My favorite thing about going to local weightlifting meets is seeing the amount of first time competitors getting ready to take the stage. Unfortunately, many times these athletes do not have a coach to support them in their efforts. Here are a few quick and simple tips for first-time coaches and new athletes.
PRO TIP 1. Don’t warm up too early
This would seem pretty self-explanatory; however, I can not tell you the number of local meets that we attend where we see first timers warming up two hours before the meet even begins
As soon as you weigh in, you have to do three things. Warming up in not one of them
First, and arguably the most important— eat and drink. Although I do not agree with cutting weight for your first meet, inevitably you are going to do it anyway. So why not make it a priority to get hydrated and fueled up? Dehydration and glycogen depletion are not your friend in sport.
Sandwiches and gatorade are.
Second, find your headphones. You should know what music calms you down and what music pumps you up. For example, I listen to country when I want to relax, then Big Tymers when I am warming up. Two totally different types of music but both of them get the job done.
Third, the number one thing an athlete should do before they ever touch a bar is visualize the lift.
The lift should be made before you ever get to the platform. For athletes that have never competed in a sport, this is going to be tricky. I was fortunate enough to have a strength and conditioning coach in high school that played football at a high level. He always talked visualization. Before games, he would sit in the stadium with his eyes closed for 60 minutes and play the entire game through in his head. For me visualization was not a foreign concept.
If you are new to visualization just think of it as the process of mentally walking through a meet.
You want the experience to be as vivid as possible.
For a lifter, you should see the clock. You should note where the judges are. You should see your focal point in the distance. You should feel the chalk on your hands. You should feel the knurling and coolness of the bar. You should smell the wood of the platform. You should feel yourself exhale and pull yourself tight into the bottom position. These are the kinds of things you should visualize and feel. The more senses you incorporate the better. Visualization takes practice, but give it a try early on.
PRO TIP 2.) Actually warming up.
Too many first time lifters have no game plan or no idea how to warm up. The warm up primes you and sets the stage for your successful lifts.
If you have a coach with you, they should have all of this planned out. They will tell you when you are 12 lifts out you need to be at 60Kg and when you are 10 lifts out you should be at 70kgs, or something along those lines. Counting attempts and planning takes some practice, but any good coach should be able to guide this process.
If you do not have a coach there are some simple rules you can use. Count backwards from your opening attempt. Count the number of attempts in front of you. Very simply you can allow 1 minute per attempt. so if there are 12 lifts before you-- you will have roughly 12 minutes before you lift. This is a general starting point and as you get more experience you will see how the meet is flowing and you or your coach should be able to make adjustments on the fly.
PRO TIP 3.) YOUR BAR IS LOADED
It is finally your turn to lift. You name has been announced and the bar is loaded.
Honestly—you probably wont remember much about it. Things happen fast and the excitement speeds everything up even more.
Which brings me to my last suggestion and insight as to how we coach.
When I take a first time lifter to a meet, I stand at the chalk stand with them—when the athletes are more advanced I no longer do this.
While standing at the chalk box it may look like I am whispering sweet nothings into my athlete’s ear. I am not. I am actually telling them to do two things.
First, I point to where the clock will be visible to them. I tell them when they approach the bar they cannot lift until at least 15 seconds have ticked off the clock. Novice lifters will want to run to the bar and lift as fast as they can. Often times this will ruin their opening attempt.
Typically we tell them that when they are on the stage approaching the bar waiting for time to tick off that they need to go through that visual checklist and replay a successful lift again.
Secondly—as the athlete is caking on the chalk, I remind the athlete to exhale. It is funny how many people let out a huge breath!
Athletes are so excited to be in their first meet that they forget to breathe. Making them exhale not only keeps them from passing out, but it also helps calm them down a bit.
Remember the sport is a delicate balance between patience and aggression. Increased anxiety can lead to greater aggression. Too aggressive too early causes problems.
PRO TIP 4.) Between lifts
As soon as you complete your snatches you need to do the following.
SIT THE FUCK DOWN, in all caps. Rest. I get it, you just converted from Crossfit and you are eager to do another WOD, but this is a different sport. Sit down-- conserve your energy.
Eat candy. Not PALEO. Gummy Bears work great. They are easy to digest and will get your blood sugar levels up. My number one go to: KIT KAT. For whatever reason I feel like KIT KATs zip into my bloodstream.
The bottom line is selecting a high carbohydrate food that will metabolize and jump into your blood stream. From the time you finish your snatches to your clean and jerk you probably have 30 minutes to an hour--depending on the diversity of your flight. 30 minutes is ample time to get sugar into your system and get ready for your clean and jerks. Don’t worry about diabetes for two hours. You will be fine, I promise.
Your first weightlfiting meet is going to be awesome. I have yet to meet anyone who did not have a blast at their first meet. These four things are the most common mistakes I see from beginners and will make the biggest difference in the outcome of your meet. Hopefully these tips will make your first meet go as smooth as possible!