How to Make the Most of Your Competition Week

As I prep for my next competition in Albuquerque, NM, I’m hitting a very crucial time.  I’m in the week of my competition, which is something you have to, I believe, plan out and strategize well ahead of this time.  How do I get some training in while not over-doing it?  What things do I need to do to be ready for competition?  What do I eat?  How much should I throw?  How should my early season training differ from my late season?  Here’s how I like to break it down.   

Scheduled Off Weeks
One of the greatest errors athletes make is letting their competitions sneak up on them.  The problem lies when they (you) don’t schedule off weeks.  Too many times, throwers hit the week of their competition and aren’t sure what to do with their training. They certainly can’t coast for a week, especially if they had an off week just a week or two ago; and, if they’re prepping for the long season ahead, they don’t want to lose time.  This all can remedied with planning.  As a strength athlete, you understand how critical your time in the weight room is and, hopefully, at this point you’ve realized time off from the gym is crucial to your success, health, longevity and performance for the long season.  As a Highland Games Athlete, my competitive season lasts from May through September.  Five months (not counting The Arnold in March) is a long time to make sure I’m staying healthy, getting practice time in and making progress in the weight room. 

Instead of dropping everything and hoping you’re ready for the competition, schedule your off weeks, or “deload,” to correspond with your competition week.  Spend some time in your off-season and plan out exactly when you’ll be competing.  From there, back your programming into the weeks you need to be fresh and ready to compete.  Of course, towards the end of your season or during your biggest competitions, you’ll need to taper and structure the programming as needed, but for the bulk of your season and, especially the early season, you should be ready for a week off from the grind in the weight room.  This will keep you from missing time in your programming as you prep for the end of the season. 

In my programming, I work on a structure of four hard weeks in the weight room followed by a back-off or “deload” week (during that week, I might hit one or two days in the gym  just doing something in the form of an active recovery). 

Games Week Eating
Eat.  Eat lots.  Drink lots of water.  You’re not getting ready for the stage, you’re getting ready for the field, and you need to eat.  You know the drill – heavy on the protein, light on the sweets, big guy.  Also, make sure you’re getting adequate water intake, if not more than usual.  You’ll be competing long and hard this weekend, so make sure your body is ready for the multiple maximal efforts you’ll be expending. 

A lot of people talk about “carb loading,” and want you to smash a bunch of pasta and such.  Personally, I feel you’re better off keeping your diet as consistent as possible.  I might suggest you up the intake a bit, given you’ll be competing at least one day, if not two, and most times in the hot sun, but don’t change what is working for you.  Eat like it’s a training week, but just up the calories a bit.  I’d prefer you get those calories from the added protein, but don’t throw your body a curveball, just feed the machine a bit more so it runs hot come Saturday. 

Rest and Recovery
To go with what I said about diet, don’t do anything crazy here; i.e., don’t start sleeping 10 hours a night if you normally hit, like me, five and a half to six hours.  Make sure you’re rested, but don’t throw your body off and feel like a sloth or like you did for five of the six years getting your undergrad.  Personally, I know eight hours is best, but with five young children and a full-time job, that’s not realistic for me in this phase of life.  I’m okay with that.  My body has adjusted and I find ways to stay, and be, rested.  Get to bed on time this week – this isn’t a time to stay up late working on some project or swapping manly stories with a long-lost buddy. 

And, don’t forget to stretch and foam roll – get the knots and pains worked out. Heal up what ails you!

Throwing Volume
One thing I've learned in 10 seasons of competing is that you can throw too much (couple those years with another 10 in track and field and you've got a grown adult worth of throwing).  I overthrew in high school.  I overthrew in college.  I spent about six seasons overthrowing in Highland Games.  Get smart about this during your competition week.  If you're like me, you'll feel the need to hit every event this week - if for no other reason but to simply calm your nerves.  I spent numerous years trying to throw nine events in a single practice, and this simply isn't a viable option the week of your games.  In reality, for your throws, the prep starts about 10 days out; that’s when you’ll want to hit “Day 1” of throwing.  Now, in the competition week, get the final two days of throwing in - one in the early part of the week and the other towards the middle. Ideally, break it down like this:

Day 1 - (10 days or so prior) - open stone, heavy weight, weight over bar. 
Day 2 - light weight, heavy hammer, caber
Day 3 - light hammer, sheaf

These days can be altered as you see fit, but I highly recommend you don’t throw the heavy stuff on day three.

This, by no means, is a comprehensive fix-it for guaranteed PRs, but I hope it helps. These are the things I wish I would have known and followed in college and especially my early years in Highland Games. Besides mental and emotional prep, little that you do this week will actually transpire into bigger throws.  Lifts and throws should have been done in weeks and months prior - it's time to compete. Are you ready?

Look for more insight with the summer release of my training manual;  “Behemoth: Power Training for Strength Athletes.”


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