This past weekend, we had a few people attend the American Open Series 2 Weightlifting meet put on by USA Weightlifting. Coach Tyler Miller; a fellow lifter and athlete, Leann Fruits; and I decided to make the 10-hour haul to Valley Forge, PA. It was a short but fun experience. What follows are a few important points that crawled into my mind during this trip.
1) Be prepared
This one might seem like common sense, but you don’t want to feel unprepared, especially if you’re attending your first National meet. Make sure you first have all the essentials that you’ll need for the competition, then go from there. Do you need anything for the car ride or plane flight? Are there certain foods that you must have that you might not find on the road? What are some things you might need to do if you can’t sleep well in a hotel? Some of these things are subtle, but they can become very important if you’re not prepared for them. If you’re not accustomed to routine travel for a competition, the experience can throw you off. The most important thing I can say here is, try to maintain as much of your routine as you can, control the variables that you can, but try not to freak out over the uncontrollables.
2) Get your body moving after traveling
Whether you traveled by car or plane, it’s important to work out those travel kinks. Even if you only had to travel an hour or two to get to the competition, I would still encourage you to be sure to get some sort of bodily movement when you get to the venue. You don’t have to go beast mode when you get there. A little light bar work should do the trick. The last thing you want to have happen is that you feel like crap on competition day, because you decided not to get a quick movement session in the day before, right after your long trip. A light 20-30-minute movement session with nothing more than body weight or just the bar should do it. If you’re competing a few days after, it might be justified to put a little bit more weight on the bar to get a bit more stimulus, because you’ll have some extra time to recover.
3) Let yourself feel nervous
It’s okay to get nervous. All athletes experience different levels of nervousness before a competition. Some might not feel nervous at all, while, with others, you can visibly see them shake. Some people say being nervous is good, while others say it’s bad. I say it’s neither. I think that, as you soon as you apply context to it, it’s something that can turn detrimental. This is why I say allow yourself to feel nervous. Don’t ask yourself why you feel nervous or try to stop yourself from even being nervous. Just allow the feeling of nervousness to be a part of you. Nervousness is just a physiological sensation, just like the feeling you get when you lift weights. This feeling can take control over you if you apply a context like, “Oh shoot, I’m nervous, I’m going to have a hard time performing well.” Or, “Maybe, I won’t even make a lift because of it. This is going to be hard to overcome. I wish I wasn’t nervous.” All of this just creates a destructive mental conversation in your head. On competition day, if you’re someone who gets nervous, just let those feelings come without allowing any context or judgment. Feel the nervousness. Feel the bar, and lift some heavy weight.
4) Let the weight be heavy
This point is a little bit more specific to the sport, but it’s something I noticed both by watching lifters this past weekend and lifting, myself. I think a lot of lifters, maybe only beginners and intermediates, think the bar should always move fast off of the floor. While this may work to some lifters’ advantage, I don’t think it’s all that important. What is important is that you maintain good positions as you bring the bar off the floor. The speed of the movement comes at the last second, when the bar comes into your hips on the snatch or your thigh on the clean. The most important part before that is that you maintain good positions. It doesn’t matter how fast you bring the bar off of the floor; if you lose position, it will make the lift way harder to hit.
🐌 Slowest Pull Ever?! 16 year old Tursunoy Jabborova (75kg, Uzbekistan 🇺🇿) with 116kg at Junior Worlds! (This video has not been slowed down!) Three months ago she won Asian youth and junior championships, snatching 100kg and clean and jerking 124kg! #🐌 #cleanandjerk #116kg #olympicweightlifting #uzbekistan🇺🇿
This is a perfect example of the bar moving SUPER slow during the first part of the lift, but the lifter stays in good position and moves fast when she has to and hits a perfectly fine lift.
Another reason why I’m stressing the point above is because I think some lifters might have a tendency to get into their head on competition day, if a certain weight starts to feel heavy. As an example, if you ask yourself, “Why does this weight feel heavy? This weight never feels heavy. I had a good taper for this meet. If anything, this weight should feel really light.” We can all imagine this conversation happening in someone’s head, and it might’ve already happened in our own head before. Don’t let how the bar feels in your hands effect you. Let the bar feel heavy and just stick to what you know about the lift. Maintain good positions and accelerate the bar when it’s time. I think a lot of lifters try to be faster with getting the bar off the floor when it feels heavy and that just screws up their positions. So again, let the bar feel heavy in your hands, maintain good positions, but accelerate fast when it’s time.
5) Enjoy the moment
In high stress situations like these (competitions), it can sometimes be hard to find enjoyment. You might constantly be worrying about how you’re going to do or the fact that your 10 hours away from home and way outside of your comfort zone. During times like these, I think it’s important to take a quick step back and think about where you are. You have the opportunity to compete in a really cool meet. You’re likely visiting a cool, new place, and it’s something many people don’t get the opportunity to do. Sometimes, we don’t appreciate these moments until they are gone. I’ll admit, I might not truly appreciate the experience I had this past weekend for another year when I look back on it. This is why I think it’s important to enjoy the time when you’re there. There are going to be high stress aspects of the trip or some very boring parts of the trip. Either way, enjoy the moment for what it is and don’t take it for granted, because it’s likely something you’re going to look back on and think, “That was really cool!”