Competing in any event can be a stressful scenario, even causing anxiety, messing with your mental state before and even during the event. What you need to do is gear yourself in the right way, preparing yourself, upping your mental toughness, having a psychological and emotional one-up on your counterparts.
The idea here is not to teach you how to programme your training before competition, but rather to get your mind and body ready just before, so you’re primed for a great result.
To get yourself in that right state of mind before and during competition, we’ve created a list of helpful tips to bullet proof your mind for competition. Mental Competition Prep 101…
Define Your Goals
Before any competition, have a good idea of what you want to achieve. Be realistic, not hopeful. Don’t go out there to impress people, go out there to achieve something.
Understand your competitors and benchmark yourself accordingly. Know who you have to beat and what is required of you to do that. By defining the targets you’ve set out, you should not second guess yourself during the competition. This allows you to 100% focus on performance and not have to worry as much on planning on-the-go. Also have a fall back plan or a contingency plan which allows you to have a concise goal you can definitely achieve if your primary goal fails for any reason.
Look At the Competition as a Challenge
It’s important to address a competition that you’re clearly keen and prepared to do as an opportunity to push yourself to new heights, achieve new PBs, and certainly not as a threat or obstacle in your way. This is not a fight or flight scenario, it is only a fight scenario – one which should see you thriving and performing at the best of your ability for all the hard work you’ve put in to get to this point.
Change your mind-set in this regard long before any competition and see how much it positively affects the outcome!
Deal With the Moment
Often we’ve seen top athletes fail when they were expected not to. They fumble and their minds break when even they least expected it. For example, mid-workout you fail at a rep or mid-run you start cramping or feel your chest tightening up – how you deal with this scenario 100% affects the outcome of that event. Obviously. The smartest athletes are mindful of what’s going on, stay present in that moment and asses the problem, if presented with one, and make a smart decision, not emotional or panicked one.
Instead of focusing on the negative, which would also decrease confidence, you need to stop, focus and make the smartest choice for you – even if that means pacing down, or pausing, losing some time, and refocussing before attempting that lift again or slowing your breathing to regain your composure during that run. Being able to evaluate your scenario, asses your options, and apply learned techniques mid-performance will see you beat any scenario.
It’s often true that by over thinking something you prevent natural form and ability to take over and do what you realise you can do. It would surprise you how well your body can perform when given the chance to just do it rather than over analysing something to a point where your conscious mind is slower than your body and sub-conscious mind truly is. Know when you need to be very conscious, deliberate and forceful on yourself and when to just get on with it and let your natural ability show you how far you’ve come. Read this great feature about analysis paralysis in sport for more info.
Know You’ve Done All You Can
By the time you’re a week, a day or a few hours out of competition, there is nothing you can do to up your chances of improved technique, a bigger strength gain or upping your metabolic conditioning. Sticking to your programming and scheduled rest and recovery weeks and months before is essential. Closer to competition, the best thing you can do is relax, get your mind ready and mentally start preparing yourself through visualisation, self-affirmation techniques, and other forms of mental toughness training as mentioned above.