This blog post was originally posted on Working Against Gravity by Danielle Sheriiff, our Buff Babes Nutrition program affiliate, and has been modified.
Excited, nervous, and anxious — the emotions and adrenaline rush of competing are what make it such a worthwhile experience. It is the reason that once you compete, you’ll want to do it again and again.
When you register for a meet you feel determined and proud; you should because you made a brave move. As competition draws closer, you can feel ill-prepared and out of place. Not strong, fast or technical enough. Your self-consciousness starts to creep in.
It’s perfectly normal to feel your most confident one minute and completely full of self-doubt the next.
Our friends at Working Against Gravity (WAG) have prepared thousands of athletes for competitions, from their first ever meet to the elite. Whichever level of competition you’re at, preparation follows the same basic fundamentals.
Get a Coach & Communicate
Athletes differ mentally and physically. Work with a sports specific coach in advance. Together you’ll develop a strategy to get you ready to perform.
If you usually train alone using online programs and don’t work one on one with a coach, get one for competition day at a minimum. Contact the event organizer and request the competition starting list. Reach out to the various gyms and coaches already attending. Request if anyone has space on their competition day schedule to help you in the warm up room.
Many coaches have experience working with athletes they don’t know particularly well. This is normal even at the elite level (national team coaches are often not the athletes usual coach!).
Requesting coaching help on the day is nothing to be awkward about. Trust this coach's ability to help you on the day. Communicate with them in advance the goals you are looking to achieve and talk about how you would like to approach it. They will help to keep you calm, communicate with officials and let you focus on the task at hand.
Have a Nutrition Plan
Athletes prepare intensely for competition. Focusing, resting and recovering strategically. To complicate things further, some athletes are required to weigh a certain body weight to facilitate fair competition. To achieve this without negative impact on performance, make sure you have a solid plan for your nutrition.
If you’re a WAG client, keep your coach updated with what your training looks like. Your coach may want to adjust your nutrition to make sure you’re peaked for competition and help you strategize for game day!
Don't have a nutrition plan? Click here to sign up today for our Buff Babes Nutrition Program via WAG.
Keep Your Diet Clean
As your competition nears, minimize sugar and processed foods. This can help drop extra water weight, which is an ideal strategy to weigh in at your lowest possible body weight and look extra lean!
Reduce sodium intake, switch pasta for veggies and ditch soda for carbonated water. People often feel increased energy levels when they reduce processed food and the extra vegetables aid recovery too.
Stay Light Before Weigh In
If your weigh in is days beforehand, a minor fast will not hurt your performance. If your weigh in is on the same day that you’re due to compete, maintaining energy through small intakes of food and water, where possible, is recommended.
- Weigh yourself in the morning to monitor how much wiggle room you have for breakfast.
- Have a light breakfast that keeps you satiated but doesn’t send you over on the scale. Stick to lean proteins and vegetables.
- Eating high fiber vegetables or having an espresso helps get your bowel moving.
Eat What You Know
If your diet is working for you then don’t drastically change it. In the weeks before your meet be consistent with your food choices. If you’re tracking macros, hit your numbers every day. Now is not the time to be lenient or add new supplements or foreign foods into your diet. Sudden changes in diet can cause your body to retain water or have a negative impact on your performance, or both.
On competition day eat what you normally eat before a regular training session. If you eat steak and rice on a regular training day then that is what you should eat on a competition day. Ensure that there is a balance of protein, fats and carbs in that meal.
- If you don’t normally take stimulants like coffee or pre-work out, don’t try it on game day!
- Control your food choices. If you’re not sure how your body is going to react to a certain food, don’t eat it.
Show Up Prepared
Pack your bag the day before with all of the equipment you need. Have your clothing laid out, your shoes packed and clothes to keep you warm. Being organized the day before relieves stress and keeps you focused.
Organize your meals ahead of time. Pack your breakfast, pre-competition meal and snacks. Don’t show up to the meet empty handed hoping to buy food from the shops after you weigh in. This is a recipe for disaster and could be difficult to find foods that suit your needs.
Seriously Taper Off
‘Taper’ is the rest that you take a few days before your event. It gives your body a chance to fully recover. However, this doesn't mean a week long Netflix binge on the couch.
When you’re training hard, your muscles, ligaments and tendons build up damage that you don’t even know about. It comes with training and is perfectly normal. Now is the time to start seriously addressing these areas and healing your body as much as possible.
- Stretch tight areas and foam roll everything
- Hot tub or EPSOM salt bath
- Sleep, sleep and more sleep
Always be lightly moving around and stretching. This will stop you from getting stiff from the extra rest you’ve had.
On the day of the meet get warm and feel good but stick to your normal pre-training warm up. Don’t overdo the warm ups and stretching just because it is meet day. Doing a deep hip stretch when you’re not used to it may cause your body to feel imbalanced due to the change in your range of motion. This can result in your technique feeling uncomfortable on the day!
Mentally Visualize and Prepare
In the weeks before your competition, visualize. How does your technique look and feel? What will you wear? What music will you listen to while your warm up? What will you eat?
Focus only on what you can control. Where you get to warm up and how good your competition is are things outside of your control and therefore are not helpful.
Preserve energy all day with deep breathing and practice staying calm — from the moment you wake up, to the drive there and during the competition. Feeling nervous and excitement takes up a lot of energy and you need to save it up for your moment.
A bulletproof training and nutrition strategy will set you up perfectly so that you can focus on doing what you have been trained to do. What is your pre-competition ritual? Comment below!
Good luck with your next meet and go get em’!