Preparation Tips for Competitions

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* I originaly wrote this article as Preparation Tips for AYCT Selections, however many of the points made still apply to competitions in general, so I have reposted it for the 2019 Australian Youth Nationals with some small edits.

With less than 2 days until the 2019 Australian Youth Championships in Sydney, I would be assuming most competitors will have had their final training sessions and be preparing for the weekend ahead. As such, I wanted to provide some last minute bits of information to help you make the most of your final preparations.

1. If you don’t know it now, you are not going to know it on exam day.
Just as last minute cramming for an exam isn’t the best practice to remember the information, last minute training for a competition is a big no-no. It is generally advised that as a minimum competitors give themselves at least 48 – 72hrs before a competition without training as this is the time it takes for a muscle to fully recover. No training undertaken this close to a competition will have time to cause adaptions to the body – if anything it will cause more muscle breakdown and the body will not have adequate time to recover, leading to poorer performance on competition day. This is particularly important in climbing as we want our muscles firing on all cylinders in order to have the strength and power to carry us through the climbs. Spend your last few days focussing on stretching and other recovery techniques – foam rolling, trigger-balling, massage etc.

2. Get a good night’s rest
This one is pretty self-explanatory, as we all know that our body carries out the majority of its recovery and repairs while we sleep. A good nights sleep leaves us feeling mentally and physically refreshed and ready to face the day ahead. Studies show people who were well rested before competition perform better. By ensuring we get enough sleep before a competition, we maximize the opportunities for the body to refresh our muscles and our brain – and the brain is just as important in a climbing competition to ensure we are reading the problems well. With a number of competitors heading to nationals from interstate, it is important to ensure competitors maintain their sleeping patterns – which can be difficult in an unfamiliar bed. A common error before competition is to change your sleeping patterns in an attempt to get more sleep – studies show that this can actually be detrimental to performance. The idea of ‘having an early night’ before a competition can actually be counter-productive – it is possible to oversleep and wake up feeling more tired and lethargic than usual. Stick to your usual sleep routine to maximise performance on the day of competition.

3. Fuel your body
It is important to ensure our bodies get adequate nutrients both to help the muscles repair leading up to the competition, and to provide energy for the muscles to use on the day. A lack of energy can cause us to feel lethargic and find it hard to focus. The basics for competition day are to aim for a high carbohydrate, low fat, low fibre diet. Carbohydrates are important as these are what the body burns to provide energy to the muscles. Come competition day fats and proteins will have little effect. If you have consumed a balanced diet leading into the competition, you should have adequate carbohydrates to fuel your body. Make sure you pack plenty of snacks for competition day as the days will be long and you need to keep your energy up – but don’t feel you need to smash more sugary items for carbohydrates during the competition as this may cause a brief spike in energy followed by a sudden slump. Therefore largely avoid sugary foods or lollies and aim for snacks that will release their energy over a longer period of time. It is also important to remember that competition day is not the time to experiment with your nutrition, so stick to a diet you are familiar with. For more information on nutrition for sporting competitions, check out the sports nutrition fact sheets from Sports Dieticians Australia.

4. Hydration
The other important aspect of fuelling your body is hydration – muscles and your brain rely on water to work properly. A dehydrated muscle will not work as effectively, and a lack of hydration can cause mental fatigue. However, you can over-hydrate which can cause a loss of performance as well, so the key here is don’t over do it! Make sure you stay well hydrated on Thursday (or the day before your competition) and remember to keep drinking water throughout the competition. Water is much better at keeping you hydrated during competitions than soft drinks, sports drinks, or energy drinks – so while it is ok to consume these as well if you want to, make sure it is complemented by plenty of water.

5. Relax and enjoy yourself
This is an important one for two reasons. Firstly, if you are nervous or apprehensive going into a competition this can cause the body’s “fight or flight” reflex to kick in. As your body gets ready to attack, all your muscles tense up ready to explode at the threat. In climbing terms, this can cause your muscles to “pump out” faster as they remain tensed, and also restricts your movement and flexibility – which will obviously impact your climbing! Find a way to chill out and relax before you climb and your performance will be much better. Take an iPod, a book or just chat to your friends to keep yourself centred and relaxed before you compete. The second reason is much more important – climbing is meant to be fun! If you are not enjoying yourself you are probably in the wrong sport. This weekend you will be surrounded by other climbers who probably have similar goals and interests to you, so get to know them! Hang out, have a joke and swap stories of your amazing climbing feats and enjoy the amazing community climbing offers!

Hope this helps leading into nationals this weekend, and good luck to all competitors!!