Approaching competition can be very stressful for a beginner or experienced lifter without proper planning. Competition requires you to get out of your comfort zone in several different areas, which can disrupt your mindset. Having a plan in place keeps your mind from being disrupted too much.
As a competition approaches, one of the main things that you must do as a lifter is trust the plan that you and your coach created in the beginning of the training cycle. When competition approaches and you start missing a few programmed weights, sometimes you can begin to question the original plan, thinking that it was not the right approach all along and you must have been drunk when you made your plan because it’s not working. Trust the plan and trust your training with your whole heart—it was well thought out.
Don’t worry if in the few weeks leading up to competition weights start to feel heavier and you start to miss lifts. This happens to a lot of lifters who compete and compete well. It’s very common for gymnasts to start missing their routines in training in the weeks leading up to a big meet. They begin to make mistakes and over-think everything. But on competition day, often times the routines come right together when they let it flow or get in the zone!
In the weeks leading up to a competition, you should try to minimize stress. If you have deadlines at work, then try to get ahead so that the few weeks before the meet you are not extremely stressed about meeting those deadlines. Stress is the devil when it comes to recovery.
Once you arrive at the competition venue, try not to watch too much lifting. Naturally, when you are into weightlifting long enough you develop relationships. When those friends are lifting you cannot help but get emotionally invested in their performances. Given that you have no control of their performances, watching friends will put you on an emotional roller coaster, which will not help you perform well. Try to keep to yourself as much as possible and watch as little lifting as possible. Trust me, watching weightlifting is draining!
Making weight is your number one priority when you reach the venue. Check your weight on the competition scale when you arrive if that’s an option. Keep track of your weight and be smart with your diet. If you are overweight, minimize salt and carbohydrate intake the couple of days prior to competition. If you need to sauna/dehydrate, do so as close to weigh-ins as possible. The shorter the time period you are dehydrated, the better it is for your strength.
At weigh-ins, make conservative declarations on first attempts. These can always be changed later and your coach can use changes strategically to ensure proper timing on your warm-ups.
Once weigh-ins have finished, you will have about an hour and forty minutes before introductions. Realistically, this is not much time to go out to eat, so be prepared with food and drinks with electrolytes. Pedialyte after weigh-ins is recommended as soon as you step out of weigh-ins—this is the best way to rehydrate immediately.
The Pre-competition meal should be similar to your current diet. If you have been dieting really hard, don’t eat a bunch of junk food right after weigh-ins. This will only put your body into shock. As a general rule, I would recommend getting a meal with high carbohydrates, moderate protein, and moderate fat. A good example would be a 6" subway sandwich and a handful of almonds, and of course water. There are more ideal options, but I have found that there is usually a subway on the way to weigh-ins and makes for a practical solution.
During the competition, having Gatorade on hand for hydration and carbohydrates is recommended, and of course, caffeine up! Between snatch and clean and jerk, I would recommend getting a high-glycemic index carbohydrate source such as Fig Newtons or a jelly sandwich. A lot of people prefer Snickers, but I think a fat-free or extremely low fat source gives you a better surge of energy for the clean and jerks.
Planning ahead can take a lot of unwanted stress off of the competition so you can concentrate on making your lifts. If you are sure to properly prepare, then you will not be distracted with the minutia. Let's face it: a meet is stressful enough, so all you should be concentrated on is pulling as hard as you can!