Preparing for CompetitionTop of Page

By Al Baeta (American River College)


  • Eat your pre-competition meal 4 to 5 hours before you begin your warm-up. For field events, however, 3-4 hours prior to their event time might be O.K. Each athlete through trial and error should determine what is best for him or her. Don't compete with undigested food in your stomach, as vital oxygen carrying blood will be diverted to aid the digestive process.
  • The pre-meet meal should be primarily complex carbohydrates, as these foods will break down quickly to provide you with a usable source of energy (Carbohydrates = vegetables, brown rice, whole grain breads, cereals, beans, dry nuts, baked or boiled potatoes and some fruits). Protein is necessary for building and maintaining muscles. It takes a long time to break down and is not a short term energy source, so eating lots of protein before a meet will not do you much good and may have an adverse affect.
  • Avoid sweets and sodas before competition. When you do have these non-nutritious items, exercise moderation.
  • Rest is extremely important. Get a good night's sleep. The key here is actually two nights before competition. Nevertheless, 8-9 hours is a must if your body is to accomplish all the quality work you are going to ask of it.
  • Prepare your equipment for competition the day before so you are not hung up on this as you begin your physical warm-up.
  • Mentally prepare yourself in an intelligent and calm manner. Review techniques and race strategy so that your mind and body are "sensing the things you are going to do.
  • Be positive in your thinking process. You are going to be naturally excited. Don't let this excitement grow into excessive nervousness which will dissipate valuable energy stores. Do not allow negative things to upset you, i.e. the weather, a cold, poor lane assignment, poor throwing order, the ring, the runway, the pit, delays in schedule, "Adjust to any adverse situation as best you can". Control the situation, don't let it control you.
  • Plan to begin your physical warm-up 45 minutes to 1 hour before competition. Give yourself plenty of time. Again trial and error will be valuable here. Be consistent in your warm-up as much as possible, including jogging, stretching and buildups. Determine the number of puts, jumps, and throws which you believe will best prepare you for the big effort. Establish a routine pattern of shadow glides, standing puts and throws and full throws which will set the tone for competition. Don't let nervousness carry you into doing too much too hard. Always go over 3-5 hurdles before you compete. The relay team should run through 2-3 fast exchanges. Remember the physical warm-up has as its purpose that of giving your body the "sense" of what you are going to experience in competition. Furthermore, the cardiovascular system must begin to work in pumping additional blood through the system to prepare it for the stress of activity. The stretching and specific technique moves enable the muscular action to be more easily and effectively executed in competition.


  • During the actual competition concentration on various techniques should be at a minimum. You want to be totally involved in the competitive experience. Be intelligently alert to what is happening and be able to react to your advantage, but don't freeze yourself by a self-analysis of your form faults while you are in the ring or in a race.
  • Post Competition
    Seek your competition out and thank him/her for the competition with congratulations on a fine effort or an indication of respect for their competition with you.
  • Take a warm down jog, so that your body will physiologically be aided in recovering from the severe stress of activity. Re-stretch the major muscle groups involved in your activity.
  • Be cool in reacting to adverse results and proud of excellent performances. After your emotions have subsided, begin reflecting on your performance toward the end of future improvement.

Nutrition Review
You must examine and change if necessary your eating habits toward the end of improving performance. Most importantly, however, the positive change is essential for personal fitness regardless of whether or not you are an athlete. If you want your eating practices to help you, do the following:

  • Increase the intake and variety of complex carbohydrates. After a hard training session, eat a balanced meal plus additional helpings of complex carbohydrates.
  • Eat more fruit daily.
  • Decrease your intake of sugars and fatty foods. Instead, bake, roast or broil foods.
  • Increase your fluid intake. Water, fruit juices, low fat milk.

Selecting Track SpikesTop of Page

  • Get a shoe with a nylon upper.
  • The lighter the better. The single easiest way to improve, other than to get in better shape or compete better, is to wear lighter shoes for racing. Compare the listed weight in ounces for the different models you are considering. Make sure the listed weights are for the same size-shoes among models. (Obviously, larger shoes are heavier than smaller shoes.)
  • If you run sprints (400m and below) and jump, do not get a shoe with a heel, as it is unnecessary weight.
  • If you run middle distance or distance events (800m to 3,200m) you need a shoe with a heel or you will get cramps in your calves. Sprinters run on the balls of their feet. Middle distance and distance runners land on their heels, roll forward on the outside of their feet, and drive off the balls of their feet. If you run these events, you need shoes with a heel to cushion your heels against repeated impact with the track, while preserving your calves from cramps.
  • Get a shoe with metal spikes which you can remove/replace with a t-shaped wrench. Most schools with all-weather track surfaces will not let you compete unless you have spikes which are 1/4" or shorter; to minimize damage to the surface of the track. Conversely, if you are running on dirt tracks (and particularly if they are muddy) you will need longer metal spikes to get the best traction/prevent your feet from slipping.
  • Don't wait until the last minute to obtain spikes. If you order by mail, and the spikes don't fit, you will need adequate time to return them to the store and reorder. Some shoes are sized a little big or a little small

Sources for obtaining spikes by mail
We have provided three sources for obtaining spikes by mail. An alternative is to talk to other athletes on the team to learn about local sources.

Fleet Feet, Inc. - Chico
241 Main Street
Chico, CA 95928
(530) 345-1000
Fleet Fleet, Inc. - Roseville
Douglas Blvd., Suite 700
Roseville, CA 95661
(916) 783-4558
Fleet Feet - Sacramento
2311 J Street
Sacramento, CA 95816
(916) 442.3338