Question athlete: This is my first year of competing internationally – what do I need to do differently to prepare for race day?
Answer from Jonathan Males, Founder Performance1
Many people make mistakenly believe that they have to change their approach to racing just because it’s a big international race. This catches people out even more at the Olympics because it only happens once every four years. In fact it’s more important to maintain a consistent approach to competition.
The most successful competitors, in any discipline, achieve consistency by working out their own competition routine. This is usually pretty simple and helps you keep your attention focused on the things you need to do. It helps you think ahead so you can respond well to any unexpected changes, and stay in as much control as possible. Although you have a plan, adaptability is critical. As a member of a national team you don’t always have total independence and things can and do change around a big event, so you need to be confident in your ability to stay calm and flex.
Your competition plan may start several days, or more, before the event itself. As a general rule, you shouldn’t plan on doing anything in or around a major competition that you’ve not practiced already. You may of course choose to use minor events to test out different alternatives.
Your plan will include your key Process Goals – because these are within your control, you’ve worked on them in training, and you know that they are your best chance of achieving the performances and outcomes you want.
A good plan will also pay attention to
• Your travel to the event, so that you arrive at the right time for you (not too early, not too late).
• Accommodation (if it’s required).
• When and what you will eat and drink.
• When and how to warm up – physically and mentally.
• Timing of any physio or medical input.
• Who you will speak to, or avoid (!), during the event.
• The times you want to withdraw and be on your own, and the times you want to socialise with other people.
• Your technical preparation (e.g. getting boats and equipment scrutineered, walking the course, watching fore-runners).
• Your most important Process Goals (but usually not more than 2 – 3)
• How you will respond to important ‘what-ifs?’; (e.g. What if my coach is late? What if my i-pod goes flat? What if the event is delayed? What if I break a paddle? )
• How you will warm down and review your performance.
Next time I’ll talk more about the specifics of preparing for the Olympics.
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Other articles from Performance1 founder Jonathan Males: