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Competition Anxiety...It Never Goes Away
Matt Foreman

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You’re a weightlifter at a national championship. It’s the night before you compete, and you’re alone in your hotel room. These are the thoughts that go through your mind:

I wish I had my own room. I would totally get my own room if I had any money. I have to room with four of my teammates, and they all competed already because they’re in the lighter weight classes and those go first at nationals. So now they’re out looking for drinks and sex.

This freaking hotel room looks exactly the same as all the others I’ve stayed in at national meets. It could be anywhere…St. Joseph, Merrillville, Shreveport, Savannah. Why are all the big meets in boring places? I’ve been to every boring little town in America.

Actually, that’s probably good. What the hell would we do if the nationals was in some flashy place like Beverly Hills? We’re all broke. We would just sit in our rooms and wait to lift, so I guess it’s good we’re in Blaine, Minnesota. Plus, the hotel would cost twice as much in Beverly Hills. I would probably have ten roommates.

I feel good. Training has been solid. Tendonitis has flared up a little bit, but I’ve been icing the hell out of it and it should be good for tomorrow. I’m ready for PRs. Gotta finish my pull and keep the bar close.

Jeez, my quads are huge now. That’s awesome.

I’m bored. What’s on TV? The Shawshank Redemption. I’ve seen that movie thirty freaking times but there’s nothing else on. I don’t care about local news. I don’t live here. I probably wouldn’t care even if I did live here.

Fast elbows, stick the jerk. Let’s practice that a few times. There’s a full-length mirror by the bathroom. Whoa, my traps are thick. Sweet.

Nail the opener, then worry about the second and third. Don’t get ahead of yourself, like coach said.

Okay, quit thinking about it. Text somebody. Get your mind off the meet. Shawshank Redemption is almost over. Does this hotel get HBO? No. That figures.

Bodyweight is good. I’m .8 under. Weigh-in is at eleven tomorrow and then I can eat something. The hotel restaurant has good sandwiches. Not too much though. I hate that bloated feeling when I put my belt on. Just a little something in my stomach, but then I’m gonna eat so much crap afterwards. Gimme the greasiest stuff you can find, with a bucket of ice cream on the side. My toilet is gonna take a beating tomorrow night. Full frontal assault.

I hope there’s a big crowd. I get cranked up when a lot of people are watching.

Okay, gotta quit thinking about it. Don’t want to get too nervous. Lie down, get the weight off your feet. Quit pacing around.

Those lifters from Washington said they’re gonna party in room 435 tomorrow night. I’m there. That hot chick that yells before she lifts is gonna be there too. That means I have to brush my teeth.

Keep the back tight. Keep the back tight. Keep the back tight.

I’m ready. People are gonna know who I am after tomorrow. Got your cameras ready? Then start snapping, suckas.

Quit thinking about it. Relax.

I am so freaking bored. I should go hang out by the pool. No, coach will get pissed if I’m down there. I need to relax anyway. It’s kind of hot down there. Nobody is texting me back. Jerkoffs.

Let’s double-check my bag. Suit? Got it. Shoes and wrist wraps? Check. Belt? Yep. Tape? Coach said he has it. Warmup pants and jacket for introductions? Yeah. Gonna wear the same t-shirt I wore at the last meet because I PRd in it.

I’m hungry, but I can’t eat anything.

I’m gonna go six-for-six tomorrow. It’s gonna happen and then everybody can screw off. Those people who used to dump on me are gonna regret it.

Eleven people in my weight class. They messed with the wrong bull when they showed up for this meet, especially that guy from Florida who runs his mouth all the time. I’m gonna kick his ass between his shoulder blades.

I should just go to bed. But I’m not tired.

My roommates better be quiet when they come back tonight. I’m gonna get pissed if they’re all loud and drunk. Maybe they’ll just pass out in somebody else’s room, or the lobby. I hope so. They better not puke in the rental car. It’s on my credit card.

TV totally sucks here.

Straight arms, tight back, accelerate past the knees, drive the hips and jump, shrug and extend, feel the bar close to the face, stick it over the ears. Don’t think about too many things at once.

I gotta quit thinking about it. Just relax. Holy crap I wish there was something good on TV.

I’m going to bed. Hope I can sleep.

I’m gonna do it tomorrow. I’m ready. I can’t wait. I’m gonna go nuts after that last clean and jerk. Should I do a backflip? No, I would rupture my colon if I tried that.

I need to bring my pillow from home next time. This one is like a piece of cardboard. The bed isn’t too bad though.

Back tight. Keep the bar close.

Quit thinking about it. Go to sleep.

I can’t wait for tomorrow.


I hate to be the one to have to break it to you, but the nervousness never goes away. You just have to learn how to tame it. When you’re a newbie, the anxiety will feel like a panther digging its claws into the back of your neck the night before a meet. But when you’ve competed a lot, you’ll be able to make it curl up in your lap like a little kitty. Nice kitty, nice kitty…you will do what I say, kitty.

Whether you’re a greenhorn or a veteran, you’ll always get some jitters the night before the battle. Then you get up the next morning and give it everything you’ve got. Much of this could just as easily be from the night before a local meet, actually. Sometimes it goes well, and sometimes it doesn’t. Either way, you go back to the gym after it’s over and start working again. That’s the life, take it or leave it.

Matt Foreman is the football and track & field coach at Mountain View High School in Phoenix, AZ. A competitive weightliter for twenty years, Foreman is a four-time National Championship bronze medalist, two-time American Open silver medalist, three-time American Open bronze medalist, two-time National Collegiate Champion, 2004 US Olympic Trials competitor, 2000 World University Championship Team USA competitor, and Arizona and Washington state record-holder. He was also First Team All-Region high school football player, lettered in high school wrestling and track, a high school national powerlifting champion, and a Scottish Highland Games competitor. Foreman has coached multiple regional, state, and national champions in track & field, powerlifting, and weightlifting, and was an assistant coach on 5A Arizona state runner-up football and track teams. He is the author of the books Olympic Weightlifting for Masters: Training at 30, 40, 50 & Beyond and Bones of Iron: Collected Articles on the Life of the Strength Athlete.


More from Matt Foreman

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3 Comments
Mike 2012-09-10
I love the feeling about 36-48 hours out when you have completely forgotten how to snatch.
Blair Lowe 2012-09-14
I've always had to deal with this the day before as a coach or athlete. If I'm lucky, I get some sleep and at least shuteye even if it isn't deep sleep. My standing back is ready if/when I qualify for Nationals. Didn't faceplant even taking off with the higher heel. Be careful of that.
Jim Malone 2012-09-14
2 greatest lines ever: 1. My toilet is gonna take a beating tomorrow night 2. I'm gonna kick his ass between his shoulder blades
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