A pre-meet routine is an important tool for competing well at your gymnastics meets.
Now that competition season is upon us, it's time to make sure you're completely prepared to tackle meet season head on!
Therefore having a pre-meet routine is absolutely essential to competing well in gymnastics.
A pre-meet routine is a set of pre-determined behaviors that you do before your meet that sets you up for success. It includes both physical and mental behaviors and most importantly, it is a series of behaviors that is unique to you!
A lot of gymnasts think they can just follow the same pre-meet routine that their teammate does. But that's not true and here's why...
You're a completely different gymnast than your teammate and you bring your own uniqueness to each meet. For example, let's say you're a very nervous gymnast and have trouble calming your nerves every time you compete.
If that's the case you wouldn't want to do the same thing your teammate does if she's a gymnast who rarely gets nervous and steps into the meet as confident as can be. Your mental needs are completely different in that moment so your pre-meet routine should be too.
Therefore keep in mind that your pre-meet routine should be slightly different than other gymnasts but the basic concept is the same. You're doing behaviors that will help get you into your ideal competition state.
Now before I tell you how to create your ideal pre-meet routine let's learn more about why a pre-meet routine is an essential component of a successful gymnastics meet.
A pre-meet routine in gymnastics is important for a number of reasons:
1. It takes the guesswork out of what you should be doing
When you have many decisions to make at a competition you can get "decision fatigue" which will hurt your mental focus. If you have a pre-determined mental and physical warmup routine ahead of time, you will do those things out of habit therefore using less brain power before your gymnastics meet. Using less brain power means more brain space for you to focus on what's important - doing your routines well.
2. It gets you into your ideal physical and mental state for your meet
A pre-meet routine in gymnastics will help you get into your ideal physical and mental state so you are ready to do your best. Once you determine what that ideal state is for you, you'll be able to create a routine that gets you there. We'll talk more about this below.
3. It helps to calm your nerves
We all know how nerve-wracking a gymnastics meet can be! By performing a pre-meet routine it can help calm down your nerves in gymnastics which will help you feel more confident and prepared. Again, any routines you do take the guess-work out of the unknown which helps you feel more in control. When you feel in control you are less likely to feel as nervous and can then allow yourself to perform better.
4. It gets you into the best emotional state and energetic level for your meet
Your pre-meet gymnastics routine will help you get into your best emotional state for your meet. When you have your emotional state under control, you are better able to perform well. Also, having the proper energy level is important for you to do your best. If you're too energetic and you go onto beam, you might make mistakes because you can't handle your extra energy. Likewise, if you're not energetic enough, you might under-rotate on your floor pass. Finding that optimal energy level is crucial to being in the best mode for success.
5. It helps you focus
Using a pre-meet routine before your gymnastics meet helps you focus your thoughts and energy level so that you can compete well. Again, it requires you to do certain actions which gives your brain something to focus on. If you let your brain wander, it will! Think of your brain as a toddler. If it doesn't have direction, it will run all over the place. And before a meet, the last thing you want is your brain running wild!
Before I talk about how to create a pre-meet routine, I want to emphasize the difference between a pre-meet routine and pre-meet superstitions!
A pre-meet routine is something that helps to get you into the right flow for your meet. It is a set of behaviors that you do to help you prepare. These behaviors are ones that get you prepared both mentally and physically to compete well at your meet.
A pre-meet superstition is when you need to do certain behaviors because you think they will be lucky for you. You think that by doing these things they will help you do better and if you don't do them, you will do worse. Your behaviors are closely tied to your feelings of luck.
For example, let's say you're a gymnast who NEEDS to wear the same pair of stud earrings at every meet or else you feel like you won't do well at that meet. You put them on when you get ready for your meet and you think about how lucky they will be. If for some reason you lose those earrings or forget them at home, you fear the worst. You think you are doomed and that you will have a "bad" meet.
On the other hand, let's say you really like to wear the same pair of stud earrings at every meet because the act of putting them on gives you a moment of pause and calms you down. When you put on those earrings you look in the mirror and repeat your positive affirmations and that feels good to you. It motivates you and you feel like you're in a good mental place to do well. If for some reason you don't have those earrings, you could replace them with any pair of stud earrings and it would feel the same. Or you could even go without any earrings. You would spend that time repeating your positive affirmations while looking in the mirror and you wouldn't feel unlucky for doing that.
