As competition season gets underway for many gymnasts, one thing that often gets overlooked is a pre-meet routine.
What is a pre-meet routine?
A pre-meet routine is a set of actions that a gymnast does before she gets to competition. She can do these things the night before her meet or the morning of her meet. And she might even do certain things in the week leading up to her gymnastics meet.
The goal of a pre-meet routine is for a gymnast to help calm her nerves and get her to feel mentally (and physically) prepared to compete.
Ideally this pre-meet routine will also aid her in controlling her focus during her meet and performing her skills consistently. If she can do certain "prep-work," it can often make competing easier because her mind is ready and in the right mode to do well.
The goal with a pre-meet routine, however, is NOT to be locked into an inflexible routine that feels like a superstition. If your gymnast MUST put on her clothes in the same exact way or MUST watch the same exact video or else she feels like something bad will happen, that's a superstition.
Superstitions are based on luck and aren't helpful for a gymnast. In fact, they can be related to OCD tendencies and other anxiety-provoking behaviors. Superstitions put the locus of control outside of your gymnast which can cause her to be more nervous.
Setting The Stage For A Pre-Meet Routine
There's no one way to create a pre-meet routine. Every gymnast can have her own pre-meet routine that works for her. And what works for one gymnast might not work for another. So it's important that your gymnast take some time to figure out what things are helpful for her before she competes at a gymnastics meet and what things are not so helpful.
One way to do this is for your gymnast to remember back to a meet that she did really well on. She might even think about a few different ones where she felt like she was successful.
What did these meets all have in common?
What did she do in the week leading up to her meet? Was it a stressful week or a week in which she felt confident and relaxed? Did she train hard that week? Did she get a lot of rest? Did she feel prepared? Was she excited for her meet?
Your gymnast will have to take time to really reflect on those questions. She might even close her eyes and imagine herself back in those moments leading up to her meet.
Other things she might think about are what type of food she ate the morning before she competed and even the night before her competition? Did these foods help her have energy or did she feel sluggish?
She might also remember what her energy level was like right before she competed. Was she really excited and hyped up or was she more mellow and calm? Which mental state seemed to contribute to her doing well?
She can also think back to her thoughts. Was she running through her routines in her mind or was she trying to clear her mind and have it be blank?
All of this is valuable information for her in understanding what conditions she competes best in. Past successes provide clues and can help her understand what her ideal mental state is.
How To Create a Gymnastics Pre-Meet Routine
Once she has her ideal mental state figured out, she can then work on creating her pre-meet routine.
First, she might think about her ideal mental state and think about things she can do to help her recreate that.
If she competes best when she feels calm, how can she recreate a feeling of calm before and during her meet? Does she need to do deep breathing exercises or a calming imagery exercise? Does she need to listen to relaxing music?
If she competes best when she doesn't feel pressure, how can she recreate that feeling again? She might write down all the pressures she's feeling and then rip them up to release some of those pressures. Or she might imagine herself in a bubble in which no outside pressures can get in. She might focus her mind on the technical things she needs to do instead of letting it wander to all the expectations and pressures she's feeling.
As for her body, does she get really tense when she's nervous? If so, what can she do to loosen it up? Can she do extra stretching or a longer warmup before the meet starts? Can she shake out her muscles to get the nervous energy out?
These things can help her create a pre-meet routine that can get her into the best possible physical and mental state.
Below are some ideas for things to include in a pre-meet routine. Your gymnast can use these to brainstorm her own routine.
A pre-meet routine can consist of a few things:
-Eating an appropriate meal that leaves your gymnast satiated and full of energy
-Playing music that gets your gymnast in her ideal competition state
-Practicing imagery to get your gymnast to see herself performing her skills with ease and confidence
-Saying different words or mantras to get her pumped up or calmed down
-Taking deep breaths to get her brain to back off the danger response
Starting the night before competition, your gymnast can do some things that will help her compete better the next day.
These might include:
-Watching her past successful routines
-Looking at her Vision Board and imagining herself having success
-Doing a mental run through of all of her competition routines
-Journaling out her nervous or negative feelings to get them out of her head and onto paper
-Going to sleep at a decent time so she can get a good night of rest
-Watching her favorite movie to put her in a happy mood
The morning of her meet, your gymnast might:
-Eat a nutritious breakfast that she knows won't bother her stomach
-Do her hair in a certain way (braids, bun, etc)
-Put on makeup, if this is something she does
-Lay out her competition leotard and warmups
-Pack her meet bag
On the car ride to the meet she might:
-Close her eyes and run through her routines mentally
-Say affirmations or mantras
-Listen to upbeat music
-Clear her mind and try not to think about anything
-Talk about something unrelated to gymnastics
Again, there is no wrong or right pre-meet routine. It's just important that your gymnast find what works and does this consistently before each meet.
Once she's decided what to include in this pre-meet routine, she can then create a checklist. A checklist is a fun way for a gymnast to stay focused on what she needs to do, while also feeling successful at the same time! Plus, she won't have to do too much thinking before her meet because it will all be written down for her.
Eventually this pre-meet routine will become second nature and she'll just do it naturally before her meets.
But in the meantime, it's good to have a plan for how to approach the days and hours leading up to her meet.
Keep in mind that this pre-meet routine may have to be tweaked if she competes in the evening or has to travel to a meet. But the basic premise is the same - your gymnast should do certain things that get her mentally and physically ready to compete her best.
Do you have a pre-meet routine you do before your meets? If so, share it with us in the comments below!
If you or your gymnast needs support, in addition to the resources below I also offer one-on-one coaching sessions via Zoom.
- Stick It Girl Academy: For competitive gymnasts who want to live into their potential and need that extra push in mental training
- 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