For you to perform to the best of your ability, it is important that you achieve a
balance between your exercise training (stimulus that creates the physiological
adaptation) and your rest (time that allows your body to incorporate the new
adaptations). The combination of both exercise training and rest are essential to
make you stronger and more efficient.
To assist you in optimizing this balance of training, it is important that you understand the concept of "tapering for competition". This is the last phase of your training program where the goal is to reduce as much fatigue and stress from your body while maintaining your level of fitness. Tapering is very individualized to the sport and the athlete. Younger athletes (less than 18 years) typically require less time to taper (3-7 days), while older athletes need a little more time (3-21 days).
Develop and use a standardized approach during the last few weeks and days
towards a major competition. Consistency is the key to get the most out of your
tapering phase and set up the best opportunity to excel. Constantly improvising
and changing routines does not allow the factors contributing to good or bad
performances to be monitored or evaluated.
It is important that you realize that the body needs rest. As the stress on your body reduces you will have more energy and want to do more activities (i.e. go play a pick-up game of basketball). It is important that you focus on conserving this energy so you can perform at your best during peak competition. Many athletes feel a harmless game here and there will not hurt anything. Too many athletes have sprained ankles a week before a major event playing a harmless game of Frisbee at the park.
During this time of rest you can work on mental preparation for competition.
Continually use positive words and images to encourage being successful before
you are. Be in the moment before the moment happens so you can react if anything unexpected happens. Mental preparation is just as important as physical preparation for any sport. If you are ready for anything that sport throws at you (mentally and physically) then you are more prepared to perform well.
Along with rest continue to follow your proper nutrition guidelines. After exercise the body is continually repairing itself and needs the best nutrients to encourage growth. During a preparation phase for major competition the body will store energy to use for both the mental and physical stimulation of sport. Your body needs food to perform physically but it also needs it mentally to cope with the stresses of competition. Included with nutrition is the importance of hydration. An athlete should continually consume 3-4 liters of water a day to help with body repair.
Did you know that…
- Anything you do during the last few days before competition should be in
direct relationship to your competition preparation.
- You should fully recover for the next day's training or more importantly for
the next day's competition. (your warm-up or session the previous day should not leave you fatigued right before competition).
- Some exercise can leave you dehydrated so you need to make sure to replace
any fluid lost.
- Be sure to maintain proper nutrition while preparing and competing in an
event; it can make the difference between a good and a bad performance.
- Developing both mental and physical practice and pre-competition strategies
can provide you with a better opportunity to perform how you would like.
- Try to reduce as many stresses as possible in you life during your taper phase (i.e., family, social, school, travel), it will help you perform better.
- Not only practice your sport specific techniques but also practice your
relaxation techniques, this will help maintain a calm approach to competition.
- Always stay positive and focus on the task at hand.
Peaking for performance requires a balance between consistency, rest, and
mental preparation. Tapering your physical routine, increasing your rest time,
and maintaining your mental focus are all important during the time before a
major competition. Stay healthy, stay fresh, and stay smart and you will be
prepared for anything that competition has to offer you.
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