Why Training Your Brain Pre-Competition Is Important

February 10th, 2020

When we think about preparing for competition, we usually focus mostly on the activity that we are doing in the competition and being ready for that. For example, before a weightlifting meet we will follow a program that prepares the body strength wise to peak on that particular day, we would have selected and practiced the opening weights for both the snatch and clean and jerk, so we are confident that we will open with a successful lift, and will even have a plan for what we would like to hit in the remaining lifts. We have our kit bag ready, our food prepared for after weigh in, and may have even have planned to cut some weight to hit a particular weight class. However, how much time have you spent preparing your mind for competition?

The mind is such a powerful thing, often what we think will happen will happen. I often use this as an example about  mindset, but imagine you are walking up to a barbell on the platform, everyone is staring at you. you have never attempted this weight before, or you have done it in the past but not successfully achieved it in a long time, what is going through your head right now? Lets follow two examples.

You walk up to the bar with the thought in your mind, “I’m not going to get this” or even just “I’ll give it a go and see what happens”, then you have essentially talked yourself out of doing it because you haven’t committed to it. You are more likely to bail out of it, like just pulling the bar off the floor, or paniking and pulling too early, or not commiting to getting underneath the bar to catch it, because you don’t expect to be able to it.

Or you could walk up to the bar with the thought “this is mine” or “this is going up”, and you will be more likely to achieve it. It might not always happen, because you could still technically fuck up the movement, however you are putting yourself in a position where you will give it your best shot and fight for it.

Mindset is everything.

It’s easy to put to much pressure on ourselves, especially when we want something so much, or maybe it’s other people’s expectations that is applying that pressure, and that can remove the element of enjoyment out of the situation and we become disappointed with ourselves and performance. Where I believe that an element of this self pressure can drive us to work harder and prepare better for the next competition, it can also steer people into a self loathing spiral, and really why would you want to do that to yourself? Yes, learn from the situation, but beating yourself up over it never really achieves anything, and it sucks for you to be going through it. It may not feel easy to let it go, but that is what is needed to actually allow progression and appropriate preparation for the next competition.

So now I bet you are wondering how you can prepare your mindset for a better competion experience, or even a better training experience? A few days rest may be enough to do the trick, although my top tip is meditation.

There are a million ways you could use meditation to train your brain into helping you out rather than sabotaging your experience, and different things will work for different people, try different things and work out what is better for you.

I like to spend about 10 days prior to competition with a 10-15 meditation about confidence and self-belief. I start by finding a quiet place where I will not be interupted. I set a timer for 10-15 minutes. I sit in a comfortable position and close my eyes. – observe my natural breathing rhythm and sensations I feel in my body. I then slow down my breathing by pulling the inhalation into the bottom of my diaphragm, and then feeling my diaphragm lifting to create the exhalation. This allows the parasympathetic nervous system to kick in, the rest and digest process which allows both your mind and body to be reset. It grounds you mentally. I follow this for a few minutes and then once observe any sensations and let my breathing become natural again. I then follow a mantra, which is a short sentence that is repeated over and over again. Repetition helps your brain to believe that something is true, just like practicing a snatch at 75% helps to build a neurological and muscular pathway that reinforces technique, or squatting for 5 x 5 at 85% helps to build and improve your overall maximum squat strength. The mantra that you pick also needs to be as if you have already achieved what you would like to happen. For example, I like to meditate on the mantra “I am a strong and confident lifter”. When I feel like I am a strong and confident lifter then I believe that I can go out on to that platform and give it the best that I have at that moment in time. I inhale, and on the exhale repeat the mantra. I repeat this until my timer goes off. I turn the timer off and then sit for a few more minutes and let any thoughts come, observing them as if I am watching a film, and then bring my awareness back into my body and open my eyes.

If you put too much pressure on yourself, think about this: If you don’t manage to achieve what you wanted the world does not end, your future in that sport will not end, no one will die as a result of you missing the lift and most importantly, you have not failed. This is an important thing to understand, if you have tried then you have not failed, if you have given it your best shot, you have not failed. Failure only comes from not trying. You won’t achieve anything if you don’t try. It’s an amazing thing to put yourself out of your comfort zone and be where you are right now. Believe in yourself. Determination is everything.

If you feel nervous or anxious then think about this: Anxiety and worry have the same physiological response as excitement and even love, it’s your interpretation of those sensations that attributes it to anxiety and the fear of fucking it up, essentially. So change your view. Instead of feeling the butterflies and becoming worried of not being as successful as you desire, feel the butterflies and become excited about having the opportunity to try, get excited about doing something that some people will never experience, get excited about the possibility of what may happen when you do try. Anything is possible, and it may not happen the first time, but it may happen the second, or even third time. Every try is one step closer to getting there.

Pick a mantra that resonates with you and commit to yourself to simply trying.

Are you excited yet?

For videos on my lifts at my most recent competition, check out Instagram:

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