In College I developed a theory about tapering. â€œNo matter how little youâ€™re doing, you can always do less.â€ This was particularly helpful for the three summers during my collegiate career when I swam only once a day and worked 45 hours a week (timing traffic signals in Seattle, which I apparently did so poorly that yesterdayâ€™s ballot had an initiative which offered my former department a rather sizeable raise. I voted no, along with 60% of Washington voters). Due to the job (and possibly also my insatiable social appetite), I was only swimming 12 hours a week at a maximum, but since it was summer break, I rarely made it a week without skipping a workout to sleep off a night of fun with friends. Still, when it came time to taper, I was always the first person to hit the brakes.
We would be in practice 12 days out from a race, and when the coach would give us a 3km set I would start whining. If I didnâ€™t get out of it I would put in a half-hearted effort, and the next day the coach would just tell me to leave after the warm-up set. It worked out pretty well.
My first summer I didnâ€™t rest enough for Nationals (2002 in Fort Lauderdale, where Phelps set his first World Record in the 400IM, and Coughlin became the first woman under a minute in the 100m backstroke. ). I raced tired and swam unremarkable times that werenâ€™t even close to making finals. The next year I followed my plan for doing less than everyone else once taper started, and I did much better. Then in 2004 I did an even better job of cutting back more than everyone else and I ended up winning the consolation heat in the 200IM, which gave me a ninth place finish at Nationals. If I had swam a little faster in the morning it would have been more like 5th. So it goes.
The theory is based in the idea that tapering should bring you down a proportion of your total training hours. If you only train 12 hours, then a 10 hour week isnâ€™t going to give your body much of a boost, but if youâ€™re used to training 30 hours a week then 10 hours is going to make you feel like a dog in pie heaven. Or a cat in a bed of catnip. Or a 4 year old taking NoDoze.
Still, if it takes a 4 hour week for the 12 hour athlete to recover, then shouldnâ€™t the 30 hour athlete do even better on a 4 hour week than a 10 hour week? Thatâ€™s what I want to find out.
Now I just need to decide if Iâ€™m going to shave my entire bodyâ€¦