Peaking, Resting, and Tapering

In the world of athletics we often use words that have very different meanings in a variety of sports.  Words are often used interchangeably.  Three such words whose meanings are often confused are:  Peaking, Resting, and Tapering.  In the track and field setting each of these words has a very distinct meaning.
  • Tapering.  The track season is divided up into phases.  The longest phase of the season is called the General Preparatory Phase.  This phase usually lasts one-half of the season.  If your season is twelve weeks, the General Prep Phase lasts for approximately six weeks.  During this phase your volume (yardage, mileage, etc.),  steadily increases until you reach the maximum desired yardage for the season.  At the end of the General prep phase you begin to slowly decrease the amount of yardage done on a weekly basis,  hence the term tapering.

  • Resting  This word is often confused with the word tapering.  The two happen at different times of the season.  Resting comes at the end of the season in the two weeks leading up to the championship meet.  Volume during this period is practically non-existent for sprinters and fairly low for distance runners.  The focus in practice is more on technique, mental prep, and race modeling.  At this point in the season coaches are looking to refresh the body and the mind for the main competition.

  • Peaking  This word is the product of the above two words.  Tapering and resting produce a peak performance at the championship meet,  meaning you run your fastest time of the year at the last meet of the year.  The goal is not to run your best meet early on in the season.  If the taper is done correctly,  one should see time drops throughout, instead of waiting for a big drop at state or sectional.  The mind and the body must be prepared to perform at an optimal level.
A peak performance does not happen by chance.  Appropriate planning can and does produce the desired result.  Discuss the season's plans with your coach, or plan them ahead if you are training yourself, so that you can see the taper and the resting point, and know that you will be peaking at the right time.