So, you’re a week out from your next competition and you’re nervous right? If you’re not, then maybe you don ’t need this message (this time anyway). Maybe you’ve had an amazing prep period, maybe you didn’t. That’s not what we’re focused on.
Say you’ve just had an amazing prep period, but the nervous feeling still came like you knew it would even though you really wanted this time to feel different. You trained every session like you should, you slept, you hydrated, ate well, you took care of the ancillaries, and you gave this prep period a lot of quality effort. But here you are nervously thinking about the competition day.
On the latter you could have had a less than optimal prep period. This whole period of time could have just felt like the most uncoordinated, stressful, and “worthless,” prep of your life. Sure, you ate food and hydrated but life stressors and training did not mesh well this go round. You feel defeated but determined to finish what you’ve started, and just like clockwork the nerves begin to settle in. This time they feel stronger and more debilitating because you hate the prep that got you this far. You feel more insecure about competing than ever before, so the nerves get worse.
Nerves are normal, let’s remember that first. They’re part of a simple biological process programmed into our brains to respond when we are under stress. We all experience those feelings in different levels under different circumstances. Good news is that we can learn how to cope with them better as we push ourselves into those familiar stressors more often.
Take a second and make a note of the things that have gone well (regardless of how you view the prep overall) like: moving weight for reps that used to be a 1 rep heavy single; earning invites to bigger and bigger comps; beating the older version of yourself in so many ways; general progression in any lifting exercise; learning from previous mistakes; learning more about what makes you happy and healthy; losing, maintaining, or gaining weight depending on the goal; training on days where your brain told you to stay home; taking your health more seriously; becoming closer to people who value health the way you do; finding strength within yourself by testing your own limits; and whatever else you could add to this list because we all have our own personal wins. If you think you have no personal wins during even the worst prep, I dare you to sit with yourself till you find one.
Now that you’ve hopefully found some positives in this prep, what is still making you feel uneasy? Is it the mistake you make 2 competitions ago that cost you a big title? Is it the people in your weight class? Is it just you doubting yourself? Come on, you know what your brain is saying to make you're nervous right now.
If it’s the reflection of mistakes use that as a way to grow. This is why so many people will tell you to practice how you compete. It isn’t always possible in a sport like strongman where the implements change around a lot. However, you can run through scenarios of “what ifs,” and you can use every competition mistake you’ve ever made to make yourself work harder on the small details that could win you the event. Even on the day of, if there is some kind of implement change or surprise discuss that new plan with your coach or someone you trust and try to get that plan locked in as best you can. I cannot stress how important technique and composure is during warm-ups for this reason.
If you’ve been stalking your competition and think they’re going to beat you because of this, that, or the third then you need to take a step back and allow yourself to have a fighting chance in your own brain. As soon as you count yourself out, you’ve already given that other competitor the upper hand. Don’t let the idea of who they are affect you. They could have an awful day or not perform as well as you because you’ve actually surpassed them you just didn’t know it yet. This isn’t even about you vs. them right now while we’re talking about nerves, it’s nervous you vs. confident you.
If it’s the ever-present self-doubt making you nervous this time, then I’m afraid you have to work a little harder to undo this. Why are you here to begin with? Well, you qualified to be at this competition so that should be enough for your brain to be excited instead of nervous but it’s not. I know what that’s like. That’s when it’s the most beneficial to teach yourself what things to be proud of. That you’ve made it this far, that you’re brave enough to step up to the challenge, that you did x, y, or z in training that felt amazing, or whatever it is that would boost your confidence.
I can’t do this for you, but I can give you all of these words in the hopes of helping you acknowledge who the fuck you are and instilling more confidence in yourself. Kill the doubt, kill the nerves, and own what you bring to the table.