If you consider yourself a strength athlete then competition is part of the game. Whether it’s a national event or your local meet, all your hard work can be wasted if you don’t prep yourself in the right way. In my opinion, your preparation is just as much mental as it is physical. Here are a few things I consider to be of extreme importance when prepping for a competition.
A taper is the period of time before a competition, usually 1-3 weeks depending on the importance of the show and how much physical abuse you have taken. During this period of time you are gradually getting the body in prime condition for competition. This may be one of the most over-thought and under-appreciated aspects of competition prep. Your taper is what is going to make or break your results at the end of the day and there are plenty of people out there that will blow it. First and foremost, GET A PLAN. Know what the plan is and follow it accordingly. With that being said, keep in mind that things happen and there may need to be changes made to the plan as you go. The most important thing to keep in mind with a taper is that you are getting your body and mind fresh and ready for competition. You are not going to get stronger between now and the meet. If you are worried that your strength levels aren’t where they should be, oh well. Pushing extra hard those last few weeks will do more damage than good. The whole purpose of the competition is to go into it feeling ready to dominate. Showing up ready to take a nap will get you nothing but a last place finish. The last big thing to keep in mind when you taper is to gradually drop the intensity and volume. You don’t want to have a sudden drop off in volume and be doing absolutely nothing leading up to a competition. That is a recipe for disaster. At least keep yourself mobile in one respect or another so you aren’t stiff and tight heading into your competition.
This is another important part of the competition. You will need some sort of gear to compete and nothing can throw you off more than forgetting something or having a malfunction. Whether it’s a pair of squatting briefs, lifting straps, specific shoes, etc. you need to make sure it is up to par. If it looks like it could fail you or break, either replace it or have spares on hand. I always have at least two pairs of lifting straps and more than enough tape whenever I train or travel. I am always giving my shoes a good once over to make sure there are no rips or tears that can fail me during competition. Keep the number of pieces of equipment small if possible and keep it simple. The night before competing check, double check, and triple check to make sure you have everything you need. Another thing to check is the bag or case carrying all your gear. Make sure there are no busted latches or holes where things can fall out and be lost. Nothing can make you freak more than realizing you only have one shoe when you go to pull them out to compete.
Most of you will have to do some sort of traveling to get to your competition. Keep this as stress free as possible. Print out or have a copy of your directions BEFORE you leave. Have a car charger handy because cell phones have a habit of dying when you need them most. Try to keep the number of bags to a minimum. The more you have to worry about hauling, the higher the chance of something going wrong. Plan stops ahead. If you have a specific diet you are following, keep an eye out for friendly food stops or bring your own food in order to stay on track. Know how far your car will go before it runs out of gas. No one wants to get a crazy leg pump from pushing your vehicle a few miles. Keep it light and simple, stay smart, and the stress will remain low.
There are two parts to this: Diet leading up to the competition and food the day of the event. The biggest disservice you can do to all that hard work you put into the gym is to have a crappy diet. Get your diet in check, especially leading up to a competition. You want your body to be running effectively on all cylinders and lunches at McDonald’s and dinners at Culver’s will not get the job done. Get good clean sources of fool and your body will reward you with that shiny trophy at the end of the day. Speaking of the competition, what good is fueling yourself leading up to the meet if you are ignoring your body the day of? Make sure to pack yourself plenty of snacks for the day of competing. You aren’t going to be able to run out and get a meal in between events so plan ahead. Either stop and get some food to keep in a cooler or pack plenty of snacks to nibble on through the competition. My personal preference is to have a container of nuts, pieces of fruit, and some protein powder on hand to stave off any hunger I might get. Each person is different so your preferences will be too. Get something that will work for you and go with it.
Go With The Flow
You may have every detail down and all the plans in place but there are times where all that gets thrown out. There is no way you are going to be able to predict and overcome any and all obstacles that will be thrown your way. Be flexible and ready for anything. A meet promoter may have to make changes the day of to accommodate other aspects of the show. Or things may come up en route to your meet that you did not foresee. This is where mental toughness comes up big. At the 1996 Olympics, USA Hammer Thrower Lance Deal’s bus got lost on the way to to competition venue and he showed up minutes before having to compete. Most people would be too rattled to perform but Lance was able to get over the setback and bag a silver medal in the event. I realize we all aren’t competing in the Olympics, but you get my point. Keep your mind sharp and expect the unexpected.
The last thing and most important thing to remember is to HAVE SOME FUN. Competitions are a lot of work and you have to do a lot to prep yourself for them. Try and enjoy yourself while there. I’m not saying winning doesn’t matter or anything like that, because I always want to beat the guy standing next to me during a competition. But during downtime, breaks, and after the competition, enjoy yourself. No need to wear yourself out trying to “psych up” the entire day. You have worked hard to this point and I will bet you are going to be getting ready for another meet shortly after this one ends. So enjoy the experience, get after it during the competition, and enjoy the spoils.