It can happen at your first contest or fiftieth; anxiety that wrecks your first event or blows the whole day. It’s unfortunate and seems like it is completely out of your control. There are a few steps you can do to minimize this situational uneasiness and get your focus on where it should be. Be aware of multiple ways that it can strike and different tools to deal with it when it happens.
After you have made weight and had dinner it’s time to get a good night’s rest, except for the life of you, you can not sleep. The weight of the contest begins playing on your mind and you lie there tossing and turning. A lack of sleep on a big night never helps performance the next day. Many people swear by the supplements valerian root and melatonin to help the mind relax and allow you to fall asleep. Both over the counter herbs have been studied, and melatonin may help provide a restful night’s sleep; valerian has been shown to help some people fall asleep faster. Most folks I know recommend you only take one or the other.
Images courtesy Michele Wozniak, Strongman Corporation
Another helpful way is to follow a similar routine that you would when are home. Being on the road tends to disrupt your schedule. Try to follow a similar bedtime ritual that you are are used to. You bodies rhythm often tells you that you are getting ready to sleep; try not and disturb that.
If you lying there not sleeping after the normal amount of time it usually takes, try getting up and going for a walk or reading for 20 minutes. This can help distract the mind and change your focus. Try to not turning on the TV or using your phone at this now, they can actually cause too much stimulation and make it even harder to get your rest.
The next morning is when most people have the hardest time with pre contest anxiety. They get ”nervy” or hyper-stimulated when they arrive at the venue. If this is you, do not show up earlier than necessary. A long period of anxiety can drain your adrenaline.
When warm-ups begin, try going through your normal routine as you would for any other events day. If you are a social person start conversations with your friends and invest in more listening than talking. Focus on the words they are saying to keep off your own thoughts. Again, bring a book to sit and read if you aren’t a conversationalist. Allow the words to take you mind away to a better calmer place and not on what you are about to do.
If you are a regular practitioner of meditation or breathing relaxation, now would be the time to take a five minute break and work on that. Visualize the success that you have had in other contests or in training. See yourself winning while becoming more and more relaxed.
Associate pre-contest time with positive relaxed feelings and the nervousness will melt away.
The worst situation is when you are having a great meet and you need to perform on the last event to win. Avoiding the choke is a skill the champions have developed. Often this is a last second feeling that strikes just before you are set and ready to go. The mind may begin to focus on fear or what can go wrong or the body can start and adrenaline dump and you my begin to hyperventilate.
A combination of the above techniques are typically what the Dr./Coach would order here. Speak with your coach about the game plan until the last minute and then walk to the start when only absolutely necessary. Never line up too early and began pacing back and forth. That’s a surefire way to kickstart too much adrenaline, especially if there is delayed start for equipment failure or injury. While walking to the start, see yourself winning with the last repetition.
It’s okay to imagine your arm raised in victory; it puts a smile on your face instead of grinding the teeth.
Remember, win or lose you are still the person many people admire and aspire to be. Doing things to stay confident and relaxed will help you to cruise to victory or set your personal bests. Your mind is going to work against you if you let it, but you are stronger than that and are ready to take on the challenge ahead of you!
Editors note: This article is an op-ed. The views expressed herein are the authors and don’t necessarily reflect the views of BarBend. Claims, assertions, opinions, and quotes have been sourced exclusively by the author.