If you are consider a strength sport competition the idea can be very scary.
I feel like everyone should compete in front of people at least once.
It teaches you.
It pushes you out of your comfort zone.
It puts you under pressure.
When you survive (and hopefully thrive!) you take memories away that you'll have for a lifetime.
One thing never happens before a competition though....is being ready.
NO-ONE IS EVER READY FOR THEIR FIRST COMPETITION.
THEY ARE ONLY EVER READY TO TAKE THE RISK.
Big smiles at Steve's first competition!
I personally think competing in front of people is worth the risk.
I had a client with hypermobility, chronic pain syndromes, fits and another load of medical issues compete in a Strongwoman competition.
It was a HUGE risk, but it was one that paid off.
She told me afterwards that it was one of the best days of her life.
This is the kind of experience you can have.
I think it's essential to have a coach before any competition at first, and probably later too. I've adopted many a first time lifter at competitions because they haven't got a clue what's going on and that can ruin your day!
Not only will a coach help you with the training building up to a competition but they are essential in the competition day running as smoothly as possible for you.
Something I've said for a number of years now is that every single lifter, no matter how intelligent is an idiot on competition day.
This can change years down the line with dozens of competitions under your belt but at first adrenaline, pressure and a new stressful environment make people do weird things.
I've seen lifters start warming up 4 hours before they are due to lift when normally it only takes them 20 minutes. They start doing random things they'd never do in the gym. A coach can help you avoid all these things and more. Plus they can make sure you aren't accidentally violating about a thousand rules without even knowing it.
Basically, a coach can look after you.
Don't let the hard work of training be spoiled because of what you do ON COMPETITION DAY before or between your lifts.
If you don't have a coach I'd recommend going to as many competitions as you can in your chosen sport, within your chosen federation. See how competitions work. See how they are run. Ask questions. Soak up the atmosphere and learn what you need to do to do well. Watch for the mistakes people make. Do your research.
Or pay a coach to look after everything for you.
How you enter your first competition depends on the type of person you are.
Some will only enter a competition to win
Some enter just to have fun
Some enter because their coach tells them to
Some enter to learn and prove themselves to someone else or themselves but don't feel ready
Others enter for probably a million other reasons.
And the single greatest reason for NOT entering a competition is the fear of looking stupid.
If you are only entering to win you should check previous results for whatever competition you are thinking of entering. If you think you can compete with the winners from the previous year then you could have a chance.
I think this is one of the main reasons some potentially great lifters never compete because of a chance they'll lose.
It's such a shame and such an immature attitude because you can never guarantee you are going to win unless you are guaranteed to be the only person in the competition.
If you are this type of person I would first address your need to guarantee victory because this type of person is most often the drop-out-1-week-before-competition type.
I'd focus on getting as strong as possible then entering a competition when you can handle MAYBE COMING SECOND.
Or just learn that you won't die if you're a bit sad you didn't win.
I promise it's not that bad.
I mean, I'm such a bad loser I was banned from playing my kids at monopoly for 3 years after having a massive paddy because I'm terrible at monopoly. I didn't die (no-one else did either!)
And if you truly think you'll come last make sure you are training properly, looking after yourself and in the right sport for you.
If you are just entering a competition for fun...what are you waiting for?
Enter a local competition or beginner competition, train consistently well for 3-6 months and get on the platform.
If you are competing for fun you probably enjoy being in front of a crowd. Strength sports often have a great atmosphere. You'll love it.
Although do get some coaching so as little as possible goes wrong please!
Other people will agree to enter a competition because their coach has told them to or pressures them into it.
I'm not sure how to feel about this one because I'm not one to do that to my clients. I see it as wrong. I see it as arrogant. I see it as something that might give them a bad experience.
But I've also seen great coaches throw their unwilling clients into a competition, the client absolutely loves it, catches the bug and wants to compete forever more. I think I'll have more thoughts on this as the article progresses.
I guess there's a reason you have chosen a coach who will throw you into a competition!
If a coach throws you into competition and you hate it you can always fire them!
Some will enter a competition to prove themselves. I know of an incredibly strong lady who entered a competition due to previous domestic abuse and being told that she "couldn't do it."
If you are this kind of person I would recommend not being too hasty. Don't jump in with two feet and get it wrong. Don't give them the last laugh.
Take some time to prepare. 6 months is often a great period of time to learn and lift and gain strength ready for a local or beginner strength sport meet.
Use your anger to make the best plan you can.
Use your rage to execute a great competition day that you love.
And if you need to prove yourself to yourself the lessons you'll learn from following a structured plan for a number of months adding more and more weight to the bar will make the experience even sweeter.
Often those that want to show themselves what they can do are too scared to go for it. If you are in this boat tell a coach to put you in for a competition when they think you are ready.
THIS IS WHEN IT'S OK FOR A COACH TO THROW A CLIENT IN FOR A COMPETITION!
And if you are afraid of looking stupid just know everyone faces the same risk. Everyone at a competition knows how hard it is to get up in front of people and perform. Go to competitions and see if you think you can handle it.
If you prepare well you will probably not look stupid and if you do make a mistake you won't be punished or laughed at because you dared get in front of people and did your best.
Most lifters leave a competition feeling like they've accomplished something. Every single lifter learns something from every competition.
Every lifter grows as a person as each competition passes.
Don't be afraid. You've got this.
And just because you are afraid of something doesn't mean that you shouldn't go ahead and do it because we'll all be cheering for your success (quietly if you don't like people making a fuss :P)
The one thing that will get you to enter a competition is being ready to take a risk.
To trust yourself and those around you to make it happen.
Or to not care if it does go wrong.
And to know you can deal with it if you don't have the best time.
Know the sport you want to compete in.
Look after yourself so you can perform well.
Surround yourself with people who can get you to the competition in good shape.
Don't let anger or rage or an ambition to prove yourself make you jump in too early.
Execute the plan.
Train for competition.
Recover and analyse.
Learn from mistakes.
Make different mistakes.
Repeat until you don't want to compete any more!
And if you are a coach taking people to competitions your aim should be to make the run in towards competition as stress free as possible. You'll see how taking a client to a competition feels incredible!
By Chris Kershaw
Chris is a Personal Trainer, Strength Coach, writer, man of small stature and reader of The Discworld Series with a decade in the industry.
He trains everyone from beginners to high level athletes. His favourite clients are people getting into the gym for the first time because they can make the biggest changes in their lives.
You can reach me through the email address Chris@kershawstrength.com
My Instagram is Chris_Kershaw_Strength.
Thank you for reading!