Tapering for endurance competition to perform at your physical best
What is “tapering”
Tapering is a training strategy to enhance performance in the most important athletic competitions (2). It aims to optimise performance by reducing training load in the final days before a competition (2). It can be an anxious period for some athletes as they try to balance the recovery from the fatigue of intense training whilst avoiding a decrease in their fitness.
What are the gains
Maximal oxygen consumption (VO2max) is a common determinant of performance. During a taper, there is more glycogen stored in the muscles, enhanced red blood cell production and greater enzyme activity which all undoubtedly contribute to improved aerobic endurance.
How to do it:
1. How long for: A duration of 8–14 days seems to represent the borderline between the positive influence of fatigue disappearance and the negative influence of detraining on performance (2).
2. What training factors to adjust: Performance improvements are more sensitive to a reduction in training volume of 41-60% (2) This can be done by decreasing the duration of each training session or decreasing the training frequency.
On the other hand, training intensity should be maintained or even slightly increased to preserve the fitness that might otherwise be lost with a marked reduction in training volume. Finding the taper strategy that will allow the athlete to recover and overcompensate adequately from prior heavy training loads while avoiding detraining can be difficult to work out. It can be a very individual strategy that should be practised during training before the key event.
A 2-week tapering intervention where the training volume is exponentially decreased by 41–60%, without any modification of either training intensity or frequency (2) could be a good starting point.
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- Training Techniques to Improve Endurance Exercise Performances Zuko N. Kubukeli, Timothy D. Noakes and Steven C. Dennis (2002) Sports Medicine
- Effects of Tapering on Performance: A Meta-Analysis Bosquet L. Monpetit J. Arvisais D. Mujika, I (2007) Medicine and Science in Sport and Exercise