Tapering – that’s how professionals do it

After a theoretical discussion on tapering in the last blog post, professional triathlete Andrea Salvisberg now reports on how he is designing this phase and what is particularly important to him. The attentive reader will notice that the Swiss national team athlete’s current approach is very much in line with the recommendations in the previous article, while any major deviations from it have also proved unsuccessful for him. In addition, coach Dan Aeschlimann shows an opportunity to design a tapering that has proven itself in practice several times.

Andrea Salvisberg on his experiences with Tapering

Hello Andrea, thank you very much for giving us an insight into your handling of tapering. How do you change training frequency, volume and intensity in the tapering phase compared to training up to that point?

It is important that I maintain the training frequency and that I do not reduce the amount of training too much. 25-30 hours of training become about 15-20 hours. For a while I reduced it to up to ten hours, which didn’t work out at all. While in a normal training week four to five hard running units are on the program, in a week before the competition these are one to two. In swimming and cycling I dose the load analogously.

How does tapering differ depending on the importance of the competition?

If the race is less important or planned as a hard training session, I often train very hard until two days before. If the race takes place on Sunday, I often have three hard training sessions each on Tuesday and Thursday and then start to relax on Friday and Saturday.

Tapering, on the other hand, begins much earlier before a competition of high importance. For the WTS competition in Montreal (Saturday), for example, I arrived a week before and then trained very loosely until race day. Only a few units (e.g. on Tuesday) still contain short but crisp sprints with which I try to maintain a certain intensity.

Andrea Salvisberg at the International Walliseller Triathlon 2018 changing from swimming to cycling.
Andrea Salvisberg, here in action at the International Walliseller Triathlon 2018, is a member of the Swiss national team and Olympic participant of 2016 in Rio de Janeiro. He currently belongs to Brett Sutton’s athlete group and starts for the My Sport Trophy Bike Team. You can learn more about Andrea on his homepage: https://www.salvisberg-bros.ch/.

Are you involved in the design of the taperings yourself or do you simply complete the units that the coach specifies?

It’s very important to me that I have a say in tapering. I also see us athletes as responsible. The coach has a lot of knowledge, but it is not easy to understand the individual physical condition of an athlete. I therefore consider an active consultation with the trainer to be necessary. I also recently approached my trainer with my needs. The discussion proved very successful, since then I feel better prepared again.

Do you have a standardized tapering procedure or a preferred training session in the days before a competition?

Yes, before a competition it is very important to me that I specifically do my familiar sessions. Two days before the race I do the following sessions:

Running: 35 min in 3:30-Pace / Cycling: approx. 1 h Basic speed / Swimming: 1.5km incl. 4*25 m Sprint

On the last day before the competition then:

Running: 30 min easy running / cycling: 1.5 h basic speed incl. some sprints / swimming: 1.5 km incl. 4*25 m sprint

Thank you Andrea for your comments. We wish you further good training.  

Tapering template from Swiss Olympic coach Dan Aeschlimann

Swiss Olympic Coach Dan Aeschlimann follows the following basic pattern in coaching his athletes. As already mentioned several times, this serves him as a basis for orientation, the individual coordination is also essential here.

“In the last two days before the race I often have my athletes do short sessions with some sprints. Day 3 before the competition I usually plan a complete rest day, after a certain intensity was set on day 4 with 2-3 times 2-6 minutes in the threshold area. On day 5 and 6 before the race I simulate the days 2 and 3. Day 6 is a complete rest day, while on day 5 before the race the muscle tone should be increased in short units with some sprints. Day 7 before the competition, I am working on the endurance with even longer sessions in the basic area, after having prescribed the athletes hard intensities for the last time on day 8 before the race.”

In this plan, Dan Aeschlimann reveals his Tapering secrets over two weeks for a triathlon over the Olympic distance. And the same for the Ironman distance.