Your first competition.
Whether you nervously pressed that sign up button yourself or your friend conned you into it; you’re committed now.
So what do you need to know?
There are many factors that contribute to a successful competition day. And they are not all based on your placing on the leaderboard – but rather, how to get through all the workouts and ensure you enjoy the experience. After all – it’s your first competition; you’ve got plenty more opportunities to claim a spot on the podium.
So let’s look at how you can have a great day – survive the punishment you’re about to put your body through – and avoid throwing up on your competitors.
If it’s not nerves that cause you to throw up – it may be an ill-timed lunch break too close to a workout. Eating during a day of competition is critically important. However – it is often the last thing you feel like doing. With only an hour or 2 between events and butterflies in your stomach it can be hard to find your appetite.
Small snacks and drinks are your best friend here. Fruit is always a great option — plenty of natural sugar to keep glycogen stores topped up after expending large amounts of energy throughout multiple workouts. Drinks that help aid recovery and refuel the body are also a great option as it can often be easier to drink rather than eat during competitions.
As well as snacks – you should consume a well-balanced — whole meal. Packing a couple of sandwiches/rolls or something similar before the day begins can allow for more sustainable energy input without feeling too heavy in the stomach.
Timing is essential throughout the day though. Eat too close to a workout and you may feel it coming up halfway through your set of pull-ups. You need to be aware of when your heat is and how long you have between events.
Preparation is key; plan what you are going to eat and when you are going to eat it.
Being nervous before a competition is completely normal and absolutely fine. It can be nerves about being in front of a crowd – nerves about a certain movement – or nerves about the outcome. It is important to remain in control though.
If you feel like everyone is going to laugh at you – you are way off the mark. That’s the great thing about competing — everyone loves cheering everyone on. It’s what makes our sport great.
If you’re nervous about the outcome — that’s great as well. Because it means you care – it means you want to do well. You have to be able to control those nerves and don’t let them diminish your performance. Use the nervous energy to your advantage – let the crowd get behind you to hit a new PR snatch. Let your competitors force you into a deeper – darker part of the pain cave than you’ve ever been before. The competitive atmosphere can do wonders for your ability.
WARMING UP/COOLING DOWN
This is perhaps one of the hardest parts of any competition. Your regular warm up routine will be thrown all out of whack. Often there is limited equipment and space allocated for warm up areas which leaves 1-2 – sometimes even 3 – heats of athletes scrambling to get their warm up lifts in on only 4 barbells. It is important to go through your regular warm up (foam rolling, stretching, banded activation, etc) well before your first event and then begin a more specific warm up closer to your heat.
If there is a 1-rep max Clean & Jerk – for example – make sure not to compromise yourself too much. If bar numbers are limited – don’t be afraid to adjust the weight every lift you need. Don’t get forced into taking someone else’s warm up lifts. Everyone is friendly (generally) and you’re all in the same boat. Help each other out; adjust weights – allow multiple attempts – and work together.
Cooling down is generally a little easier.
As much as you want to crumble into a heap on your bag – try and stay on the move post-workout. If rowers/bikes are available – a simple 5 minute cruise can help keep oxygen flowing to the muscles and flush out those nasty by-products you’ve built up. At the very least – go for a walk. Just stay on the move for a few minutes so you don’t completely stiffen up between events.
Throughout the day you will obviously have to prepare for multiple events. This can be difficult – particularly when you can feel the onset of all that soreness coming on. It is important to warm everything up again properly. A couple of squats and pull-ups aren’t going to adequately prepare you for a Fran-like workout. Follow similar protocols as you did earlier and the stiff muscles you’ve accumulated over the day will gradually loosen up.
Going into an event it is important to have some semblance of a plan or strategy – regardless of your goals for the competition. If you’re competing for fun – it is still beneficial to know how you want to attack a workout and set goals for yourself to achieve. The competitive atmosphere can do wonders for you so use it to your advantage and plan on crushing your workouts.
If you’re in it to win you definitely need to know when you’re breaking – how long you want to break for – and who you may have to keep an eye on out on the competition floor. You don’t need to know π (pi) to a thousand places but knowing how many HSPU you’re going for is important. Having your own strategy will let you perform to your ability and not get caught up with others in your heat that may be going out too hot or who are just beyond your ability. Use the competition to push further than you might in training – but don’t overshoot it.
Also — if you are in front don’t take your foot off the pedal. There are generally a few heats in competitions and there may be other athletes in different heats that can match or beat your score.
Whether you are an out and out competitor – or you’re just there to throw down with your friends – competitions are great. Be sure to make the most of the day and enjoy it.
Nail a new PR – get your first Muscle-Up – finally beat that rep-shaver Greg from your gym.
Whatever makes you happy!