While it's not always easy to tell the difference between the two, the real difference lies in your feelings of control. When you rely on superstitions you leave control to things outside of yourself which is why you NEED to do those things in order to have luck on your side. When you rely on a pre-meet routine to help you, you are in control of your behaviors and know that getting yourself into that ideal physical and mental space will help you compete your best.
How Do You Create A Pre-Meet Routine in Gymnastics?
Every gymnast will have a different pre-meet routine and that is the point!
What works to get your teammate pumped up and ready for her meet might not work for you if you do the same thing. Remember, the goal is to do something that is unique to that will help you get into the best mental and physical state possible.
So how do you figure out your pre-meet routine?
Start by thinking back to your past competitions. For your best meet ever, think about things like:
- What meet was my best meet and why?
- What was so good about that meet?
- What did I do before that meet to prepare?
- What did I eat before my meet or during?
- What was I thinking right before I competed?
- Was my energy level high or low for my meet?
- Was I really nervous or not nervous for that meet?
- What were my emotions like for that meet?
Reflecting on those questions will give you valuable information about what does and does not work for you as far as competing your best.
Then you'll reflect on your WORST meet ever and answer the same questions above.
Once you've done that, you can then figure out if there are differences between your best and worst meet and if so, what they are.
Maybe you didn't get a good night of sleep and barely ate before your worst meet. That's a good indicator that those behaviors are not good for your success. Or perhaps you were really nervous for your worst meet because you put a lot of pressure on yourself to do well. You might have just learned a new skill and you were afraid to compete it.
Before your best meet ever you might have had extra time to relax or perhaps you went to bed extra early and felt energized the next day. It's also possible you didn't feel any pressure for your best meet ever because it wasn't an "important" meet.
Use this information to help you figure out what will be most helpful to you in your future competitions.
With this information you can then determine what the best mental and physical state is for you to be in so that you compete your best. If you get too nervous then you need to include behaviors that help you calm down. If you feel low on energy before you compete then you should include behaviors that pump you up.
Again, every gymnast responds differently to competitive situations so you should really take the time to reflect on what it is that YOU need in order to compete well.
Your ultimate goal is to recreate those conditions as best you can in your future gymnastics meets so that you can have another great meet.
Some Things To Include In Your Pre-Meet Routine:
Every gymnast will have a different pre-meet routine but here are some things you might consider including in your routine:
- Imagery so you can visualize your perfect routines
- Repeating your positive affirmations
- Saying a mantra
- Deep breathing or meditation
- Listening to music
- Watching a motivational movie the night before or morning of your meet
- Running in place or doing jumping jacks to get you energized
- Writing in your journal
- Watching a video or highlights reel of your past successful meets
- Eating a meal that is good for your nervous tummy
- Packing your gym bag using a checklist so you remember everything
Hopefully this gives you some ideas for how to create your own pre-meet routine. The best thing you can do is write down your pre-meet routine in checklist format and make copies of it. Then each time you compete you take your list and check off the behaviors as you do them.
The goal is to do the same pre-meet routine before every meet so that you can prime your body and mind to get into the zone for your meet.
Once you have a pre-meet routine narrowed down, you should practice it over and over. Ideally you can practice this routine before your competition in a mock meet or similar situation.
Then when you do finally use it in a real meet, evaluate what parts were helpful and tweak the parts that didn't help. While a pre-meet routine should be consistent, you also want it to ebb and flow as your situation changes.
For example, if you're at an away meet and you can't eat the same food as you normally do, you want to be able to find something similar without it being a big deal. If your warmup is so fast and you don't have time to repeat your mantras, then you might take a big breath before you compete an event and repeat a quick affirmation to yourself before you start. It might not be exactly the same as what you would normally do, but you're keeping it as similar as possible.
At the end of the day, a pre-meet routine is something that should help you get into an optimal physical and mental state so that you can compete your best. You can play around with what works best and modify your pre-meet routine as you see fit.
Good luck and let me know in the comments if you have your own pre-meet routine and what you do. I'd love to see if any of you do the same things to get ready for your meets!
If you or your gymnast needs support, in addition to the resources below I also offer one-on-one coaching sessions via Zoom.
- Resources: Get gymnastics downloads to help your gymnast work on her mental skills in gymnastics
- Mental Health Training for Gymnasts: Help your gymnast learn about her brain and the fight-flight-or-freeze response.
- Free Facebook Group for Moms of Gymnasts: Join this group to chat with other gymnastics moms and get tips for how to help your gymnast navigate through the mental ups and downs of gymnastics