On the best taper approach
Matt: I try to do a mini block in the last 10–14 days where they do a fair amount of work and then drop them off the last few days. I prefer to get rid of the fatigue early and then talk about a sharpening mini block of work. There’s no magic recipe. I think many athletes do a lot of ‘validation workouts,’ and I really try to teach athletes to have the confidence to recover.
Lance: I’ve always felt like there are two different types of athletes: the diesel-type aerobic engine athletes and then the thoroughbred, the speed athletes. I either do a front-end taper or a back-end taper, depending on the athlete. We will observe how they come out of recovery blocks in training, when they feel good. If they take a rest week in training and they come back and they’re on fire the first couple of days back, it means they will respond well to being rested, whereas some athletes will find if they take that recovery week, their first three to four days back feel terrible, but then after a week of training they start to feel good again, so we try to work out that routine and mimic that as they go into their A race.
Cliff: Some people do really well coming down from a lot of load—that standardized dropping, dropping kind of taper; others do kind of a roller-coaster—a bump up, a bump down. Like Lance said, a lot of it has to do with being attentive to how they feel coming off recovery blocks and when they feel good. The big thing about the taper is the ability to be able to truly rest, especially the mind—the mental aspect is the biggest thing. You need to have periods of true downtime where you can really turn off the brain. I get into the whole Buddhist mentality—see what your body gives you, let it go, let it flow.
Matt: I try to de-emphasize winning when you go to a race like Vegas. It’s all about maximizing your athletes’ performance.
Cliff: I agree, it’s all about process. You’ve just gotta make sure they’re ready. I think people get too caught up in winning. You’ve got to focus on the execution and the process, and the outcome will be what it is.
Lance: With my athletes, we’ll talk about who the players are—I think you have to know their skillsets—there is a tactical dynamic they have to be aware of. As we move closer to the race that kind of conversation is ceased and then the final mental prep for the race is just executing a smooth race on that course and appropriating your focus and your energy on that course. Learning to win is not something we can tell them in the week of the race; it’s the net accumulation of the training and experience.
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