It’s about a month out from nationals. I’ve noticed via IG and FB that folks are feeling twinges and twangs of bodies pushing the limit of tolerance and strength. It’s also flu season, head cold season, and generally the time of year where bodies have to work harder to stay strong. So some are battling stomach and sinus ailments to boot. It’s a mentally challenging time and really, those last four weeks are about learning to roll with circumstances and adapt, but also about keeping your shit together and not letting your head play games with you.
Everyone has something. I promise you that your competition also has the flu, crazy long days, work deadlines, exams, sick kids, a gimpy left elbow, or something else that is, for them, a challenge. At some point you learn that we all have something, it’s just we are way better at dwelling on our own problems than realizing that this is just normal Life for Everyone. Eventually you learn to just roll with it. I have had spectacularly awesome meets after what felt like flawed training cycles with things just not going as planned (and the opposite). A couple of days being sick or a shitty week of training is not going to undo years of work.
What you need to be going into a big meet is healthy, sharp, confident and relaxed. Prioritize being well. Sleep lots. Eat good food. Laugh with friends. Work on your mental prep during training and a little each day, then put it away and don’t dwell in the future. The meet will come, but you don’t need to live it 24/7. Enjoy your training as much as possible. Focus on moving well. Get all the work done and have faith in the plan and yourself. You’re already strong if you have busted ass over the past weeks/months/year.
Your job now is not to fuck it up.
You are not going to get massively stronger in those four weeks. You can sharpen the blade, but the steel has to already be there. This is not the time to start hammering the initial blank. This is not the time to make massive technique changes (unless you need to to stay within rules or to circumvent injury). That’s what the last months and months have been for; building. Now is when you start refining the ability to display strength, by practicing perfectly and mentally stepping through the myriad of distractions and details that are needed in competition. You work sharpening on the nuances of rules, systematically walking through the mental processes of game day.
But here’s the other thing to remember…… nothing changes if you win and nothing really changes if you lose. Most of us have done both.
Life goes on and as a friend reminded me recently, this is a sport of forget. No one remembers (or cares) what your last squat in comp was except you. And it’s important only to you, deep down. And no one sees the doubts or weaknesses that you see but you. I was an artist for a long time and I can tell you for a fact that there were “mistakes” in all of my pieces, but the only one who could see them was me. (It took me time to understand that the flaws became a part of the fabric and an element of the beautiful whole.)
After the meet, the people who love you will not love you any more or less, win or lose. Your coach won’t ditch you if you have a bad meet (and if they do, you deserve a better coach anyway). Your friends will still eat sushi and burgers and hotpot with you. Your dogs won’t know anything changed at all. (Also the people who don’t think much of you aren’t going to change either.)
And a week or so after the meet you will be back in the gym, picking things up and beginning again.
Because that’s just what you do.
You take the lessons with you and you keep on growing.
And you lift because it’s a part of you, it’s fun, and you love it.