Over the months of June and July, the dojo did a lot to prepare for the Superfights tournament in Oxford, AL. Lots of fitness and padwork, footwork and combinations...we even did a few sessions on how to warm up. It was a big picture and finer details stretch of time, to say the least. But there was one aspect of preparation that befuddled me, which brings me to the topic of this post.
I was describing for the class, warm up techniques and preparation leading into the tournament, when I stumbled upon one aspect of preparation that goes largely unattended to, and even when attention is given, it may not be the best attention or advice available. Let's start big picture.
You've got a tournament coming up. You've been training hard inside and outside the dojo. It's nearly time to put all of that hard work to good use. "Go Time" is two weeks away.
Question for you: What's your approach? Do you:
A). Bust your butt for the next two weeks, and show up tournament day ready to rock?
B). Finish out this week, and shut it down to get ready for the big event?
C). Split the difference; 7 or 8 days of solid work and reduce the workload for the next 3-4?
The answer - "I dunno".
Yup, that's right. I don't know. Chances are, neither do you. But here's the beauty of the situation: You can find out. Yes, yes you can. First, let's explore the scenarios above.
Bust your butt for the next two weeks, and show up tournament day ready to rock
The worst plan of the three, but that's not to say it couldn't work. How do you feel after several days of hard, strenuous workouts? Personally, I feel like a 6 foot pile of poo, that's not to say that you, Mr. Reader, are not the epitome of fitness. If you're not, you don't want to go with plan A. Keep reading.
Finish out this week, and shut it down to get ready for the big event
I used to be in this category, largely at the behest of my instructor. I have moved away from this approach over the years, which I'll discuss in more detail below. Sensei's reasoning for completely shutting me down was to avoid injury. When I say shut down, I mean SHUT DOWN. I had very strict instructions not to lift, no running, take it easy. Very much "come-to-the-dojo-but-when-you-get-here-don't-do-anything-to-exert-yourself"; it drove me crazy. The advantage, again, is avoiding injury. If you're the type that can take some time off and still perform near peak, this might be where you want to hang your hat...if not, keep reading.
Split the difference; 7 or 8 days of solid work and reduce the workload for the next 3-4
This is the Hangtime way to go; I finish out the week, then gradually reduce the workload ending two (sometimes three) days before an event. The advantage to this method is your event is treated like any other workout. Two days rest between your last decent workout and your event. For me, this is optimum.
So, how do you find out what works? The same way you make anything else work --you train it!
"Wait...you train rest times?" -- You betcha! Here's my approach:
The World Yoshukai Calendar has 2 camps, 4 tournaments and 1 black belt test. Of the four tournaments, two of them include fighting, which is a large motivator in my training --I guess you could say I train my physical fitness for these events. For the sake of discussion, we will also include my shodan, nidan and sandan testings as well (I train the same for tournaments and testings).
So, since 2007, I have had 38 opportunities to experiment with what tapering method works the best for me. Of the 38, 12 were "live" runs, the other 26 were tests. That's a lot of practice...good, solid reps. For each camp & tournament, I marked an 8 week run to the event. So, starting 8 weeks out was prep time. A few times, I've even gone down to six weeks a few times and two weeks once due to injury. Each lead in was different -- weight was different, cardio varied year to year, etc. Each time, I set a few goals and worked toward them in the allotted time.
So for each camp, the goal would be to make weight as if I were fighting. Moreover, the goal was to be in fighting shape. Winter Camp makes for a long day (brutally long, in my opinion), but I didn't want to miss a minute of it. Sand, sun, wind, water, tug o' war, running on the beach, sumo, you name it, I wanted to do it. If I missed my mark on where I wanted to be, I went back to the drawing board for the next event. If that worked, then I took that method and improved on it for the next event. So on and so forth. If you don't have a good memory about these things, you might want to grab your notebook.
So, what does this mean to you? Well, I hope that by this point in the article, you've taken stock of your approach and how you prepare for your event. Unless you're one of those people who can role out of bed and run a half-marathon or fight without any prior training, proper tapering is an important aspect of training...just as important as the work itself. Experiment and find out what methods work best for you.