How to prevent the trip to a competition impacting our performance

Traveling to international competitions requires good physical, mental and logistic preparation, otherwise our performance will be affected. Although we will be excited about the competition, changing our routine like any other small or large change is going to be a source of stress, and stress makes us tired.

Logistic preparation:

Several months before the trip you have to prepare the logistic aspects, especially if you have sport equipment to transport separately. If possible it is better to travel with all our things so we do not have to worry about whether our luggage has arrived, and we will not suffer separation anxiety for our belongings.

If we can choose the plane tickets we have to choose those in which we travel during the day, in order to sleep in the hotel at night. We must also consider how many days before the competition we need to arrive to be able to train since it can be difficult and frustrating not having enough days to practice. If we want family or friends to see us compete then we have to prepare the tickets as soon as possible to avoid worrying that they will not be able to arrive in time to see us.

The following may be useful to help us rest during the trip: a travel pillow, earplugs, and a foam roller like the one used to make Pilates, to massage the muscles.

Physical preparation:

Prepare your body in advance so that you get used to changing the schedule and recover from the fatigue of the trip. Do not underestimate the adaptation to the new environment in terms of available food, weather, humidity, allergens and pollution.

Sleeping well is essential to recover from the trip and to have your mind and body rested, make sure you sleep well before the trip. On long-haul flights when we go through time changes, our biorhythms and sleep cycles will be altered. We can suffer from ‘jet lag’ which is when our internal clock and external time do not match. People who suffer from ‘jet lag’ may have lack of appetite, headache, fatigue, and disrupted concentration. The body takes about three days to adjust to the new area.

You can adjust your schedule four or five days before the trip with that of the city you are going to visit by getting up between one and half an hour earlier than usual if you travel east, or going to bed later than usual if you go westward. Of course, hydrate well and do not forget to drink water during the trip. 

On training days just before the trip it is not advisable to introduce new exercises or try to learn something new. High intensity training sessions need to be done well before the trip.

Mental preparation:

It is common for athletes and coaches to be emotionally affected from the trip, so be patient with yourself, your coach and your teammates. With the new environment we can feel a little overwhelmed with such stimulation, especially if it is a country and culture that we do not know. Information about the event on the internet, newspapers and television will also be exposed and this can also cause over-stimulation. 

The key to being rested is to minimize our exposure to distractions. Take into account that being in our hotel room using the laptop or mobile phone tires us mentally.

Regarding the opening ceremony – especially if we are not going to have time to recover from it – It may be better not to attend or attend only at the beginning of the ceremony.

Photograph by Benjamin Wong on Unsplash

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