Whether you’re brand new to competing or have a few lifting meets or local throwdowns under your belt, it can still be a nerve-wracking experience.
So, we talked to some of the top athletes and veteran coaches in CrossFit, weightlifting and powerlifting –as well as RP strength founder Nick Shaw-– to make sure your nutrition, mindset and preparation is exactly where it needs to be.
Think of this as your competition cheat sheet. Read on for the experts top tips.
“Be over prepared. Bring extra of everything that you think that you may need. Nothing is more stressful than getting ready to compete and realizing that you ran out of tape, or your jump rope broke, or you left one knee sleeve on the counter at home. The more prepared that you are, the easier the day will be overall.” — Lindy Barber (above), two-time CrossFit Games Affiliate Cup champion
Only focus on yourself.
“For the most part – there is no defense in CrossFit. Watching other people can help you know when to push, but most of the time it throws you off of doing what’s best for YOU. You might end up coming out too hot, or even going too slow and then not having the gas you thought you would in the end. Have a plan and stick to it.”— Miranda Oldroyd, CrossFit Games athlete
“When you get out there on the competition floor with those other athletes it may be a little intimidating, but one of the best parts of CrossFit is that you are completely in control of how you preform. You have put in the work and you are ready. Don’t worry about how anyone else is doing- just focus on yourself, give your best and you can’t walk away unhappy.” — Barber
Prepare yourself for adversity.
“No matter the level of the competition, things will not be fair. No reps can and will likely happen. Somebody else is going to get away with something you didn’t. Not every workout will go the way you want. This is reality. So, only worry about the things you can control and learn from the process.” —Marco Coppola, CrossFit Games/Grid athlete and box owner
“Don’t freak out if your plan doesn’t work. If that plan you created and practiced all of the sudden isn’t working in the moment. It’s OK. Just adapt. Take it one rep and one movement at a time. KEEP MOVING.” — Oldroyd
“If things don’t go your way, hold your head up high. Be proud of your efforts and use it as a learning lesson. Look at the things you did well and also take away the things you need to work on.” —Jamie Hagiya, CrossFit Games/Grid athlete and box owner
Have FUN. (Seriously)
“Sometimes when I am competing – I like to look out at the crowd or just take a moment to think how cool it is what I am doing. You have a level of fitness that allows you to even participate in something so fun, and so many people will never get to be in that place. It actually makes me laugh usually when I think about how silly it is to be nervous about something so fun.” — Oldroyd
“You are going to do things you never thought were possible. You are going to get a huge adrenaline rush from the crowd screaming at you to push hard. You are going to finish the day- and already be excited to compete again. Have so much fun, enjoy every moment, and get after it.” — Barber
Read the rule book.
“There’s nothing worse than showing up at a meet only to find out that the underwear you’re wearing (or not) aren’t legal or that you have to pause your bench press when you’ve never trained that way. Knowing what’s going on will go a long way to decreasing stress levels and setting yourself up for a successful meet.” —Melissa Copeland, USA Powerlifting Nationals team member
“We put a lot of emphasis on focus. Not just focus on their technique, but also focus on what the judges are doing. We go over that lots and lots of times. We do mock competitions on Saturdays multiple weeks out to familiarize themselves with the rules and how the clock works.” — Tim Swords, USA Weightlifting senior international level coach
“Practice the commands in training. A novice lifter should NOT be hearing the commands for the first time on game day.” —Matt Gary, USAPL senior international coach and SSPT co-founder
Don’t change anything.
“I see a lot of novice lifters second guessing their routines in the warm up room, hopping in on weights they don’t normally take, working at a pace they don’t normal work at and it totally throws them off.
If your deadlift warm up looks like: 135, 185, 225, 275, 315, 365, 405 and there’s a group of people warming up in intervals like: 135, 225, 315, 405; don’t just try to follow along so you don’t disturb anyone. You’ve trained yourself to warm up a certain way and you’re trying to do your best in the competition so stick to your regular game plan!” — Hayden Bowe, Elite powerlifter/nationally ranked weightlifter, co-founder of Hybrid Performance Method
Embrace the spotlight.
“The nerves and pressure are real. You must embrace them, find your focus points in the room and execute. Visualize your success, prior to competition in training and before taking the platform.” — Coppola
Trust your coach and listen to the referees.
“Have a Coach, with a plan and experience. You will feel a little better knowing it’s not your Coaches first rodeo [when it comes to figuring out your attempts]. I can still remember the first time Ursula rubbed my ears and slapped my legs.” — Coppola
“If you don’t understand the call on a lift, most refs will be happy to explain it as long as you don’t stop the whole meet to ask and are polite about it. If they warn you about an infraction of the rules (like profanity on the platform), they aren’t being jerks, they’re trying to educate you so you don’t make the same mistake again and either get red lit or disqualified. These folks have volunteered their time so you can lift. They’re often lifters as well and are passionate about supporting their sport. They want to see you succeed.” — Copeland
Play it safe.
“The primary goal should be flawless execution and making all nine attempts rather than hitting specific numbers. Naturally, most who compete are goal-oriented but at first it’s important to perform the lifts correctly while getting a feel and flavor for competition.
Your first competition is the only time where any result is a personal record (PR) so the numbers are irrelevant.” — Gary
“Keep the size of your jumps and the numbers you hit as close to what you do in training as possible. If you’re a beginner lifter, choose an opener that you can comfortably hit for 2 or 3 reps on any given day, get on the board, and build your total from there.” —Bowe
Compete at a comfortable weight class.
“First meets should be fun and enjoyable, unless you’re going for records or are a seasoned veteran of competing, don’t do crazy cuts at the end.” — Nick Shaw, RP Strength founder
“Keeping things as familiar as possible is important, no special pre-workouts drinks you’ve never tried, no weird/different foods that someone told you will help you perform better, just good old routine.” — Bowe
“Bring your own food and water with you to the meet. There may not be any food offered either at or near the meet venue and meets can run several hours. Pack things that are familiar, easy to eat, sit well in your stomach and that you know will fuel you and leave you feeling good.” — Copeland
Timing is important.
“Eat lots of carbs. A mix of high and low GI carbs is likely best. Keep fats/fiber low. You want food to get into your system quicker, and the fats/fiber slow things down a bit. Protein can be kept constant/moderate throughout the day.” — Shaw
A good sample meal Shaw suggests between lifts or events? A turkey sandwich on a bagel along with some Gatorade and a banana.