season is very long. We (The University of Texas Swim Team) had our Orange and White meet in September and our first dual meet in the beginning of October. And the season ends with the NCAA Division 1 Championships the last weekend in March.

That is about 7 months of swimming without a week off! Day in and day out, we have been working extremely hard. The effort we put in from day one, carries us all the way to the last race of the season. And theo “season finale” is finally almost here! Which means it is finally time to taper!

Beautiful Austin – the home to the UT swim team!

For those of you who don’t know what a taper is, it’s a swimmer (and triathlete!)’s best friend. Taper is when you begin to back off in yardage in the pool, and lighten up on weights and dryland. The goal of a taper is to heal the muscles, get rest, and prepare your body for the optimal racing conditions. During the main part of our season, we have 3 hour-and-a-half morning practices, afternoon practice every day (Monday – Friday) for 2 hours, and a 2-hour Saturday morning practice. Oh, and don’t forget to add on at least 3 or 4 days of dryland/weights before afternoon practice. Looking at that schedule, sometimes I don’t now how I am alive after the end of the week! But now that taper is here, we will begin cutting our schedule down.

We are 3 weeks away form our Big12 conference swim meet. Many swimmers are already off of morning practices, instead of 3 or 4 days with dryland/ weights we will only have about 2 or 3 days, which have been shortened with less weight or repetitions, and our afternoon practices won’t consist of the full 2 hours. We will get out early, or focus on improving our turns and starts. I swim distance, and normally our sets entail long, very long, sets. But during our taper we will shorten our sets and total yardage and pick up the intensity a bit.

For example,instead of swimming 3x1000s, we may have a set of 200s or 100s that focuses a little more on speed or the pace we want to go during a race. Taper is so nice because we have a lot of extra free time out of the water to sleep, do homework, and just relax. And although taper is physically helpful, it also helps us mentally by allowing our minds to relax and not be so stressed and focused on everything at once. And since you physically begin to feel faster in the water with taper, you become more positive mentally about swimming your races.

All in all, taper is amazing! You can ask any swimmer what they’re favorite time of the season is, and I can almost guarantee they will say taper time!

As we begin taper and prepare for our big conference meet, I know that many of y’all also swim. I want to wish you all good luck on your “taper” meets and that you swim (or race if you’re tapering for a tri) fast! I will keep you updated on how the end of the season goes!

-Patrick LaBrode