So here it is, the most important question that every athlete wants answered… how to feel good on comp day?
Every athlete has their own routine, some are stricter than others. Don’t get me wrong habits and patterns of training are important, but I think the problem arises when routines or good habits turn into superstitions. Yes, we’ve all had that special comp day piece of clothing… I know I have! One season I wore the same pair of socks for every competition because in my head the only way I could jump well was if I was wearing my ‘lucky socks!’ That season I had a bunch of what now seem like silly superstitions but at the time were vital to my success on comp day. I guess the problem with these kind of intense routines is if one thing doesn’t go according to plan you immediately fall into a heap and decide before the competition has even begun that it’s a ‘bad day’ or I’m not ‘feeling good.’ With the variety of competition venues you come across, you’re in different hotels, different environments and there is no way you will be able to maintain the exact same routine for every comp of the season. I learnt this lesson the hard way!
The season leading up to commonwealth games I had my comp day routine down to an art! I would get up at the same time, eat exactly the same things, do exactly the same things in order to make sure I was ‘feeling good’ on the day of competition. I am not just talking about a pre-comp meal, we all have things we like to eat on comp day, things that have the right nutritional value but also work with us as an athlete, I think that’s healthy. I am talking about if you don’t manage to find your lucky comp day socks your entire competition falls apart.
So, I will give you the benefit of my experience…
Nationals 2018 – Selection trials for Commonwealth Games
‘Lucky’ for me I did have my ‘lucky’ comp socks but I was the most nervous I have ever been in my life. It felt like my entire season was riding on this day. I had already been through qualifying and made it to the finals, but woke up on the Saturday morning feeling ‘not quite right.’ Being inexperienced at nationals, being only my third nationals ever I chose to focus on not feeling good and rested all morning. I stayed in the hotel to give myself maximal energy for the 6pm comp! Which I have later discovered… not the best choice for comp day! Oh well, we live, and we learn! I ate my exact meals at the exact right times which I had been planning all season. I had my lucky socks but was running a tad late and was becoming slightly irritable. Anyone who knows me knows that I really don’t like to be late. So clearly running a tad late was an OMEN!
Anyway, we are on our way to the comp from my air bnb and I have just realised I forgot my numbers! Panic sets in! So now not only am I running late (in my head) because in actual fact we left ridiculously early and I had stacks of time. I am now thinking this is an OMEN! I was already ‘not feeling good’ and now I have forgotten my numbers! Once I got to the track, I was already a little frazzled and started doing my warm up. Instead of following my usual warm up (one of the healthy habits an athlete has) I looked around and watched what everyone else was doing and tried a bunch of new warm up ideas. In hindsight… what was I thinking!
So needless to say when I finally got to our jump warm up out in the arena I was ‘feeling’ lethargic, my legs were heavy, I was unfocused on what I needed to do. All I was thinking about was how I was feeling! Even my lucky socks couldn’t help me this time and I no heighted at what was the most important comp of my entire season. I had blown the selection trials for commonwealth games. I am incredibly ‘lucky’ my form heading into nationals was good and I did still make the team but the point of this story is as follows.
I went home devastated and wanted to burn my ‘lucky socks!’ How did that just happen! I have learnt a lot since then and reflection is an amazing tool for not just physical learning but mental learning as well. Here it is folks… the secret to ‘feeling’ good on comp day!
Let me be clear, as much as we would all like to believe that ‘feeling good’ is important it actually has no bearing on your performance outcome. It effects your state of mind. I always remind myself the day of competition that regardless of how I am feeling the skill that I am performing is the same and I am good enough to adapt to whatever is thrown at me! We all have off days and some days you just won’t perform as well as others but if we stop focusing on how we are feeling and be prepared to focus on the task at hand you will realise that you can actually perform your best when you are feeling your worst!
2. PSYCHOLOGICAL FLUIDITY IS EPIC
I have learnt since that day that not having an intensely structured routine on comp day is fantastic! You adapt to the circumstances in front of you and you know if everything isn’t going to plan that you have the skills to deal with whatever is in front of you. When I was in Korea I did my warm up in the hallway of my hotel room because there was no warm up area at the platform and it was pouring with rain! Let’s be honest, I didn’t feel great, but I worked with what I had and that’s the key!
3. YOU MAKE YOUR OWN LUCK
This one is my favourite. You are in control of comp day, not your lucky socks, lucky ribbon, lucky headband or any other lucky implement you christen will magically take over your body and make you perform well! Stop trusting ‘luck’ and start trusting yourself! You have put in the work, you have trained hard, therefore you are the one who determines your performance. One of the hardest things as an athlete is taking ownership over your performance and not blaming how you were feeling, or not having your lucky hat for a poor performance.
So much easier said than done but I guess we keep working on putting it all together! Watch this space for more athlete blogs!
Photo Credit – Casey Sims
By Lisa Campbell – Accredited Exercise Physiologist (AEP)
National Champion Women’s Pole Vault – 2019
Oceania Representative 2019 – 3rd Place
Commonwealth Games Finalist – 2018
World Cup Representative – 2018
State Champion – 2017, 2018, 2019