‘Fail to prepare, prepare to fail’ as the old adage goes, and that couldn’t be more true than in the case of a major sporting event. It’s not only your body, but also your mind that needs to prepare for sport.
Whether you’re doing your first 5km run or about to lead your team out for a big cup final, if you don’t prepare in the right way then you’re already giving your opponent a hefty advantage. Take a look at our infographic on how to prepare yourself for the two weeks leading up to a major sporting event, with advice on training, nutrition and, of course, sleep.
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How to prepare your mind and body for a major sporting event
Whether it’s your first 5k run or playing in a cup final, training for major events can be an intimidating experience.
But here’s how you can prepare yourself – improving performance and preventing injury.
Get your head in the game
Physical preparation is crucial, but mindfulness is just as important for sporting success.
Visualise success – If you can imagine yourself achieving something then you’ll feel able to make it really happen
Stay positive – Mistakes happen in the heat of the moment – don’t dwell on them and focus on positive action
Be realistic – Don’t expect the impossible – set realistic goals and work to achieve them and make progress
The road to victory
Preparation requires the right mix of training and rest – only a healthy, well rested athlete will perform at their best.
2 weeks to go
1. Taper your training by cutting back on the distance covered and intensity of each session – ensuring you’re fully rested for the event
2. Try to drink 1.5 L of water every day until the event to remain hydrated and improve performance
3. Set a sleeping routine and make regular sleep a priority. Keep a sleep diary and manage your sleeping habits alongside your training and nutrition.
1 week to go
1. Slightly cut back on the size of your meals to avoid gaining weight due to reduced training
2. Stick to a healthy and familiar diet – don’t experiment with new meals or eat junk food
3. Try to bank some extra sleep – increasing sleep to 10 hours per night before events can improve athletic performance and minimize the impact of poor sleep the night before
According to Dr Charles Czeisler – a Harvard sleep specialist – it’s the sleep after training that is most important.
A 2009 study by MIT showed that mice who had navigated a maze replayed new experiences in their brains as they slept – forming long term memories of what they’d learned.
1 day to go
1. Wind down early and relax – avoid heavy meals late at night, consuming caffeine after noon or using backlit devices like TV‘s, computers and smart phones
2. Pack your bag with everything you’ll need on the day to avoid unnecessary stress
3. Boost glycogen levels with an evening meal that’s high in carbs and has some lean protein, e.g. pasta with salmon
1. Eat a carb rich breakfast – e.g. breakfast cereal with milk and banana – to sustain you through the event, avoiding high fat proteins and high sugar foods
2. A 20 minute nap about two hours before your event should boost energy levels and performance
3. Take healthy snacks such as bananas, wholegrain wrap sandwiches and recovery shakes to restore your body’s glycogen levels once you’re done
Speak to your fellow competitors, learn about how they train and what advice they can offer on preparing for your next major event. Or better still, buddy up to train together and offer support and motivation to one another.
Preparing for a major sporting event is the same as any other big occasion – you get out what you put in. So be smart and ensure that every second of preparation counts.
Do you have any tips on how to prepare for a major sporting event? If so, let us know in the comments below.
- BUPA. (2015). Countdown to race day. bupa.co.uk
- Elliot, D. (2014). The doctor who coaches athletes on sleep. theatlantic.com
- Farres, L.G. (2003). Preparing mentally for major events. Best Practices Quarterly, 19(1).
- Fatique Science. (2013). Sleep school: tips for athletes to get their rest before a big competition.
- FIFA. (2015). Preparing for competition: the pre-match meal. fifa.com
- Kolata, G. (2015). For athletes, the time of an event can affect performance. nytimes.com
- Marathon Training. (2014). Marathon training program: tapering. marathontraining.com
- Murphy, S. (2012). Ten ways to train like an elite athlete. theguardian.com
- Swearingen, D. (2015). Eating before competition. cwu.edu
- Wilkinson, J. (2010). Jonny Wilkinson: how to train for a big sporting event. theguardian.com
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