A lot of people ask me for meet day tips, so I thought it would be helpful to write out a guide for meet day preparation. I’m going to cover quite a bit of ground, so I’ll organize this article into a couple of sections: Pre-meet (night before), day of the meet, and during the meet. Within those sections, I’ll also be covering tips for mental and physical prep, so read closely.
Pre-Meet (Night Before)
The night before a meet, mental preparation is huge. I like to involve a lot of mentality focused practice before a meet. I’ll usually have athletes begin with approximately 15 minutes of strong visualization. Here, you really want to visualize not only your technique, but small details as well: what the chalk feels like on your hand, the sound of your name being called, the feel of the circle or platform below your feet. Neurologically, strong visualization can activate many of the neural pathways involved in actual movement, so it’s key to be just as focused during this time as you would be during regular practice. After you have finished visualizing, I like athletes to settle in to 5-10 minutes of silent meditation. The ability to clear your mind and focus on something past all of your thoughts is huge for individual sports like weightlifting and throwing. When it’s just you and your attempts, you have to be comfortable clearing out all of the excess noise around you. Taking some time to watch video can be beneficial. Not only can it remind you of technical cues that you want to have for tomorrow, but it can also just get you hyped up. Nothing quite motivates someone to smash a big attempt than seeing one of the greats do exactly that! Finally, take the time to write down a couple technical cues that you know are key for your success. Not just thinking about them, but writing them down will engage you more in the act and better set you up to feel and understand them.
Physically, keep things simple. Mobility is key, so if you have a regular mobility routine that you already use, just do that. If you traveled to your meet, maybe add in some extra mobility to account for the extra time sitting. During this time, access that meditative mindset you have been practicing to really zone in on relaxing into the various stretches. Nutrition is important as well, and making the right choices here can make or break your meet. I strongly suggest picking one meal that you have frequently, and making that your pre-meet meal. Create a ritual around the meal, so you know mentally that this meal means it’s time to kill everything the next day! The last thing you want is any bathroom emergencies the morning of your meet!
The Day Of
Mentally, we’re gonna first go right back to visualizing. You can’t do anything physical now, so you might as well continue to mentally cement the feeling of a monster attempt in your mind. Again, 5 to 10 minutes of focused and detailed visualization will be really helpful. Feel free to listen to some music if you feel like it helps you get more into a zone. I wouldn’t recommend starting the death metal at 8am if you know you won’t compete until 5pm. No sense emotionally exhausting yourself by getting too pumped too early. Really, just focus on keeping this in line with what you normally do. Finally, if you’ve been practicing your meditating, you’ll learn about the importance of breath control. Start to think about your breathing more, because as you get anxious/nervous/excited as the meet approaches, your breathing will probably become more and more shallow. Be aware and keep breathing!
Physically, again, just keep things simple. If you do some stretching when you wake up on a normal day, do exactly that. If you travelled the day before, maybe do a little extra. Knowing how you like your body to feel on meet day is very big here. Get a good meal in 2-2.5 hours out from the meet. Just like last night, make sure it’s nothing too out of the ordinary. Make sure that it’s filling enough that you won’t be starving come competition time, but not so much that you feel bloated and slow.
Meet Time! (Warm ups and during competition)
You probably guessed it by now, but we’re doing some more visualization here. Active, detailed visualization for another 5 minutes leading up to the start of competition. Before and after this visualization, run back over the cues you wrote down last night. Reminding yourself of what you need to do will only help you feel your positions even better. As the meet begins, really feel those cues that you’ve practiced so much both physically and mentally. Think about them during warm ups and in between attempts. During the meet, really focus on controlled aggressiveness. Just like the music during the morning, understand that you can’t exhaust yourself getting too wired too early, so be able to turn on and off your aggression. If you like to be silent through your entire attempt, do that. If you have to scream before you go, do that! Whatever is going to snap you into that competitive mode, be able to turn it on when you need to. The next step is blocking out all distractions. You can’t focus on all of your technical cues if you’re distracted by the guy or girl next to you talking to themself the whole time. This is where all of the meditation comes into play. Developing the ability to block out distractions and embrace the silence is very important for focus and therefore, success at a meet.
Physically during warm ups you can get in a couple minutes of mobility and general movement, followed by 3-5 minutes of explosive movement, like jumps or sprints. Just enough to prime you, but not so much that you’re gassed. For throwers, you’ll probably want to take 3-5 warm up throws before the meet begins. You should have a plan for what you want to do for each warm up attempt, and remind yourself of the technical cues that you want to focus on during each warm up throw. Grab your coffee or preworkout, and get ready to go! When the meet begins, other than actually competing, just try to stay loose. Bounce around, and even do some dry turns and drills if you want to further solidify some technical issues. Staying warm and ready to attack should be the focus here.
I know this guide is pretty long and detailed, so make sure to read it carefully a couple of times to make sure you have it all down. Ideally, all of this will eventually become a routine for you, so you won’t have to think about it at all. Also, not everything has to be exactly as I’ve said here. If you can get 5 really good minutes of visualization in before getting too distracted, just do 5 minutes and make them worth the time. It’s always better to adapt something to your needs and make sure you’ll actually do it, than try to do a generalized prescription and fail to do it half of the time. Create your own routine, using these tips as a guide.