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Taper Count Down


Sergei Beliaev

Many of you have already asked me or other seasoned 3S coaches to prescribe the optimal path to end your season. This article is intended to serve as a short reminder of those discussions, and as a brief overview of 3S’s approach to taper.

You all have questions about taper for a very obvious reason. Although 3S guides you in the preparation of your athletes to the date of the most important event of their season, it does so without any special treatment of the last week before those competitions. Predictably then, our program requires some manual adjustment to that last week of your athletes’ training schedule.

Over the years, we offered coaches a protocol that worked very well with the training 3S suggested for the earlier part of the training season. It has proven itself to be an effective means of assisting athletes in their attempt to concentrate their abilities and efforts for the most important event of their season (or any other competition for that matter). Having said this, however, we should also mention that the approach we suggest has several variations and that they will work best when 3S training strategies have been followed diligently throughout the entire season.

In our program 3S calculates your season from its starting date to the date of the main event. This is a logically valid approach, since we need to provide volume and intensity changes in relation to the current individual abilities of your athletes all way to the end of their season.  However, when we approach the actual date of that main event, some manual adjustments and fine-tuning may be necessary since there is no way to guarantee that the pattern calculated three or more months earlier will exactly match the needs of the athlete now on the day of his most significant event.

Additionally, the logic of taper construction is the “reverse” or opposite of season construction. In taper we design your training plan not from the date of its start, but rather from the date of your most important event. (Note: The date of the meet may not coincide with the date of the actual start of the athlete).

The following protocol can be used when planning a taper:

Day 0 (Event Day):                     Warm up.  We typically recommend that you end warm up 7-10 minutes before your start (10-20 minutes is typical).  The total duration of warm up should be about 30 minutes or even more depending upon your athlete’s individual needs.

Day 0-1 (Day Before)               Structure the session as a longer warm up (start slowly from Ib, build to Ia, build to II. You may touch Zone III lightly for about a minute to check the race pace. Slow down. Full recovery (active).  Execute a few (3-4) full-out speed bursts (8-10 seconds each), with plenty of rest in between.  As a rule, sprinters may need a shorter session while distance swimmers may feel better with a longer session. In any case the athlete should leave the pool feeling energized, not tired.

Day 0-2                           Rest Day. Full rest. Some activities may be included (e.g. a short slow run, long walk, etc.).

Day 0-3                          Regular workout with typical training volume (average / below average for the given period of preparation). This is your last opportunity to include training sets in Zone II.  The decision and depth of these sets should depend on your evaluation of your athletes’ recovery phase. The more tired your athlete is, the less intense should his workout be.

Day0-4                           This is your last chance to introduce sets in Zone III.  Check race pace, and the ability to sustain it during the set. Select the working distance in the set based on best distance. Typically it should be shorter (e.g. for 200 yard swimmers, a working distance of 100 yards or even shorter will be appropriate, depending on the needs of your athlete). The depth of set is based on your evaluation of general fatigue level to that date. Total volume of this training day is “average”.

Day 0-5                         This is your last chance to sustain general endurance. This is a very important task in the taper phase, especially with longer meets or a series of meets extending from one week to another. Choose a long set in Zone Ia (close to II).  The working distance can actually be short (e.g. 50 or 100 m) with more repetitions. The total set distance should be ~ 2 km or more. On the same day (session) include one or more sets in Zone V (maximal speed).

Day 0-6                          Rest Day.

You may follow “3S regular” recommendations prior to taper week. The ending intensity and density of training in the last days before transition to taper may vary depending on the general form of the athlete and his cumulative fatigue level (please refer to our article “Fatigue Levels”).

Typically 3S users are quite successful in ending their season on top of their competition. Therefore they are often required to make an additional transition to “next phase competition” after “ending” their season. This often represents a new challenge.

We are talking here about a transitional season between meets, where selected athletes now have to compete at the next, even more competitive level. The “re-taper” strategy for this is yet another topic that requires special attention. I will focus on this subject in my next newsletter.

Sergei Beliaev… 3S Library… February 10, 2008

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