Consistency is Key Part 2: Develop a Pre-Competition Routine

In the last blog post I discussed the importance of consistency and how it is the one thing that separates the very best in every sport from the rest. The best athletes in the world are able to perform at a consistently high level day in and day out, week in and week out for months and even years. How can you learn to be consistent like the Pro's? 

Inverted U Theory

The Inverted U Theory is based on the premise that athletes can attain a state of mental readiness that will allow them to perform at their peak on a consistent basis.   The inverted U explains how some people need “bang on your chest" (often football or rugby) type preparation while others need a “quiet isolation and or meditation" (Chess).  Most athletes fall somewhere in the middle.  The key is to find your individual “FLOW” zone.   

The graphic above depicts the "sweet spot" for optimal performance. The purpose of a pre-competition routine is to begin the process of moving from a low stress/low performance state of mind, to optimal stress/performance. A consistent routine signals your mind and body that you are about to perform and triggers a mental memory to help get in the "zone/flow". The more consistent the routine, the easier it is to get in the zone. The familiarity will help to reduce pre-competition anxiety also. 


Things to consider when developing your pre-competition plan.

There is no “one” right way of developing your pre-competition plan because each athlete that performs has different interests and motivational indicators such as some people get motivated by fast paced high energy music while others perform better after listening to classical.  It all depends on the person.     

Your goal is to identify YOUR behaviors/thoughts that will allow you to return to your “FLOW” before every competition.   

Here are some things to consider to help discover what will work for you:

  1. When do you go to bed the night before the competition?
  2. What do you eat the night before your competition?
  3. When, what and how much do you eat the day of a competition?
  4. What is your morning routine the day of competition?
  5. Do you work out the day of a competition?
  6. How early do you arrive at the event?
  7. What clothes do you wear the day of the event?
  8. How do you prepare mentally for the event?
  9. Do you use music to help you prepare for the event?
  10. Do you listen to fast paced or mild music before competition?
  11. Do you think about the upcoming competition prior to the event?
  12. Do you use any relaxation techniques prior to the event?
  13. Do you Pray prior to an event.
  14. When and How much do you warm up prior to an event?
  15. Do you have specific subjects or thoughts that you focus on prior to an event?
  16. Do you use visual imagery to prepare for an event?
  17. Do you like to be around others or by yourself prior to your event?
  18. Do you have game day rituals that you follow?
  19. How do you deal with pre-competition anxiety?
  20. How do you handle doubt and fear?
  21. What tricks do you use when you get anxious,  (laugh, superman pose, visual imagery, music, meditation, progressive relaxation, brain tap). 


How to develop your pre-competition routine:

Know that developing your routine will take time, discipline and detailed observation to develop.  Once you have developed it specifically for you, it will prove to be one of your best friends when it comes to dealing with pre-competition anxiety, zone focus, confidence and consistency.  Your pre-competition routine will assist you to be mentally and physically prepared every time you perform.  

Click here to download a copy of the worksheet to help you develop your pre-competition routine.

  1. Answer the above questions and write the answers on the chart.
  2. Outline a routine that would work for you.  You do not have to include all of the above questions.  This has to be individualize to fit you and your preferences.
  3. If you don’t currently do one of the above mention behaviors think about it and if it would fit in to your routine.
  4. Before some competitions you may have to experiment with differ types of motivation to see which one you really perform best with.  If you think you like to be alone and quiet, you may want to try one competition where you get all pumped up and listen to upbeat music and jump around and then next you may want to try meditation prior to your event.  Most people are somewhere in the middle.  
  5. Learn to handle distractions or changes to your pre-competition routine.
  6. First and foremost is understanding that your pre-competition routine is a guideline and not a must or a have to.  It will never work out perfectly.  Let go of the thought that it is going to happen the exact same way every time.  The purpose of the routine is to put you in the best psychological position to perform at your peak.  This is why we have a routine in the first place.   If you understand the reason for each of your pre-competition behaviors, deviating from them does not affect your performance.

Thanks for reading!

Jeff Miner, LPC, M.Ed

CEO of Triumph Program & "Head" Coach


If you need help more individualized help developing your pre-competition routine, contact us today.

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