Preparing For Your First National Meet

Posted on Posted in Olympic Weightlifting

Qualifying for a National Meet
Through out the year, weightlifting clubs or gyms will host local weightlifting meets in every state in the nation. If the competition is sanctioned through USA Weightlifting, the lifters will have the opportunity to qualify for Youth (age >11 to 17), Junior (18-20), Senior (21-34), University (18-27), and Masters (35 and up) National Championships as well as the American Open. USA Weightlifting posts the qualifying totals for each weight class on their national website that are needed in order to be eligible for each event. For those that do not know, a combined total is achieved by taking a lifters best made snatch and best made clean and jerk in a competition. For example, if a 77kg weightlifter snatches 100kg and clean and jerks 132kg, their combined total at that meet is 232kg (which happens to be the qualifying total for the 77kg weight class for the 2015 American Open).

With that being said, it is important to note that if you are in a younger age division but hit the qualifying total for a higher age division you are still able to compete in that upper division. For example, the current qualifying total for the Senior National Championships as a 77kg lifter is 269kg. If a 19-year-old lifter (who is technically still a junior) hits that 269kg total, he would be eligible to lift in both Junior and Senior Nationals.

I Qualified! Now What?
A lot of weightlifters who are preparing for their first National meet feel that many aspects of their training regimen needs to change because this is the “big stage,” but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Pretend that you are getting ready for a local meet — forget the stage and focus on the training cycle that your coach has provided. You do not need extra squats, or pulls, or complexes – you have exactly what you need.

So we talked about your training, now what about your body weight? If you are three weeks out from the meet and are about 1.5-2.0kg over, now is not the time to start cutting or changing diet. The absolute best thing to do as an athlete is to keep your coach up to date as much as possible. He or she has likely been in this situation before — either personally or with other lifters he/she has coached in the past. Trust them. This is why they are your coach! When the time is RIGHT, they will make the necessary adjustments to make sure you are not only make weight, but they will keep you feeling good as well. Assuming this is not a major 8.0kg cut to get into weight (and if that is the case you may want to consider going up a class), typically these adjustments will happen very close to the day of the meet so do not stress, it will all be ok. There is no better way to make yourself feel like absolute garbage than cutting improperly, ESPECIALLY cutting water or essential macronutrients too early. If you want to feel as healthy and “normal” as possible, WAIT. FOR. YOUR. COACH!

Day of Competition
A national meet will most likely span a few days – usually from a Thursday to a Sunday – and it will most likely be in a city that you will have to travel to. In 2014, Youth Nationals was right here in Florida only two hours away, but for University Nationals this year, we had to travel to Ogden, Utah.

So, once you’ve made it to the city where the meet is being held and you are in line to weigh in, the officials call your name to take you to the official weigh in scale. At this point, it can be a bit stressful because there is nothing more you can do, but you know you listened to your coach and did everything they have asked of you. After stepping on the scale and looking down…YOU MADE IT!! This is the moment when relief sets in and I’m sure you will be over joyed that you decided to trust your coach. Now that you’re weighed in GO EAT! For the next forty-five minutes you are free to eat a normal meal. Do not only bring an apple and a protein shake for post weigh ins, that is not enough and you are no longer cutting (if you were even cutting weight to begin with).

An hour has gone by and you now have less than sixty minutes until your session starts. Depending on where you are in your session your coach will have you start warming up as early as thirty minutes before the session starts. If you fall later in the lifting order, do not feel that you are somehow falling behind because other people in your session have taken four warm up attemps. There is no need to start frantically running around the warm up room taking lifts to try to get warm. Your coach knows the proper amount of time before you step out onto that platform and just like you trusted them with your body weight, you need to do the same thing now. All you need to do is sit when they say sit and lift when they say lift. This is the beauty of having an experienced coach by your side – they take all the guess work and stress out of the equation so that you can focus on one thing and one thing only: making lifts.

Taking the Stage (Literally)
You are sitting in the staging area and now you are on deck (the next lifter to go on the competition platform). Your warm ups went great but you are shaking. There are people everywhere and when you peaked your head out from the warm up room, the place was full of spectators that are about to watch you lift on stage.

Stop. Calm down. Take a deep breath. It will be ok.

Absolutely nothing changes when you step out on to that platform. Go into your own little world and block out everyone and everything. You have been training you’re ASS off to get to this moment so do not let anything get in your way of performing to the best of your abilities. As you pick up the bar for your first attempt ever on the National Stage, it feels lighter than this weight ever has before in the past. You know that this is your time and you are not letting anything get in your way now.

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