Tapering for competition, looks or motivation
In Outside Edition DVD we discuss the importance of periodization for long-term motivation and peak performance. There's a lot of theories and some studies regarding the final tapering for a competition. Everyone wants to know how they can allow their body to peak on d-day.
Tapering has three interesting aspects. The first is performance oriented, when the goal is to get the most of your body on a certain day. From power lifting, ice hockey to marathon running, the common view is to train regularly but less intense leading up to a competition. A complete break would make the body stiff, so the thought is to keep the body fresh and active. Interestingly, it seems that the athletes that care the most about tapering are also the ones that have the most difficulties to cut the training volume. After disciplined weeks of work-outs, the fear of loosing muscle kicks in.
Not only is it proven that you should change your training, but you might have to consider changing other variables as well. I remember my coach advising me the night before a running competition in Sweden to either eat pasta or pizza. If it would have been a long distance run the next day, I wouldn't have been caught off guard by his suggestion. I thought to myself that any form of carb loading would not help me in the upcoming sprint competition. I questioned my coach on why we shouldn't continue with the regular healthy foods. After all, less body fat would mean less weight and that would translate into more running speed. But my coach's reasoning was that a good night's sleep was the most important taper.
Cheating on your diet actually brings us on to the second aspect of tapering which is aestethics. Bodybuilders usually eat unhealty foods prior to a competition to fill up their glycogen stores and to pull more water to their muscles. But here again, a good night's sleep will go a long way as well. Actors are advised to ensure they sleep properly before a shoot as it is remarkably evident on film if you're sleep-deprived. Training wise, a lot of photo models rest completely before the d-day. Bodybuilders tend to stop training legs even five days prior to a show. So for aestethical reasons, there is also a special tapering procedure.
The third, and final aspect, is motivation. This is the key for periodization as well. Even if super-compensation would not occur in your body, it will occur in your mind. Once the competition or photo shoot is over you can plan out your next general preparation phase from scratch. If you are young, it will be hard not to progress each year. But if you are older, the placebo effects get more important. Maybe it was the taper that did not work out? Maybe you should try a different taper next time? Yes, there will definently be a next time. And that next time I'll order ice cream and go to bed one hour earlier.