by Carlo Carrubba
Is peaking really a thing? I have always wondered whether tweaking speed and technique at the last second really works to provide an extra boost at my championship meet, or at the final football game. The question I will answer in this piece is whether physically peaking as a result of your training method “is real” or if it is all psychological. This inquiry leads us to another question, are your adversaries better tapered, or are they mentally tougher than you?
In my own experience as a swimmer, I have noticed that when I was tapered and rested, I dropped massive amounts of time on my races. Tapering is also known as the process of gradually reducing something, in sports, this induces a feeling of rest, of wanting to run, or in my case, swim fast. To further deepen my point, the reverse happened when I went to meets not tapered or rested. I still had a desire to swim fast but did not always succeed. In some races, even though I had been tapered and rested, I was not able to surpass my times, coming very close by a fraction of a second. I have now read a few articles on tapering and realized that the strategies mentioned in these articles are exactly what my coach does in the weeks preceding the Regional Championships, as well as State Championships.
Needless to say, there must be a psychological component in tapering for race day, such as knowing that tapering automatically boosts your performance on race day. Having said this, does tapering work because of a psychological element introduced by routine? An article that answered my question on this was named “Physiological and Psychological adaptations during taper for competitive swimmers”; it said, “We hypothesized that psychological and physiological measurements would change during the taper phase and that these changes would be associated with improved competition performance.” This hypothesis proved to be 100% true, as the heart rate in swimmers was changing significantly to show improvement (decreased fatigue) while tapering. Mood and recovery improved as well. Mood was assessed by using the Brunel-mood scale, and recovery or stress was assessed using a questionnaire. This article not only proves tapering to have extremely significant effects on the body but on the mind as well.
The research I have done so far indicates that tapering is, in fact, psychological, and physiological at the same time. So, for the two questions I provided at the start of this article, peaking is not, in fact, all psychological but has many physiological traits, such as fatigue(heart, and breath rate, muscle tension etc.) However, swimming is a “mentally grinding” sport, in that, if one believes in all the work he/she has put forth in improving, then he/she will indeed improve. It may very well be that your rivals are mentally tougher as well as better tapered. Nonetheless, remember… no one is unbeatable. In conclusion: working towards peaking is not only a work of one component (body, or mind) but of both at the same time! So, as my coach says, one mind, one body, one beast.