By: Chris Myers, Master Coach
With two months to Haute Route Asheville, riders are dialing their training and considering final preparations for the biggest race of the season. The tapering process is the final piece of a training program to maximize physical fitness.
The taper is the final aspect of a periodized training program. It allows you to recover from all the work you have done in order to reach your peak. The gains you make in your training program come during recovery periods, not during the actual work cycles. The body needs to rebuild. The taper allows you to recover while still being active. If done properly, the supra-compensation recovery effects can last 10-21 days (average is 7-10 days).
Any portion of a training program is based on volume. Volume is best defined as a product of duration and intensity. This assists in giving the training picture possible. By using power meters, heart monitors, GPS, and etc, you can truly dial in your taper.
Four different tapering techniques exist; linear, fast and slow exponential, and step taper (also known as reduced training) (Mujika & Padilla, 2003). Figure 1 depicts the four tapering methods. The author of the Triradar.com article was describing the reduced training tapering method.
(Mujika & Padilla, 2003)
Weight lifters and bodybuilders preparing for competition primarily use the step taper/reduced training method. In all cases, the training volume is reduced; however the reduction rate is the difference. For the linear taper, it has a higher training load and slower reduction rate. The exponential taper rates have a slow or fast reduction rate; the slow exponential taper has a higher training volume (Mujika & Padilla, 2003).
Choosing the right type of taper and volume reduction depends on the your fitness level. This is determined through several different factors. Some of these are the number of hours a week trained, weekly TSS accumulation, CTL, and etc. The application of the taper is more of an art than a science. To determine the correct tapering method, a minor taper should be conducted early in your season. This helps to identify the best course of action before the season’s culminating event.
WHAT KIND OF CYCLIST AM I?
Performing the taper requires manipulating training volume equation, time and intensity. Before this is done, the you should ask yourself, “What kind of cyclist am I? Am I a trained or untrained cyclist?” The type of training level will determine how much reduction in time and intensity is needed to do the proper taper. If you have a higher TSS and CTL or even a post-overreaching training cycle, you will need more of a reduction of training volume in order to promote recovery versus those with a lower TSS and CTL. For example, a highly trained cyclist will need a reduction of training volume of 60-90% whereas an untrained athlete will need only up to a 30% reduction in training volume (Mujika & Padilla, 2003). The key during the tapering process is “maintaining intensity” of the training volume to “avoid detraining” (Mujika & Padilla, 2003). This allows for optimal performance during the key athletic event.
The other side of performing the taper is the timing of it. Like determining the type of the taper, the timing is determined on the athlete’s fitness and experience level. The physiological benefits of the taper typically last for 7-14 days. No matter how experienced or inexperienced a cyclist you are, you can benefit from the physiological benefits of the taper (McNealy & Sandler, 2007).
The application of the taper is more of an art than a science.
Remember, the goal of the taper is to maximize the physiological benefits of training. It induces the positive physiological and psychological aspects of a good training program. Before making the decision on which taper is right for you, do the research and find out which technique is the best for you.