Competition day is nearing, and you’re starting to get nervous. A million things run through your head: the lifts, the crowd and everyone staring at you, what to pack, what to eat, etc. You’re a nervous wreck because it’s your first competition and there’s so much you don’t know.
I get it. Been there, done that. I’ve done a few competitions and made a few hefty mistakes along the way. So there are two ways you can approach your first competition. First, stop reading this blog and go make the same mistakes I did. Or continue, learn to avoid the mistakes, and get just a little bit more confident.
You still here? Great. Let’s get to it, then.
Get ready for your first powerlifting meet. Part I: five must-have items to bring.
During my first competition, I made the mistake of showing up with nothing in my hands, just a belt, a pair of purple Converse, and a red singlet. When I got to the big-ass gymnasium, I realized there was not a single foam roller available.
Luckily, I had friends competing that same day too, and they were nice enough to share. I also didn’t have a spare t-shirt, which I regretted immediately after my first squat attempt. Here are the things you need to have with you on a competition day.
When you pack your bags for the competition (make sure to do so the night before), run through a checklist of warm-up tools you usually use. Take with you all of da thangs you use before your regular lifting session.
or, I mean, you could just dance for your warm up, no one judges…
An example of a Warm-Up Checklist:
These are the things I see people typically use for their warm-ups. You don’t have to have them all, but you need at least a lacrosse ball and a mini-resistance band in your competition bag.
While you will be competing in a singlet, take a few extra t-shirts with you, and some warmer pieces of clothing if you happen to compete in the winter. And under no circumstances squat in a tank top unless you like heaving barbell marks on your back. (That hurts, trust me)
Because you’re competing in a singlet, you will be deadlifting with your legs bare. Regardless of your competition stance – sumo or conventional – I’d highly recommend wearing high-top socks to avoid scratches, shin bleeding, and bruises.
“If you lose, don’t lose the lesson” – Dalai Lama
My second competition was a disaster. It happened because of only ONE mistake. What did I do? I overdosed on doughnuts. That’s right – the sweet, fluffy, fried rings of happiness cost me great lifts and new PRs.
The competition was held in Sterling, CT – the middle of nowhere. So much nowhere, I didn’t have cell phone service within a four-mile radius. Before getting to the competition location, I drove to a doughnut shop and bought two dozen doughnuts and then some (two more which I ate on site.)
Mind you, I didn’t eat them all by myself; I shared. But these doughnuts were the only thing I ate, and I ate a LOT of them. Naturally, I got a sugar boost for squats and then crashed hard by bench and deadlift time.
On my way home, I had to call a friend so she could talk to me, as I was worried I wouldn’t make it home. That’s how bad it was.
During a powerlifting competition, you’ll see many lifters eating junk and sweets. It’s like being at the Chocolate Factory. You see all the sweets in the world – doughnuts, cupcakes, candy bars, Rice Krispie treats, etc., etc., etc.
Should you go nuts and eat everything you wouldn’t eat on any other day of your life? It’s totally up to you. I, however, would advise to not deviate from your normal pre- and post-workout meals much. Sure a candy bar here and there is ok, but don’t make it your entire meal.
On the day of the competition, you want to have a good, solid breakfast that consists of mostly complex carbs and protein. The rest of your meals should be the same combo, with some snacks made up of simple carbs (read: sugar).
A few ideas for good meals/snacks for the competition:
- Dried fruits – dried mango is an excellent choice
- PB sandwiches
- Oatmeal with banana and a few nuts
- Deli meats like roasted turkey and or ham
- Brown rice and ground chicken – no need to chew much
- Protein shakes containing fruit
- A few candy bars, or a doughnut or two, but mostly after the competition
The day of a powerlifting competition is a day when coffee runs in competitors’ veins instead of blood. It’s also the day when Monster™ makes bank. The amount of energy drinks floating around could fill the Mississippi River.
Coffee and energy drinks are absolutely a personal choice, and definitely worth having on competition day. Because if you don’t overdo it in your regular life with coffee, this sweet magical juice can help you with a lift or two.
One thing that I absolutely advise using is a sports drink, like Gatorade or others. These are packed with sugar and electrolytes. Sugar gets into your bloodstream instantly and provides your muscles with energy, which you’ll need when attempting a heavy deadlift. It’s also good if you, like me, can’t really stomach anything when nervous but need fuel.
A good idea is to mix a sports drink with water in about a 50/50 ratio and to sip it all day. This way, you’ll supply electrolytes to your bloodstream without going nuts on sugar.
While powerlifting meets have an extremely friendly atmosphere, it’s nice to know that somewhere in the crowd are people who care about you and are there to support you.
I’ve competed with and without a coach, and I can tell you there IS a difference. Having a coach takes away the headache of, “When should I warm up?”, “What should I do?”, “What’s my opener?”, or “Where do I find the information?”, or help with the hand off. But most importantly, you’ll need a coach for HUGS and fist bumps when your lifts are good, and words of encouragement when you didn’t do so well.
However, if you don’t have a coach, bring a friend or two with you. Better yet, the entire village. The more people cheering you on, the more energized you feel, which can help you at the breaking point during a lift (and give you a hand-off during a bench).
Hopefully, you’ll learn from my mistakes. But don’t overthink it. Go and have fun! Crush some weights and enjoy the sport that celebrates strength, not size. In Part II I’ll discuss the day of the competition: what to do for a warm-up, how to choose your first attempt, what to do between attempts, etc. If you wanna get first dibs on Part II, sign up for my newsletter.