One that represents you and allows you to be analyzed and compared to everyone else. Maybe you think about all the things that could go wrong. Whether it is testing a new 1 rep max, performing a benchmark workout, or trying your hand at a fitness competition there can be a lot running through your mind before a performance. That is why you owe it to yourself to physically and mentally prepare to test at your best.
When NASA trains astronauts to go into space they have rehearsed the entire morning routine leading up to the launch. The same breakfast, the same checklists, the same drive to the station. By performing these repetitions hundreds of times by the time they arrive at launch day there is nothing out of the ordinary for their minds to be distracted by. It is just another day.
It’s the same concept with a test. Now is not the time to try anything crazy. Don’t have a crazy big breakfast of eggs and bacon if normally you just down a smoothie before you head out the door. This goes for dinner the night before as well. Maybe try that new sushi restaurant after your competition. Another wise decision is to avoid taking any new supplements. Most folks are tempted to sip on an energy drink or supplement with the hopes of the added performance benefit of whatever is on the label. Maintain your normal caffeine intake. Make sure you consume water.
Treat it like any other day at the office, not an important event with high stakes. By normalizing as many conditions as possible and staying relaxed you will conserve energy and keep your body out of the fight-or-flight mode until it actually comes time to compete.
This includes the days leading up to the test day as well. You want to taper your volume (the total amount of work) you perform in the days preceding competition but aim to keep a high level of intensity. This means powerful bursts of energy that will keep your nervous system primed to perform at a high capacity. If you go too many days without working hard your body tends to “forget” what it is capable of performing.
If you have a normal warm up routine stick with that. Keep in mind that the warm up should consist of a progressive sequence that gets your body in a peak state to begin the workout or lift you are attempting.
Generally this looks like some tissue prep that involves taking your joints through their full range of motion as well as foam rolling, the use of resistance bands and aerobic stimulation. Get the blood pumping with a light jog, row, bike, or jumping rope. Follow this up with some dynamic stretching where you progressively increase intensity and range of motion. Now it’s time for movement specific prep. This could be performing the movement you will be testing or performing a smaller segment or variation that utilizes similar muscle groups. The goal is to prime your body to recruit as many motor groups as necessary to accomplish the lift.
Some individuals tend to under-prepare in their warm up while others overdo it. Aim for that sweet spot where you feel energetic, light, and springy. You should have gotten your heart rate up enough to break a sweat but you should not be soaking through your tee shirt. Once your body is primed it’s a great time to refocus on your goals for the workout.
Specificity is key when it comes to eliminating fear and achieving the outcome you want. Things get a whole lot less scary when you clearly define what you want to happen and how little the negative parts would actually affect you. This allows you to decide on a game plan taking into account the highest upside of success meanwhile addressing the potential setbacks and how you will adjust your strategy if any of those were to occur.
Mitigating downside is usually a more effective strategy than swinging for the fences. Even if there is an area that you are particularly strong in, say deadlifts, you can’t expect to win a long chipper workout with a move that you consider to be your weakness. Handstand pushups for example. Your strategy should geared toward getting through the set of handstand pushups as quickly as possible by planning out how you will break up the sets and how much rest to give in between. Once you’ve determined your strategy practice it. If your body knows exactly how it feels on rep number 8, rep 17, and rep 29, you’ll be much more effective and able to improve your performance by planning for your weaknesses.
Test, test, test your equipment beforehand! You do not want your glorious efforts and strategic execution to be thwarted by a loose shoelace or clips that won’t stay tight to your bar. If you might need chalk during the WOD grab your own piece and keep it close by. Talk to whoever is judging you and discuss movement standards and how they will be counting reps. Don’t leave any room for error, after all it’s your score!