“Oh, shit.  Why did I sign up for this competition?…”

Competition, no matter the venue, can be a daunting endeavor to experience.  You are nervous.  You are out of your normal surroundings.  You must will yourself to do above and beyond your normal performance capabilities.

For 19 of you brave folks, the 2015 Festivus Games awaits this Saturday at Penn’s Landing.  For many of you, it is your first crack at a style competition.  For some of you, this could be the first time you have ever competed in anything!  That is a big deal.  Congratulations!

Games Prep

In today’s post, I am going to explain how a participant of the 2015 Festivus Games should properly prepare for the competition.

Three Principles of Pre-Competition

There are always three simple principles to follow to ensure optimal performance in any competition.

1.  One week prior to event reduce volume, but keep intensity relatively moderate to high.

For beginner’s, one week prior to the event is plenty of time to get fresh for a competition.  Athletes with low training ages do not need extended periods of “tapering” to restore energy levels; normal beginners to intermediates’ training loads are not high enough to warrant a long period of reduction in training.  Keeping the intensity high (meaning weight of lifts, not necessarily your rate of perceived exertion) keeps your central nervous system (CNS) snappy, reactive, and less sluggish, while the reduction in volume will spare the soft tissues (muscle, tendons, ligaments).

2.  Maintain consistent nutrition/hydration/sleep.

Just because a competition is looming, doesn’t mean that you reinvent the wheel.  Keep all sleep patterns and dietary choices (unless you are sleeping and eating like crap) the same as any week.

3.  Use your mind, don’t lose it!

The week leading up to a competition can sometimes be stressful as you envision the feeling of it.  Know that you are always in control of your thoughts.  Spend some time visualizing yourself moving through the workouts.  See yourself moving with good form and controlled breathing.  Imagine yourself feeling strong and dominating each workout.  When negative thoughts enter your mind, acknowledge them but then return to a focused mindset full of positive and strong imagery.  Focused belly breathing throughout the day not only calms the mind, but also nourishes the body.  Always use your breath to bring yourself back to the present moment.

Day of Competition Plan

Let’s use the example of the 2015 Festivus Games to organize a competition plan.

(See all of the event workouts HERE)


1.  ALWAYS be courteous when interacting with any Games official or staff.  These people are most likely not getting paid for working the event.  Honor our gym by being a class act during the competition.  Be an example of good sportsmanship.  Shake the hands of the competitors around you and wish them “good luck.”  Once your workout is over, shake the hand of your judge after EVERY workout and thank him or her…no matter how crappy of a judge he or she might have been, in your mind.  (Believe me, I’ve been there many a time…)

2.  Arrive to the event early instead of late.  Make sure you arrive at least 30 minutes before to situate yourself.  Carve out a space in the gym where you can place your gear and meet up between workouts.  Check in with the staff starts at 8:00 am.  The athlete briefing begins at 9:00 am.  This is an important piece to attend as the judges will review the movement standards for all of the workouts.  The last thing you want to receive during a workout is a “No Rep” (i.e. a rep that doesn’t count towards your total), so make sure you understand what is required of you to ensure your score is as good as it could be.

3.  Warmup properly.  Be prepared to not do the workouts in order.  In other words, some athletes might do Event 3 before Event 1.  Depending on the event you must start on will determine the movement prep that is required of you.

Below you will find the suggested order of warmups for your event.  You do not have to do each metabolic and CNS prep as is.  Do only the suggested prep for the event which you are doing first.

Event 1 Row/Wall Balls

Couch Stretch, Ankle Distraction, LB in Pecs, Banded Trap Distraction, Foam Roller in Serratus

Metabolic Prep
3 rounds of 250 m Row, 10 Air Squats, 5 Pushups.  *You should have a nice sweat going by the end.

CNS Prep
Take 8 minutes to build to a moderately heavy front squat triple.  *Get those nerves ready to fire.

Event 2 Front Squats / Power Clean Burpee AMRAP

Couch Stretch, Posterior Chain Floss, Adductor Barbell Smash, Barbell Tricep Smash, LB in Upper Glutes.

Metabolic Prep
3 Rounds of 250 m Row, 6 Power Cleans (Light weight on the bar), 6 No Jump Burpees. *You should have a nice sweat going by the end.

CNS Prep
Take 8 minutes to build to a moderately heavy power clean double + front squat.  *Get those nerves ready to fire.

Event 3 – Double Under / Push Press, Box Jump AMRAP

Mobility – All about the ankles!!!!
Ankle Distraction, Barbell or Foam Roller Calf Smash, Foam Roller in Serratus, Banded Trap Distraction, Couch Stretch.

Metabolic Prep
3 Rounds NFT:  250 M Row, 20 double unders, 5 box jumps (2 step down, 3 rebounding), 5 Push Press *You should have a nice sweat going by the end.


CNS Prep
8 minutes to build to a moderately heavy push press double.  *Get those nerves ready to fire.

Ideally, you should start these warmups about 30-40 minutes out from your first heat.  This will give you adequate time to prep without feeling rushed or anxious.

After each event get on the rower for a 3-5 minute system flush if rowers are available.  Otherwise go for a little run/walk.

Nutrition Considerations

“What should I be eating the night before?  the day of?”  In terms of what you should eat leading up the event, I wouldn’t change to much.  Limit the amounts of fat you ingest (this does not mean eat zero fat…) and maybe increase the amount of carbohydrate.  You don’t have to gore on carbs as the window to carb load is usually about a week out.  Bottom line:  don’t throw anything out of the ordinary at your body the night before.

The day of the competition make sure you have some food that is familiar and easily digestible.  The last thing you want to do is bring a giant loaf of delicious bread and slam that between your events when you have never tested that during training.  My suggestion is to bring foods that lean more towards the high glycemic carbs.  For example, bananas and oranges are good easily digested foods.  If you have a long time between events (90 minutes to two hours) and you can handle it, try getting some white rice down your stomach as you will feel a little more satiated and not so ravenous.  A great piece of advice an old coach of mine once gave me that will help guide the amount of food you eat prior to and during the event is simple.  “A hungry lion runs faster to catch its food.”  Leave the stomach a little more on the empty side on game day.


Final Considerations

  • Have FUN!  Your worth as a person is not determined by how well you do on Saturday.  I will be proud of you no matter how you do, as long as you give it your best effort!
  • Cheer on your teammates!  People should look at you and think, “Damn.  That Steelworks crew rolls tight!”  Be loud and encouraging.  Don’t go off and sit in a corner after your events are over.  Scream for your team!
  • Learn something about yourself.  Competitions teach us things that we cannot learn within the confines of our own gym.  Step out of your comfort zone for a little while and see what’s on the other side.
  • I will buy the lunch (not drinks though!) of the winning team!  We will score each event, head-to-head between the Guards of Girard (Boo!) and Castro’s Kids (Yay!).  The team with the best score gets a free lunch!