Given that I didn’t train last week and therefore have no workouts to recap, I thought it might be interesting to talk about how I prepared for my competition. I promise this is my last competition post!
Usually, in the week leading up to a competition, you do not train. So, if a competition is on a Sunday, your last heavy session is generally the previous Monday. With six days of full rest, your body will be recovered and you will be chomping at the bit to set some PRs.
From the beginning, my coach had planned something different for me. We had always intended for me to train on the Monday, Wednesday and Friday before my competition, but just at a lighter load.
However, as you know, I did not train properly in the weeks leading up to my competition. Firstly, I was training in Ibiza at a sub-par gym without strongman equipment. I came down with a cold once I returned home, to only develop a gum abscess a week later!
During my “peak week”, I didn’t train for five days straight. My first day back in the gym was a Saturday, and I was due to stop training heavy only two days later on the Monday. Because I had had so much time off, I panicked – I was not feeling strong or well-practiced.
Obviously, I couldn’t make any significant gains only a few days before competition, but we wanted to give my muscles a slightly larger stimulus. So while all my fellow competitors were resting, I was still hitting the gym two days before the competition.
My workouts were still relatively easy. They were designed to be quick and explosive, and leave me wanting more. The volume was low and all my rest periods were five minutes. Here’s what I did in the final week before competition:
Zercher squats: 20kg x 5, 40kg x 3, 60kg x 3, 70kg x 3, 80kg x 3
Bent over row: 40kg x 8, 50kg x 8, 8
Bag carries: 2 sets of 5 pick ups with the 50kg bag
Sprints: 2 sets of 5 20 metre sprints with a 20 metre recovery
30kg narrow log: 2 reps
35kg narrow log: 2 reps
40kg wide log: 1 rep, 1 set only
Farmers holds: 40kg x 10 secs, 50kg x 10 secs, 60kg x 10 secs, 67.5kg x 15 secs
50kg wobble hold: 1 x 25 secs
Sprints: 1 set of 5 20 metre sprints with a 20 metre recovery
Farmers walks: 40kg x 20 metres (medium pace), 40kg x 20 metres (fast), 50kg x 20 metres (fast)
40kg wide log: 1 rep, 1 set only
Axle clean and press: 4 sets of 1 rep at 35kg
I had grand plans of foam rolling, yoga and positive visualisation every night in that final week, but running between dentists, doctors and hospitals kinda put a stop to that! My week was far from relaxing, but I ensured that the night before I destressed.
By no means am I a pro, but here are some tips on that final week leading up to a competition.
- Rest! Your body needs to rest in order to perform. If you continue to train at a normal intensity, you will become burnt out. Save it for competition day! Either take the week off completely, or follow a reduced load program such as I did.
- Think positive. Spend a lot of time visualising the lifts. Imagine feeling confident, being quick and explosive, and not making any errors. Anyone who knows me knows that I am super clumsy, but I couldn’t allow myself to start thinking of tripping over, dropping bags and so on. To my amazement, I didn’t fall over my own feet on comp day, but quite a few of the others did.
- Massage. On the Friday before my comp, I had a painful yet effective deep tissue massage. On Saturday I felt bruised, but by Sunday I was perfect – no aches or pains! Many people skimp on massages because they can’t afford it, but you can’t afford not to if you’re serious about your training. I usually get a back massage once every 10-14 days, and a full body massage once a month.
- Mobility. Ideally, you want to spend 30 minutes on foam rolling and performing basic mobility drills every day in that final week.
- Eat! Make sure you eat a lot of food, particularly carbohydrates, to help with recovery and energy levels.
- Bathe. If you don’t have to make weight, add epsom salts to a bath and soak those muscles!
The day before and day of competition:
- Pack your bag the night before. I wrote a list of everything I needed for each event (which I also consulted throughout the day – it’s very easy to forget something in the heat of the moment!). I packed shorts, long pants, a jacket, a sports bra, two workout tops, a change of clothes for afterwards, spare underwear and socks, wrist straps, my lifting belt, regular chalk and liquid chalk, two pairs of shoes, water, food, sugary snacks, a protein shake and coconut water. Make sure you pack more than enough food – I was not expecting to be out of the house for 15 hours and competing for seven, so I ran out of food.
- Eat, but nothing out of the ordinary. If you eat chicken and rice 99 per cent of the time, don’t expect to eat a whole pizza and pint of ice cream the night before and not feel like shit. I had a weight class to make so I watched my salt intake for the week leading up to the comp so that I could eat a decent amount the day before without worrying about it. I ate a burger and fries in the afternoon, and then a big steak and half a kilo of potatoes for dinner followed by magic PR-inducing ice cream. I woke up and had a normal breakfast, and then ate my regular pre-workout meal of yoghurt and a banana.
- Rest more. I purposely didn’t schedule anything for the day before my comp. I left the house once to get my burger and buy food for the next day. On weekends, we tend to go crazy and walk everywhere, so I forced myself to sit on my butt all day.
- Drink a lot of water. This is another reason why I stayed at home all day, so I could remain in close proximity to a bathroom!
- Make a playlist. On Saturday night, I put together all my favourite pump up songs (a little Eminem, Pantera, System of a Down, Rage Against the Machine, Rob Bailey and… Avicii haha). I listened to the playlist during the train ride and also during any down moments throughout the day.
- Watch some motivational videos. On Saturday afternoon, I watched a few powerlifting and strongman videos to fire me up. DON’T watch videos of your competitors.
- Sleep! I worried that nerves would keep me up all night, so I made myself wake up early on Saturday which thankfully meant I crashed out at about 10.30pm. I also turned off the computer at 8pm and didn’t look at any screens before bed. We had to wake up at 6.30am, so I made sure I set two alarms so I wasn’t keeping myself awake worried about missing my train.
- Stay calm. Although I was very much in competition mode, I kept myself relaxed and distracted myself whenever I had negative thoughts. There is nothing you can do the night before that is going to make any difference to your performance, so just relax!
- Pop some pills. Many people swear by popping ibuprofen either the night before or the morning of a comp. I certainly could not have competed without it, but I was also in a severe amount of pain!
- Follow a normal pre-workout routine. I don’t take any pre-workout supplements, so the morning of the comp was not the time to experiment. I was tempted to have a second cup of coffee, but I’m easily affected by caffeine and I knew it would be a bad idea.
- Eating during the day: My coach had originally told me to eat my preworkout meal, and then eat nothing until right before the last event. However, neither of us expected there to be almost 8 hours passing between those two moments! I had my pre-workout meal at 10.30am, and then started snacking at about 2pm. I ate five packs of yoghurt-covered raisins along with my coconut water for the next few hours until my body started to shake from all the sugar. I then ate a small amount of chicken and sweet potato at 4.30pm and again at 5.30pm. You can’t eat a proper meal during a competition or you will throw up! Most competitors eat lots of candy, but I knew that wouldn’t sit well with my digestive system, so I stuck with raisins – a somewhat healthier yet high sugar snack.
- Focus. It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of the day and get distracted by making new friends who you have tonnes in common with. Save that for afterwards! My coach told me to sit in a corner and not talk to anyone all day. When he competes, he doesn’t watch anything. He just listens and builds up a natural rhythm of “good lift, good lift, good lift”. When you see other people missing lifts and getting injured, it can really mess with your head. I didn’t want to be completely antisocial so I only took his advice for the first two events (especially during the log press!), and then I tried to mingle a little more.
Do you have any additional tips? Does this make you want to compete? (Writing these tips made me really excited for my next comp!)