Tapering and training for the end of the seasons races

I never knew about the concept of tapering, training volume, and intensity in my youth.  That is why I was burned out at 19 and was not able to compete at the level that I trained for.  My concept back then was the person who trained the hardest would win.  Putting all you have into training hard, all the way up to the competition.  You can be so fatigued that your technique suffers, muscles are so worn out that it is hard to skate well at all.  My legs ached everyday for 18 months after retiring at age 19, they were screaming for recovery and rest.  I have learned what the concept of tapering is and how to use it.  One thing that is essential is planning for the major competitions.  In the beginning of the training season I will plan out my goals relative to my major competitions for the year.  I may have 3-4 major events in a year that are important.  I compete at other times but they do not have the importance and subsequently do not have the impact on my training.

Using my ithlete everyday gives me feedback to fine tune my workouts and more.  Getting an indication right away in the morning of how rested I am is very important.  My HRV number validates my training and tapering to help me achieve maximum performance.  It helps me understand all the factors that affect me.  Training, resting, stress, and numerous other factors make a difference in my rested state and as a result my health and athletic achievements.

In the start of the training season I will start off slowly, and increase slowly.  I will ease back into training by increasing my volume and intensity slowly.  It is better to increase too slowly than to go too fast and get hurt or burned out.  At the peak of my training season I may  be doing a great deal of volume and with high intensity.  I have been doing this for years and it has taken a long time of slow progress to get to this point.

Taking into account my major events of the year I make a plan on tapering back my workouts.  The idea here is to put the body under a load during hard training, then approaching the competition, back off the volume but keeping up the intensity.  This way the body can recover and be at its peak for the event.  The time allotted for the taper will vary with many factors.  The biggest factor will be how long was I working hard.  If I had been working hard and building for several months, then a taper of 3 weeks might be necessary.  It is also important to keep up the intensity.  Between major events in a season I will vary what I am doing.  First, I must rest after a competition.  It is probably harder on me physically and emotionally than I am willing to admit.  I take an easy week to regroup.  If I have a lot of time between events I can load up again.  If my time is short, then only a short time for loading up again will work.  The length of the reloading then determines the next taper.  If I can only reload for a couple of weeks then I may need only 1 week of taper.  My age is a variable as well. I find that I do not recover as well as the younger skaters.  I need a little longer to recover and so my taper should be a little longer.  As we age, you realize that you can keep up with the younger skaters as long as you take a longer rest.

The whole idea of tapering for a major competition is that I should approach the starting line feeling totally rested and ready to go.  That is when I race my fastest.  There is a great deal of science behind all of this.  This has been my experience and it obviously works for me.

Looking forward to racing this weekend March 1st-3rd in Salt Lake in the American Cup Finale and North American Championships.

Photo by Steve Penland

Photo by Steve Penland

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