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How to Prepare for Competition Day

Posted on Posted in Olympic Weightlifting

Competition: The culmination of all your hard work and hopefully scientific training program. It’s the day that we hope and expect to perform at the best of our physical capacity. This article is mainly going to be approached from the perspective of a weightlifting competition, because, well…that’s what we do.

Now, I know that some of you are weightlifters, some of you are crossfitters, and some of you do both. Whether it’s a weightlifting meet or some kind of crossfit showdown-throwdown, I think we can all agree that it’s going to be a long-ass day…and long-ass days require lots of food and proper preparation. If you’re like us and actually give a crap about what you’re putting into your body (please note the correct use of you’re/your), it’s generally a good idea to plan ahead and bring your own food. If not, I’m sure you can find a McDonalds and Starbucks on every single corner of the United States!

What to Expect
Almost every weightlifting meet that I’ve ever been to has not had food on location. Though, recently with the influx of new lifters and clubs to join the mix, weightlifting meets are starting to become bigger and bigger. They are drawing not only big sponsorships, but also local companies that will often come out and set up tents with food and such. I wouldn’t bank on food being readily available, so bring your lunchbox just in case.

Each division has a designated check-in time. Look it up and plan to get there before that. One thing that you should definitely expect is a lot of waiting. It’s unavoidable — bring a pillow.

When you check in, they will ask your for your openers. Since this is an international Olympic sport, everything is done in kilograms, not pounds. If you don’t know the conversion, try the wonderful world of Google. After check-in, it’s time to step on a scale. Congratulations. You hopefully made weight. Now, you have 2 hours until your session starts. Use your time wisely.

Warm Up
At a weightlifting meet, there are no rowers, treadmills, bands, pull-up bars or any other piece of equipment, unless it happens to be taking place in a crossfit gym. Even then, the place will probably be crowded enough that pulling out extra equipment will be a hassle, so plan on only having yourself and a barbell.

Timing your warm-up routine is somewhat of an art form. Warming up too early can leave you tired and expelling too much energy to stay warm. Warming up too late, well, you can probably guess. Knowing when to start warming up is dependent on a few things:

  • How long it takes you to warm up
  • How many warm up attempts it will take you to reach your opener
  • How many people are lifting ahead of you
  • What their next lifts are going to be
  • How many attempts those people have left

It sounds like a lot to keep track of — and it is — the lifting order changes every single lift. This is where having someone else like a coach or their stand-in would come in handy. Their job is to think. Your job is to lift. Thinking and lifting don’t generally mix well.

Food for Thought
In the perfect scenario, we all wake up a few pounds under the top of our weight class the morning of. This should be your goal. You know when you’re competing far enough in advance and you should be able to get your act together. Not only will it keep you from putting on a sweatshirt and sitting in the car with the heater running for 30 minutes, but it will allow you to eat as you normally would until you have to weigh in…assuming you always eat well.

Being in a different city with limited time can make finding food options a bit difficult. If your entire “diet” consists of cheese burgers and/or subway sandwiches, then you’ll probably have an easy time finding a quick bite…and an even harder time making weight. But even if you eat clean for the weeks leading up to the event, I don’t recommend binging after weigh in on your favorite fat kid pleasures to bring you back from that starving state. Your body is used to the food you feed it. If you spend the weeks leading up to competition day tracking your macros and eating clean, going off the rails once you step off the scale is the last thing you want to do. Abnormal rising and crashing of blood sugar levels don’t make for peak performance. Keep your body normalized by eating food that it is used to. Surprising your body will do nothing but hurt your numbers. If you normally drink coffee pre workout, drink coffee. If you normally eat a steak 2 hours before training, bring a steak. My point is you should be doing what you normally do — this is NOT the time to introduce something new.

So what kind of foods store well and travel easily? Here are some recommendations for food to bring:

  • Chicken salad
  • Beef patties
  • Sweet potato/apple sauce puree
  • Oven roasted broccoli
  • Nuts
  • Fruit
  • Almond butter
  • Coleslaw
  • Bacon
  • Muffins (made with almond flour if that’s the way you swing)
  • Pedialyte

You can bring whatever you want, but just make sure that 1) it keeps/stores well and 2) you can eat it cold. I’ve never seen a microwave, so if you bring one, you’re likely to make friends pretty quickly.

Good Luck, and just do you!
Whether you’re entering your first official meet or lifting as a qualifier, the most important thing to remember is you’re there to have fun. Anyone can sweat the numbers, but at the end of the day, the spirit of the sport is light-hearted and laid-back. Everyone you will meet is encouraging and supportive whether you snatch 30kg or 120kg. You’re not there to embarrass yourselves, waste other people’s time, or swing for the fences. You’re there to gain experience. And don’t worry, everyone is there to have fun too. The level of talent always ranges from complete beginner to advanced and elite so no matter your skill level, I say compete. No one cares how much weight you lift or how weird you look in a singlet. It’s just another day of people doing what they love to do.
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