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What is 'tapering'?

Updated: Aug 26, 2020

Now the season is finally underway I thought it would be a good place to start by looking at how you should adapt your physical training routine in the build up to a race. To optimise performance this can be achieved by tapering.

Taper is a progressive reduction of the training load during a variable amount of time that is intended to reduce physiological and psychological stress of daily training and optimize sort performance.

Tapering strategies

The chosen strategy can differ slightly depending on the driver and of course the racing schedule, time spent travelling etc.

The Ideal scenario:

  • Training intensity should be maintained – this may sound counter productive as most people would think simply doing low intensity training is the thing to do – but actually think about what would make you feel more alert, more motivated and more activate when you arrive at the track – a week of going through the motions doing really easy training – or by completing some challenging well planned out high intensity sessions?

  • Training volume – reduce by 40-60%, we can still reduce volume but maintain intensity – so sessions may become shorter, by reducing volume but maintain intensity.

  • Training Frequency – decreasing sessions has not shown to improve performance – so answer isn’t to simply not train at all.

  • Taper Duration – 8 to 14 days is the borderline between fatigue disappearance and negative influence of detraining. 1-2 weeks effective for most athletes. For drivers with back to back races this means that you may be able to cover 2 back to back races in one phase of tapering.

  • Greater gains in performance can be expected when higher training load is prescribed before the taper – this comes down to good planning of your training programme – ideally the week before you begin the taper should be the highest training load up to that point. Then when you return to training you should start of a little bit lower and gradually build up week on week – getting to another high point, before the next taper. If there are short gaps between races, this may not be possible of course and you would need to be in a phase where you are aiming to maintain fitness as much as possible between races.

  • Sleep & Nutrition – There’s not much point in having an effective physical training tapering strategy if your nutrition and sleep quality is poor! Focus on getting these areas working along with your physical training so that when you arrive at the circuit you have the optimum amount of physical and mental energy.


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