As I write this, eight of my BMXers are away for the National Championships and two of my Mountain Bikers are preparing for the last leg of the National Series (and the National Champs three weeks later) I thought I'd write some thoughts on the week leading into the Big Race (e.g. States, Nationals or Worlds… Or anything event that makes you really nervous and excited).
As regular readers of this column would know, we keep things simple and basic at PropelPerform, and in the week leading to the Big Race we make sure our training and recovery maintains that theme.
1) The closer to the Big Race you are, the More you can do to Lose and the Less you can do to Win.
Just as we know that a great performance is seldom off the back of one training session or one pre-race speech, so we also know that it is the accumulation of many decisions and efforts that lead to great performances.
In the week leading up to the Big Race there isn't enough time or opportunity to amass that critical amount of quality work to positively affect your performance.
On the other hand, there is plenty time and opportunities to cause a decrement in performance.
Injuries, over-reaching in an attempt to 'catch up', or under recovery can all result in decreasing your performance ability.
The long and the short of it is you're going to have to accept that the work you have done is enough and you're going to have to stick to the plan.
2) Preparedness = Fitness – Fatigue
Imagine a marathon runner the day before their Big Race: they'd have high levels of Fitness (months and months of training) and low levels of Fatigue (following a good taper).
Hopefully they'd be well prepared.
Now imagine the day after that Big Race: their levels of fitness wouldn't have changed, they'd still be high; however, their levels of Fatigue would have increased substantially.
In other words their preparedness wouldn’t be great.
So you're not going to get fitter in that last week - fitness is said to be slow-changing.
But you can get fresher – by reducing your training workload and improving your quality of sleep.
As a general rule, we aim to maintain frequency (i.e. train close to the same number of sessions per week); maintain intensity (i.e. we still go hard or fast) but we drop volume (i.e. how long, far or much we do in that week).
3) Nothing New
No matter what the claims are of any intervention, if you haven't used it over many weeks of training you shouldn't use it now.
During the lead up to the Big Race is not the time to experiment.
This should apply to all your nutrition (especially including supplements and stimulants), your training exercises, your warm ups and your routines.
So even if your breakfast isn't recognised as a great option, now isn't the time to change it.
If you normally sleep-in now isn't the time to add a morning stretching session.
If you understand the benefits of a supplement/stimulant (e.g. caffeine) but haven't used it to improve performance, wait till your next big block of training.
4) Minimise Stress
The Big Race is going to be stressful enough as it is, so don't add to this stress.
Flights - book your flights so you arrive with enough time to adjust to the time zone. Allow for delays. Plan to arrive at the airport early. Book a transfer service for your arrival.
Equipment - pack extras of everything. Courier some extra equipment in the weeks leading to the Big Race to the venue. Swap some of your equipment with some others you're travelling with so, in the event your bags get lost, you'll still have access to some of your equipment in those first few days.
Accommodation - get the best and closest you can afford, a quiet, comfortable room is worth it. It's usually best to have a kitchenette in the room so you can prepare your own food and keep your routine. Ask for a room that is furthest from the elevators or high-traffic areas. Take your own pillow.
Food - re-read point 3!
So in the week leading to your Big Race, keep it simple, keep it basic and keep it familiar.
Grant Jenkins is a High Performance Coach who mainly works with elite and development of Extreme/Action sport Athletes. Contact him via email (firstname.lastname@example.org), mobile (0409 625 263) or his website.