Competing is immensely stressful. It's doubly stressful if it's your first competition.
I want you to make better decisions. This article will go into how to manage pre-competition stress and anxiety in an easy-to-apply way.
Lifters tend to be huge stress heads as they invest so much time and money into their sport. Higher stress levels often result in poorer decisions.
This culminated in me using the phrase "all lifters are idiots on competition day."
Over time, I've realised the time frame differs massively from lifter to lifter.
My modus operandi is now the assumption a first-time competitor's decisions will go downhill from the moment they enter a competition, which may be as long as 16 weeks before a competition.
We should use stress-reducing methods to aid our decision-making processes.
Here are a few helpful suggestions:
Understand How Comps Work & Know The Rules Well In Advance
You'll have lots of questions, fears, and unknowns going into a competition. Educate yourself and make sure you talk to your coach or other lifters about what to expect at a competition.
The more you know about the comp process the more you'll be able to relax and focus on your performance.
If you want to know more about this aspect of stress management leading up to competition, I'd recommend checking out these articles:
A great idea is to go to a few comps before you compete. If you make it to the warm-up area for a while, you'll be even more prepared.
Don't worry About Dieting Down A Weight Class For Your First Comp
Being a calorie deficit, losing weight, and 'dieting' cause roughly the same amount of stress levels as competing.
If you are competing for the first time your stress levels will be higher than they will be for most future comps.
The last thing you want to do is add the stress of weight loss to the mix.
If weight loss is on your radar, dropping weight first before you've entered the competition then maintaining your weight throughout the close-to-competition preparation works well for most lifters who are competing for the first time.
No water cuts.
No extreme weight loss close to comp.
Maintain your weight and focus on training and recovery for a prep involving the least amount of stress.
Schedule Time Off Near The Comp
"To be like an elite athlete, you have to recover like an elite athlete."
The Endurance Physio
As you get close to competition, your decision-making gets worse. Sometimes that means people agree to start a major project involving 14-hour shifts 3 days before competing.
It ruins their comp, and they wonder if it's because they should have done more back extensions rather than because they overworked when they should have been recovering.
Make sure you have time off to chill, recover and enjoy at least the final few days of prep.
Not everyone can have time off so the important part is being kind to yourself in the time leading up to the competition.
Another trait many lifters exhibit as they get closer to comp is hiding away from friends they'd normally see to 'focus.'
If seeing your friends/family/whoever helps you relax, keep doing it throughout your prep, you'll feel better.
A well-placed coffee with someone will be as useful as any recovery session you could possibly do.
By meditation, I mean spending time in a meditative state away from your phone and work.
Whether that is sitting saying "ohhm" or going for an hour's walk in the woods twice a week, I don't care, meditative time is an essential part of recovery and de-stressing.
It could be a long bath while sipping a G&T.
Another meditative practice is journaling. It's not for everyone, but for some, writing a daily journal can be a game-changer.
Another meditative practice is pouring everything bobbing around in your mind into a list you can order into a to-do list later.
For me, this provides more mental relief than most strategies. The only thing I find more relieving than this is meditative walks and downtime.
As you approach competition, it may be tempting to let the habit slip but as the competition approaches its importance magnifies.
Schedule your meditative time, make sure it happens and you'll be less stressed and more able to deal with the stresses competition and competition training brings.
Extra Communication With Coach
As you approach competition, you will have lots of questions for your coach.
We've discussed how decision-making often goes massively downhill once you've entered a competition, and this is another area where people can be affected.
People tend to stop communicating with their coach when they should be communicating the most.
If your coach is good, if you don't get in contact regularly with them, they will lose sleep. You'll lose sleep because you have loads of unanswered questions and recovery will be adversely affected.
As you near competition, talk to your coach a lot.
Stop Researching Technique Of The Big 3
I've talked about this a lot, so i'll be brief.
When you enter a competition, you should stop researching squat, bench and deadlift.
You should start or continue practicing your lifting ritual to make it as subconscious as possible.
Usain Bolt wouldn't research running technique before winning an olympic gold, why would you even think of changing your squat, bench or deadlift technique in the build-up to competition?
I know many of the powerlifters reading this are awful for doing this.
I'd encourage you to stop it. If you need to research something, research something else like recovery nutrition or maybe, researching into how to stop researching the big 3 when you shouldn't be!
Remember, higher stress away from the gym = lower recovery.
Lower recovery outside of the gym means lower performance. Utilizing the above techniques will help you get the most out of your training and will hopefully improve your overall quality of life.
By Chris Kershaw
The Heavy Metal Strength Coach
Coaching for the overthinking powerlifter and those looking to build confidence in strength training.
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