Taper and Peak Process
With the Florida State Championships right around the corner I figured this would be an appropriate topic. The taper and peak process is a vital part of any athletes training plan given it predicates the form you bring to the line for your targeted event. Get it wrong and you risk showing up fresh but flat, get it right and you increase the odds of laying down your best power. The primary focus of this portion of the plan is centralized around decreasing overall physiological related training stress in a manner that allows the athlete to line up for their marque event fresh and fit.
Taper and Peak Benchmarks
First and foremost one must fully understand that every athlete is different. This part of the training process is anything but a plug and play methodology. Modern science shows that the classic taper and peak process can be anywhere between 2-4 weeks in length. This again largely depends on a number of variables particular to each cyclist. The biggest factor being the individuals overall fitness level and the length of time they have been following a structured training regimen. A valuable component to the taper process is frequency or frequency reduction. This refers to the amount of rides or ride time an athlete is actually completing over the duration of each week. Elite athletes I work with typically benefit from a 20% reduction in frequency while amateur athletes require quite bit more. With regards to amateur cyclists, a 20% reduction on a 10 hour week is relatively minimal. A more applicable benchmark would be closer to a 40-50% reduction in overall frequency.
An equally important component of this phase is the intensity. How much and how often? I have seen the most consistent results with keeping the intensity the same as it was when referencing the last build phase of the athletes training. I usually incorporate two high intensity or race specific workouts per week. The emphasis during this phase lies in reducing the overall volume of ride time which offers additional recovery time while still stressing race specific training zones. This helps keep the athlete supple and sharp as they come to form.
Finer Points-Make the data work for you!
Here is a gold nugget for those that have taken the time to read my blogs and support me over the years. The most efficient way to chart your ideal ranges is to overlay your personal best on the performance management chart and map trends. If you are targeting a crit, you will want to overlay more neuromuscular based efforts. These are 5, 10, 20 second efforts. If your targeted event is a 40km TT, you will want to look closer at 10-20 minute power distributions in relation to the same fitness and freshness parameters. During the course of a season I will plot mini tapers into an athletes plan for a number of reasons. While charting the athletes overall growth and the overall effectiveness of the plan, I can also chart what level of fitness and how fresh they must be to produce their best power with regards to targeted events. This process yields valuable insight when plotting their peak for A rate events.
In addition to the overlaying of data you must realize that the taper and peak process varies depending on the event you are targeting. Why? The efforts that make up a crit are vastly different from those of a 40km TT. One will need to be freshest to produce their peak neuromuscular based power disbursements that align with a crit. This is not the case when evaluating an athletes historical values needed to produce their peak 20-30 minute power. Most athletes can produce solid 20 minute power and above while carrying quite a bit of training stress.
When viewing the above attachment take particular notice of the TSB (training stress balance-mustard colored line) which essentially reflects the athletes current fatigue level. One of the athlete's quantifiable strengths is his 5 minute power. His 10 best 5 minute power out puts over the past year are charted horizontally across the top of the above image. Identifying how fresh the athlete needs to be in conjunction with the ideal fitness level (CTL-blue line) is what we are looking for. Takeaway- For this athlete to have the best odds of producing a solid 5 minute output at a targeted event we will need to have a CTL above 90 and arrive at the line with a TSB greater than +15.
The key to a well-executed taper is centralized around a highly specialized training phase designed to support an overall drop in training stress by decreasing the volume while maintaining intensity. By doing so, it is allowing your body the necessary resources to recuperate and adapt by temporarily sacrificing your aerobic capacity while maintaining your anaerobic capacity. Sounds complex and it essentially correlates to removing fatigue while maintaining fitness, in turn bringing an athlete into form. If you are doubting your taper or have issues making sense of your own data, give me a call 845-629-8299 or email me at email@example.com. Thank you for taking the time to read my blog and if you are racing any of the state events, CRUSH IT!